A dig in the desert reveals crude technology dating back a quarter of a million years
If you’re a developing species with dreams of dominating your home planet one day, you’re going to have to do two things first: grow a big brain and get yourself a nice set of opposable thumbs. With a big brain you can figure out how to use tools and with opposable thumbs you can pick them up.
Human beings had the brain and the thumbs down even before we were fully human, but when we actually started using tools was open to question. Now, a study in the Journal of Archaeological Science has found firm evidence that hominins used tools to butcher and prepare animals for eating as long as 250,000 years ago, or at least 50,000 years before the earliest modern humans appeared in Africa. That, in turn, may reveal a lot about all human development that followed.
The discovery was made by a group of researchers led by anthropologist April Nowell of the University of Victoria in Canada. She and her team went looking for ancient artifacts in a place you wouldn’t think of as a garden spot for proto-humans: the arid lands of northeast Jordan. Just because a region is dry today, however, doesn’t mean it was always that way, and the spot that interested Nowell is still known as the Azraq Oasis, in a nod to the spring-fed wetlands it once was. In the late 20th century, however, the water was diverted to serve urban settlements and the former oasis dried. That, as it turned out, was a boon to archaeologists.