Homo erectus used a varied collection of tools

Hyperaxion Mar 6, 2020

Excavations in Ethiopia found artifacts alongside Homo erectus braincases, indicating that they may have used more than one type of tool.

Homo erectus was a crucial species in the evolution of the human being. It evolved in Africa around 1.8 million years ago, later migrating to Asia and then to Europe. Scientists believe the species went extinct less than 500,000 years ago and is between Homo habilis and Homo sapiens on the evolutionary line.

Its name is a reference to the fact that at this stage, this human ancestor was already able to move predominantly on his feet, just like a modern human being.

A rare discovery

Recently, scientists have found two different types of stone tools at two excavation sites in Ethiopia alongside Homo erectus braincases. One of the Homo erectus fossils is about 1.6 million years old, while the other is 1.2 million years old.

The fossils found at archaeological sites.
The fossils found at archaeological sites. (Credit: ScienceAdvances)

The researchers suspect that the small braincase with thin brow ridges, found next to a toolbox in one of the sites, belonged to an adult woman, whereas the large braincase with thick brow ridges, found on the other site, belonged to an adult man.

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Stone tools are rarely found with the respective hominid fossils that used them, which makes this discovery something really special.

The collection of tools found with the fossils.
The collection of tools found with the fossils. (Credit: ScienceAdvances)

Paleoanthropologist Sileshi Semaw, from the National Center for Research on Human Evolution in Spain, told Science Advances that the artifacts found are a toolkit composed of simple cutting objects and some relatively more complex ones. Some of these objects had two edges and resembled pear-shaped axes, while others had a single sharp edge.

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According to the researchers, over hundreds of thousands of years, Homo erectus from West Africa produced different types of stone tools, based on the quality of rocks available or the task in which the tool would be used.

Map of the study area, showing the location of the two fossils.
Map of the study area, showing the location of the two fossils. (Credit: ScienceAdvances).

The findings reinforce theories that no hominid produced a single type of stone tool, instead, they created a wide variety of objects, of different levels of complexity and for different tasks.

A recent study suggested that another hominid named Paranthropus boisei also had hands capable of making stone tools. However, fossils of this species have not yet been found alongside tools. Paranthropus boisei lived in West Africa, was a relative of modern humans and contemporary to Homo erectus.

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