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Scientists discover oldest evidence of human stone tool use and meat-eating
Date:8/12/2010

on years ago and most paleoanthropologists believe the tools were made and used only by early members of the genus Homo.

The new stone tool-marked fossil animal bones from Dikika have been dated to approximately 3.4 million years ago. They were found a few hundred meters away from where Alemseged's team previously discovered "Selam" ("Lucy's baby"), a young Australopithecus afarensis girl who lived about 3.3 million years ago. The location and age of the stone tool-marked bones clearly indicate that members of the A. afarensis species made the cut marks. "The only hominin species we have in this part of Africa at this time period is A. afarensis, and so we think this species inflicted these cut marks on the bones we discovered," notes Alemseged.

"Now, when we imagine Lucy walking around the east African landscape looking for food, we can for the first time imagine her with a stone tool in hand and looking for meat," says Dr. Shannon McPherron, archaeologist with the DRP and research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. "With stone tools in hand to quickly pull off flesh and break open bones; animal carcasses would have become a more attractive source for food. This type of behaviour sent us down a path that later would lead to two of the defining features of our species - carnivory and tool manufacture and use."

"We can very securely say that the cut-marked bones date to between 3.42 and 3.24 million years ago, and that within this range, the date of the bones is most likely 3.4 million years ago," says project geologist Dr. Jonathan Wynn from the University of South Florida.

To determine the age of the bones, Wynn relied on a now very well documented and dated set of tuffs (volcanic deposits). These same tuffs were previously used to determine Selam's age and are well known from nearby Hadar, where Lucy was found. The new find site is located in a drainage that co
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Contact: Sandra Jacob
jacob@eva.mpg.de
49-341-355-0122
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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