Archaeologists have unearthed 2.4-million-year-old stone tools and animal bones in Algeria - a find that challenges the conventional idea that the cradle of humanity lies in East Africa.
Instead, it suggests that either the first humans spread quickly to other parts of Africa from their East African homeland, or humans emerged simultaneously across a larger region of the continent.
Almost all archaeological studies until now have indicated East Africa as the place of origin of the earliest hominins. The reason is that very little information is currently available about the activities of the first hominins in the northern part of the continent.
Archaeologists have unearthed stone tools made by early hominins in North Africa, which according to them, are near contemporary to the earliest tools discovered in East Africa, dating back 2.6 million years.
The study, which included many international researchers, was led by Mohamed Sahnouni, an archaeologist at the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) in Algeria.
"The lithic industry of Ain Boucherit, which is technologically similar to that of Gona and Olduvai, shows that our ancestors ventured into all corners of Africa, not just East Africa," said Mohamed Sahnouni.
Researchers carried out excavation at Ain Boucherit archaeological sites in Ain Hanech region in Algeria, and discovered stone artifacts as well as animal bones with cut marks (created by stone tools) with an estimated chronology of 2.4 and 1.9 million years. According to researchers, these tools were made of flint and limestone, and were given the shapes of choppers, subspheroids, and polyhedral. Some were sharp-edged tools, likely used to cut animal carcasses.
Discovery of animal bones with cut marks suggests that these early hominins exploited meat and marrow from animals of all sizes. They efficiently used sharp-edged cutting tools, suggesting that they were not mere scavengers and were competing successfully with carnivores of that period.
Archaeologists believe hominin fossils as old as those unearthed in East Africa could also be found in North Africa in near future.
"Future research will focus on searching for human fossils in the nearby Miocene and Plio-Pleistocene deposits, looking for the tool-makers and even older stone tools," Sahnouni revealed.
The findings of the study are published in journal Science.
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