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Craftsmen lived in south India 1.5 mn years ago: Experts

Last updated: 24 March, 2011
Kalyan Ray, New Delhi, DH News Service : 23:21 IST

Tamil site pre-dates Isampur in Ktaka

Early Indians, proficient in making and using stone tools, may have inhabited southern India almost 1.5 million years ago, a team of Indo-French researchers has discovered.

Dating with accuracy: Meticulous excavation, sieving and recording of information at the site at Attirampakkam, Tamil Nadu. The breakthrough research showing the oldest evidence of human habitation in India suggests that early tool-making humans arrived in India within 10,000 years of their migration from Africa, which took place around 1.6 million years ago.

The route of migration remains debatable. Experts believe it might have taken place through a coastal land route from Africa to South Asia.

The prehistoric Indians were skilled at crafting stone tools like hand-axes, cleavers and flakes, which they used for digging roots and tubers and wood-working besides butchering and skinning large animals.

The team dated ancient 3528 stone tools recovered from excavations at Attirampakkam – an open-air paleolithic site situated near a meandering tributary of the river Kortallaiyar, northwest of Chennai.

Known as Acheulian tools, they denote the ancient stone tool making industry of early humans. Analysis of Tamil tools suggests that they were made between 1.07 to 1.5 million years ago, the team said on Thursday.

The Tamil site predates Isampur in Hunsgi valley in Karnataka, which was so far the oldest human habitation in India. A different group of archeologist showed humans stayed in Isampur 1.27 million years ago. However, there are doubts on the accuracy of dating of the Karnataka location.

The Tamil Nadu site was discovered in 1863 by British geologist Robert Bruce Foote, and has been excavated off and on since then.

“The excavators have done an outstanding job, unprecedented in archaeology studies in India. This means soon after early humans invested the Acheulean tool kit 1.6 million years ago, groups migrated out of Africa crossing formidable barriers to get to southern Asia,” Michael Petragalia, an archeologist at the University of Oxford told Deccan Herald.

What sets apart the Indo-French discovery from other similar previous findings is the dating -accuracy.

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