Researchers traveling to an archaeological site along the northwest shoreline of Kenya's Late Turkana found newly discovered hand axes they believe are signs of the earliest tools created by ancient man.
A team from the United States and France used an advanced technique to date the dirt, and were able to calculate the age of the tools, which they place at 1.76 million years.
The study was led by Christopher Lepre of Rutgers University and Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and will be reported in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.
The new tools are much different from simple stone tools that were made from bashing rocks together, as they are said to have more distinct and planned designs. The axes are believed to have been appropriate for slaughtering animals or chopping wood. The thicker picks were used for digging holes.
I was taken aback when I realized that the geological data indicated it was the oldest Acheulean site in the world, Lepre told the media.
He said there not a tremendous amount of diligence that goes into making the Oldowan tools, and so they were somewhat kind of haphazardly made.
The stone tools are known collectively as Acheulean tools, and believed to be the achievements of the human ancestor Homo Erectus. Acheulean culture and its tools didn't reach in Europe until about one million years ago, and it is believed that Homo Erectus colonized Europe over 1.5 million years ago.
Researchers have found two-faced blades and other large cutting tools that were previously excavated at the site.
But the age of the new find shows that it is older than similar stone-age artifacts in Ethiopia and Tanzania, which are estimated to be between 1.4 and 1.6 million years old.
This simply means that our human ancestors may have fashioned hand-axes and cleavers much earlier than we believe and perhaps didn't take the stone tools along with them when they left Africa.
Researchers are still trying to figure out the mystery of how the tools left Africa.