Archeologists in Algeria have found stone tools and butchered animal bones from as far back as 2.4 million years ago. Such implements appear to have spread from East Africa earlier than scientists first thought.
Humans may have started using stone tools to butcher animals far earlier -- and in a different part of the world -- than first thought, a team of paleoanthropologists claims.
The study reports the discovery of some 250 primitive tools and 296 animal bones from a site called Ain Boucherit -- some 300 kilometers (190 miles) east of the capital, Algiers.
The implements were found near to many of the fossilized bones which had cut marks that clearly indicated the site was used to butcher animals. The bones came from animals similar to crocodiles, elephants, and hippopotamuses.
The cut-marked bones represent "the oldest substantive evidence for butchery" anywhere, according to paleoanthropologist Thomas Plummer, of the City University of New York's Queens College. Evidence for the actual butchery of animals in East Africa is not as strong, Plummer, who was not involved in the study, told Science's news website.
An early toolkit
The bones appeared to have been de-fleshed and pounded for marrow using so-called Oldowan tools, the earliest toolkit -- includes sharp-edged flakes and round cores -- used by hominins, the early human family. While the technology may have traveled from East Africa, the research team is also considering the possibility that it may have arisen separately.
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The tools are too old to have been made by Homo sapiens -- modern man -- and no remains of other hominins have been found, so it's unclear which branch of the early human family was using the tools.