Humans may have developed advanced social behaviours and trade 100,000 years earlier than previously thought.
The results come from an archaeological site in Kenya’s Rift Valley. “Over one million years of time” is represented at the site, according to Rick Potts from the Smithsonian Institution, who was involved in the studies.
Rather than shaping a block of rock, into a hand axe, humans became interested in the sharp flakes that could be chipped off. These were mounted on spears and used as projectile weapons. Where 98% of the rock previously used by people in the Olorgesailie area had come from within a 5km radius, there were no sources of obsidian nearby.
People were travelling from 25km to 95km across rugged terrain to obtain the material, and “interacting with other groups of early humans over that time period”, according to Dr Potts. This makes the site the earliest known example of such long distance transport, and possibly of trade.
Dr Marta Mirazon Lahr from the University of Cambridge said that being able to “securely date” the continuous occupation of the site using argon techniques on volcanic deposits “makes Olorgesailie a key reference site for understanding human evolution in Africa during [this period]”.
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