NPR

Scientists Are Amazed By Stone Age Tools They Dug Up In Kenya

The discovery suggests an earlier start to the Middle Stone Age in Africa than previously documented. It also offers clues to early social networks and symbolic art by human ancestors.
Assortment of Early and Middle Stone Age tools found in the Olorgesailie Basin, Kenya. The tool at left is a hand axe. Source: Jay Reed/NPR

Our ancestors in Kenya's Southern Rift Valley made some pretty innovative tools. And they made them far earlier than previously thought — over one million years ago.

The oldest innovations were axes designed to be held in the palm of the hand. They were shaped like a tear drop, with a rounded end and a pointed eye. The edges were wavy and sharp. And they look as if they were great at chopping down branches — or chopping up the carcass of a large animal.

"I think of the hand axes as the Swiss army knife of the Stone Age," says paleoanthropologist , director of the Human Origins program at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and one of the lead scientists in a new study by a team of international scientists.

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