In May 2015, the WTAP team’s discovery of the World’s oldest stone tools was featured on the front cover of the prestigious scientific journal Nature. The research we published was the result of almost 2 years of research and laboratory analysis involving more than 20 scientists, 15 field excavators, 3 student volunteers, and the support and help of many more people and organisations, without whom the research and publication could never have been completed!
Before our discovery, the oldest known stone tools came from the site of Gona in Ethiopia, and were radiometrically dated to be about 2.6 million-years old. The Gona tools consist of small cobbles that hominins (early human ancestors) knapped by freehand percussion to create sharp-edged flakes. This technology has been found at many sites in the East African Rift Valley (including in West Turkana) and is called the Oldowan industry.
The stone tools discovered at Lomekwi 3 and reported by us in Nature were dated using similar methods, but found to be about 3.3 million-years old – extending the known timespan of tool making 700,000 years back in time! The tools are also very different in size, form, and how they were made; they are much larger and heavier than those typical of the Oldowan, and were made by two different methods: bipolar, and passive hammer knapping. Because it is so distinctive and so much older than the Oldowan, we suggest the name Lomekwian to describe this material.
For now, the discovery of 3.3 million-year-old Lomekwian stone tools opens up many new questions about the timing and processes of human evolution in the Plio-Pleistoene.
Click the following link to access the full article on the Nature website.