TN stone tools offer evolution insights

TN stone tools offer evolution insights

For their daily needs, early humans in India created and used sophisticated stone tools nearly 385,000 years ago, much before such tools were thought to have evolved, an India-French team of researchers reported on Wednesday.

The findings have the potential to rewrite textbooks on prehistory because until now such tools were believed to have been made only by modern humans who evolved much later and left Africa to populate other continents only 1,25,000 years ago. But the discovery of the Middle Palaeolithic stone tools between 3,85,000 and 1,72,000 years old from Tamil Nadu, pushes back the age of the first appearance of such tools that mark the emergence of sophisticated tool-making by early humans.

The researchers studied more than 7,200 stone artefacts collected from Attirampakkam, an archaeological site in southern India.

The tools collectively document a shift away from Acheulian technologies (first generation stone tools used by the hominins) towards Middle Palaeolithic strategies when those early humans were able to create more complicated tools.

"The findings were so unexpected that we went back to re-examine the archaeology of each of the 7,261 objects," said Shanti Pappu, a former professor of pre-history at the Deccan College Post-graduate and Research Institute, Pune and lead author of the study.

It reflects a drastic shift away from the preceding technologies towards something that needs better cognitive skills and new ways of interacting with the environment.

"Our findings suggest they would travel a long distance to get the right material for a specific tool, which was not the case earlier," she told DH.

Discovered by the British in 1863, the Tamil Nadu site was studied in the 1930s and 1960s before Pappu and her collaborators began working since 1999.

For scientific dating, they went to the Department of Space's Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad.

"These observations call for a re-evaluation of models that restrict the origins of Indian Middle Palaeolithic culture to the incidence of modern human dispersals after nearly 125,000 years," they reported in a paper published in Nature.

The discovery challenges existing theories on the arrival of the complex stone tools from the early humans from Africa.

She said more research would be required to find out which pre-human species was behind those tools found in India. In Europe, fossil records exist of Neanderthal belonging to that era, but there is no such fossil evidence in India.

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