3.3-Million-Year-Old Stone Tools Push Back Archaeological Record by a Whopping 700,000 Years

May 20, 2015 Updated: July 18, 2015
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Archaeologists have discovered the earliest stone tools found to date. The West Turkana Archaeological Project made the announcement in a paper to be published May 21 in Nature. 

The tools are 3.3 million years old—that’s 700,000 years older than the stone tools previously held to be the oldest. The recent find was made on the western shore of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya, by accident. The archaeologists went the wrong way while out in the field, having followed the wrong riverbed. As they sought to find their way back, a local tribesman, Sammy Lokorodi, helped them spot the tools. 

Dr. Sonia Harmand and Dr. Jason Lewis of Stony Brook University led the team. Dr. Harmand explained in a news release that the find shows at least one group of hominin from this time intentionally knapped stones. Knapping refers to a process of striking stones to break off pieces, forming sharp tools. 

These tools are much larger than those made about 700,000 years later and the techniques used to make them were more rudimentary, as evidenced in the strike marks still visible. The later tools had been found in the 1930s in Tanzania.