Stone tools in India suggest earlier human exit from Africa

This image provided by the Sharma Centre for Heritage Education, India in January 2018 shows a sample of artifacts from the Middle Palaeolithic era found at the Attirampakkam archaeological site in southern India. The discovery of stone tools at the site shows a style that has been associated elsewhere with our species. They were fashioned from 385,000 years ago to 172,000 years ago, showing evidence of continuity and development over that time. That starting point is a lot earlier than scientists generally think Homo sapiens left Africa. (Kumar Akhilesh, Shanti Pappu/Sharma Centre for Heritage Education, India via AP)

Stone tools found in India may push back the time our species is known to have left Africa

NEW YORK — Just a week after scientists reported evidence that our species left Africa earlier than we thought, another discovery is suggesting the date might be pushed back further.

Homo sapiens arose in Africa at least 300,000 years ago and left to colonize the globe. Scientists think there were several dispersals from Africa, not all equally successful. Last week's report of a human jaw showed some members of our species had reached Israel by 177,000 to 194,000 years ago.

Now comes a discovery in India of stone tools, showing a style that has been associated elsewhere with our species. They were fashioned from 385,000 years ago to 172,000 years ago, showing evidence of continuity and development over that time. That starting point is a lot earlier than scientists generally think Homo sapiens left Africa.

This tool style has also been attributed to Neanderthals and possibly other species. So it's impossible to say whether the tools were made by Homo sapiens or some evolutionary cousin, say researchers who reported the finding Wednesday in the journal Nature .

"We are very cautious on this point" because no human fossils were found with the tools, several authors added in a statement.

It's not clear how much the tool development reflects arrival of populations or ideas from outside India, versus being more of a local development, said one author, Shanti Pappu of the Sharma Centre for Heritage Education in Chennai, India.

The tool-making style was a change from older stone tools found at the site, featuring a shift to smaller flakes, for example.

Michael Petraglia, an archaeologist who specializes in human evolution in Asia but didn't participate in the work, said he did not think the tools show that our species had left Africa so long ago.

"I simply don't buy it," said Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany.

Instead, he said, he believes one of our evolutionary cousins in India developed the tool style independently of outside influence. The tools at the site northwest of Chennai in southeastern India are closely related to the older tool-making style there and seem to represent a transition, he said.

The idea that they reflect knowledge brought in from elsewhere would be tough to prove in India, he said. The country has few well-studied archaeological sites and only one fossil find from this period, from a forerunner of Homo sapiens that was associated with the earlier style of tool-making, Petraglia said.

___

Follow Malcolm Ritter at @MalcolmRitter . His recent work can be found here.

Related News

8,000-year-old female figurine uncovered in central Turkey

Sep 15, 2016

Archaeologists have uncovered a rare stone figurine of a woman dating back 8,000 years at a dig in Turkey's central province of Konya that an expert says is one of only a handful of statuettes from that era ever found in one piece

Powell discusses secret Israeli nukes in leaked 2015 email

Sep 16, 2016

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed Israel's nuclear weapons capability with a friend in a private email exchange last year that hackers leaked this week

Watchdog to probe Comey's, FBI's actions before election

Jan 12, 2017

The Justice Department inspector general has opened an investigation into department and FBI actions before the election, including whether FBI Director James Comey followed established policies in the email investigation of Hillary Clinton

Peaple also read these

Samsung details causes of Note 7 fires but questions remain

Jan 23, 2017

Samsung Electronics says flaws in the design and production of batteries used in its Galaxy Note 7, not its hardware or software, made the smartphone prone to catching fire

Czech foreign minister: ministry email hack took months

Feb 2, 2017

The Czech Republic's foreign minister says that a successful hacking attack on his email account and the accounts of dozens of ministry officials took place for months

Roaming telescope brings Kenyan kids views of night sky

Feb 19, 2017

The Traveling Telescope project visits some of Kenya's most remote areas, showing students the night sky and the science of astronomy with telescopes and virtual reality goggles

About Us

Science Thread delivers quality and fascinating science and technology content that matters on a daily basis and makes it go viral.

Contact us: sales@sciencethread.com