In the 2021 archaeology discovery, hundreds of tools made out of stones approximately a million years ago were discovered in a gold mine in the Sahara desert. It is suggested that the tools belong to Homo erectus, who inhabited the eastern part of the Sahara desert 700,000 years ago. The treasure of hominid artifacts was found in northeastern Sudan by the miners.
Homo erectus (meaning “upright man”) is an extinct species of ancient human that lived throughout the Pleistocene. The earliest evidence of this species dates back around 2 million years. According to research conducted on the fossils that have been preserved, the species had stride and body proportions similar to those of modern humans. It was also the first human species to have a flat face, prominent nose, and potentially scant body hair coverage.
A gold rush in the eastern part of the Sahara Desert led to numerous open-pit mines being dug out in the desert in the hope of finding the precious ore. Archaeologists have been able to study previously uncovered layers during a mining process. These layers contained large tools with a cutting edge that was transverse to the blade, as well as almond-shaped cleaver tools with chamfered edges on both sides, which formed a pointed tip at the junction. (Source)
The discovery of related flakes created during their fabrication leads archaeologists to assume that the site was a workshop for the manufacture of stone tools. Layers of earth and sand directly above the tools were studied with optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), which dated the earthen-sand layer to roughly 390,000 years old.
Professor Mirosław Masojć from the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Wrocław said: “This means that the layers below are certainly older. Based on the style of workmanship of the tools, I believe that they may be over 700,000 years old, and perhaps even a million years old – similar to their counterparts in South Africa.”
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The researchers suggest that the site is the oldest known example of tool manufacturing within the regions of Egypt and Sudan that has a well-confirmed chronology. They have been saying this since the site was discovered in Egypt. “Ancient tools are found in deserts, but never before have they come from layers that we can safely determine their age,” Masojć said.
Impact trenches found within the mine provide evidence that the site was also used for the processing of commodities such as bone and wood. Approximately 200 sites in the region have yielded artifacts used by both Homo erectus and Homo sapiens during the Paleolithic period. The oldest dates back 500,000 years, while the most recent are around 60,000 years old.
In 2020, researchers found the skulls of two Homo erectus along with a variety of stone tools with different levels of complexity at a site in Ethiopia, which shed light on how early humans used tools. In the fields of paleoanthropology and archaeology, stone tools are classified according to their complexity and the time period in which they were used. (Source)
Oldowan (or Mode I) tools, mainly stones with a few flakes chipped off, date back over 2.5 million years. Acheulean (Mode II) tools followed around 1.7 million years ago. These include hand-shaped stones like prehistoric hand axes. Although there is disagreement among experts, some scholars have previously asserted that Homo erectus invented Mode II tools.
The study published in Science Journal supports the idea that Homo erectus in Africa invented Mode II tools, indicating they used both Mode I and Mode II technologies concurrently over hundreds of thousands of years. Homo erectus, first discovered in Indonesia in the 1890s, has since been discovered at other sites in Eurasia and Africa and lived from around 1.8 to 0.3 million years ago.
After analyzing the two recently discovered Homo erectus skulls from Ethiopia, Michael Rogers, one of the authors of the study from Southern Connecticut State University suggested that some populations of Homo erectus made Mode I stone tools extensively and sometimes exclusively, depending on the need, availability of stone, and local traditions. Furthermore, the findings suggest that there was not a simple replacement of Mode I tools by Mode II technology once Homo erectus appeared on the scene, which is what many experts had thought.
About Homo Erectus:
Homo erectus, which originated in Africa about 2 million years ago, was the earliest human species to truly migrated around the globe. Migration records show that they arrived in Georgia, Sri Lanka, China, and Indonesia after leaving Africa. They stood between around five and six feet tall and shared a similar body type with modern humans.
They are regarded to have been a crucial evolutionary step in the evolution of homo sapiens despite having a smaller brain and heavier brow than modern humans. Recent estimates reveal Homo erectus went extinct only 140,000 years ago, although it was previously thought they disappeared approximately 400,000 years ago. Some believe that they were the ancestors of extinct human species like Homo heidelbergensis and Homo antecessor.