Archaeologists in Algeria have discovered stone tools and cut animal bones that could last up to 2.4 million years, questioning the title of eastern Africa as the cradle of humanity, according to a research published on Thursday in Science.
The objects – more ancient than those discovered in the region so far – were found in Setif, about 300 kilometers east of Algeria, by a team of international researchers, including Algeria.
The tools are similar to those called Oldowan, which have so far been largely in East Africa.
The tools were discovered near dozens of fossilized animal bones that contained cutting marks as well as the remains of prehistoric meats.
Bones came from animals including crocodile, elephants and cognac.
"East Africa is widespread as the birthplace of stone tools by our old Hominid ancestors – the earliest examples dating back about 2.6 million years ago," Science reported.
"The new discovery makes Ain Boucherit the oldest place in North Africa with in situ evidence of the use of hominine meat with associated stone tools and suggest that other similar wound sites outside of the West African remit."
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One hypothesis is that the early ancestors of a modern man quickly carried stone tools with them from Eastern Africa and other parts of the continent.
The second is a "multiple origin" scenario, in which early hominids created and used tools in eastern and northern Africa.
"Ain Lahnech is the second oldest in the world after Gona in Ethiopia, which is 2.6 million years ago and widely regarded as the cradle of humanity," AFP chief Mohamed Sahouni told AFP.
The discovery was made in two layers – one referring to 2,4 million years ago and the other up to 1,9 million years ago.
The results suggest that the ancestors of modern people were present in North Africa at least 600,000 years earlier than scientists think.
So far, the oldest known tools from North Africa were 1.8 million years old and found in a nearby location.
No remains of people. Therefore, scientists do not know what kind of hominids were in place or what the ancient cousin of homo sapiens (which appeared much later) used these tools.
Digging was carried out by experts in research institutions in Spain, Algeria, Australia and France.
"Now that Ain Boucherit brought Oldowan archeology estimated 2.4 million years ago, North Africa and the Sahara can be the warehouse for further archeological materials," the study says.
"Based on the potential of Ain Boucher and neighboring sedimentary basins, we suggest that in North Africa there are also fossil hominos and Oldowan artifacts as old as documented in East Africa."