They discover tools from millions of years ago made by an unknown human species

An international team of archaeologists has made an impressive discovery in Ethiopia (Africa), a “workshop” that challenges the historical canon of tools and weapons made in the past.

At the excavation site of Melka Kunturelocated next to flooded valleyone of the most important paleontological sites in the world, the group of researchers discovered a “treasure” of almost 600 hand axes made of obsidian (a type of volcanic glass), which are about 1.2 million years old.

the impressive obsidian ax crafting workshop strongly attracted the attention of researchers because of two fundamental aspects: The first is that experts they could not identify the type of hominids that made these artifacts; and the second, that the oldest sculpture workshops had been dated in Europe to a few years ago. 750,000 yearsmeaning the new findings essentially double the time range in which these hominids performed such activities.

Moreover, these tools have a remarkable level of standardizationsuggesting that the site housed a workshop where makers made flints for use in hunting, processing animal skins, and all sorts of practical pursuits requiring a sharp blade or point.

The oldest workshop found to date

A total of 578 hand axes were found buried in a layer of sediment at the site. From this, only three were not obsidian. They had all been made in the same way, indicating that this was an old Stone Age carving workshop.

Previous research has determined that sculpture workshops did not appear in Europe until the time of the Middle Pleistocene. Dating back 1.2 million years, these axes are almost twice as old as the oldest hand ax workshops yet discovered.

On the other hand, the researchers highlight the fact that the manufacture of tools and the selection of materials for such purposes involves a very high level of planning and imaginationshowing that our earliest ancestors may have been much more intellectually resourceful than we thought.

Discovery of obsidian samples. Credit: Nature Ecology and Evolution.

A razor-sharp crystal, shaped by ancient humans

One of the most intriguing materials used for tool making at that time was obsidian, a type of volcanic glass which is brittle and sharp, requiring a certain level of skill to carve.

Obsidian forms when molten lava cools rapidly, giving no time for mineral crystals to form. The result is a natural glass with a razor-sharp edge. This made it an ideal material for cutting and shaping, and our ancestors took advantage of its properties by turning it into a variety of tools, from knives and scrapers to arrowheads and spears.

Obsidian tool made millions of years ago by an unknown hominid. Credit: Margherita Mussi

Researchers from Spain, France and Germany they were surprised to discover that obsidian tool making was active so early in prehistory. An element which, even today, is considered an extremely complicated material to process as it is rough for the hands.

You might also be interested in: The legendary Viking sword made with technology that only existed 800 years later.

Generally, when working with sharp materials like obsidian, protective gloves are required. Otherwise, you risk seriously cutting your hands. However, these ancient craftsmen managed to produce extraordinary obsidian axes without any apparent protective gear over a million years ago.

Standardized manufacturing in prehistory

In addition, when analyzing the tools, the experts found a certain standardization, which means that there was already an established manufacturing process.

All handaxes would have been made with a hard, sharp tool, perhaps a hammer striking brittle obsidian. at a controlled anglewhich causes a part to snap into the desired shape.

Obsidian. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The carver or craftsman could then further refine the form by making successive strikes in a specific pattern, removing small shards to create the desired edge or shape. This method has been used to create a variety of tools. However, the artifacts found are all hand axes, prehistoric stone tools with two pointed faces that were held in a hand rather than attached to a handle.

The discovery of this workshop of obsidian tools undoubtedly contradicts history, revealing the development of previously unknown techniques and abilities of ancient humans.

The research has been published in Nature ecology and evolution.

References: Science Times.

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