Earliest known Oldowan artifacts at >2.58 Ma from Ledi-Geraru, Ethiopia, highlight early technological diversity

David R. Braun, Vera Aldeias, Will Archer, J. Ramon Arrowsmith, Niguss Baraki, Christopher J. Campisano, Alan L. Deino, Erin N. DiMaggio, Guillaume Dupont-Nivet, Blade Engda, David A. Feary, Dominique I. Garello, Zenash Kerfelew, Shannon P. McPherron, David B. Patterson, Jonathan S. Reeves, Jessica C. Thompson, Kaye E. Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

The manufacture of flaked stone artifacts represents a major milestone in the technology of the human lineage. Although the earliest production of primitive stone tools, predating the genus Homo and emphasizing percussive activities, has been reported at 3.3 million years ago (Ma) from Lomekwi, Kenya, the systematic production of sharp-edged stone tools is unknown before the 2.58–2.55 Ma Oldowan assemblages from Gona, Ethiopia. The organized production of Oldowan stone artifacts is part of a suite of characteristics that is often associated with the adaptive grade shift linked to the genus Homo. Recent discoveries from Ledi-Geraru (LG), Ethiopia, place the first occurrence of Homo ∼250 thousand years earlier than the Oldowan at Gona. Here, we describe a substantial assemblage of systematically flaked stone tools excavated in situ from a stratigraphically constrained context [Bokol Dora 1, (BD 1) hereafter] at LG bracketed between 2.61 and 2.58 Ma. Although perhaps more primitive in some respects, quantitative analysis suggests the BD 1 assemblage fits more closely with the variability previously described for the Oldowan than with the earlier Lomekwian or with stone tools produced by modern nonhuman primates. These differences suggest that hominin technology is distinctly different from generalized tool use that may be a shared feature of much of the primate lineage. The BD 1 assemblage, near the origin of our genus, provides a link between behavioral adaptations—in the form of flaked stone artifacts—and the biological evolution of our ancestors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11712-11717
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume116
Issue number24
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 11 2019

Keywords

  • Cultural evolution
  • Homo
  • Oldowan
  • Paleoanthropology
  • Stone tools

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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    Braun, D. R., Aldeias, V., Archer, W., Arrowsmith, J. R., Baraki, N., Campisano, C. J., Deino, A. L., DiMaggio, E. N., Dupont-Nivet, G., Engda, B., Feary, D. A., Garello, D. I., Kerfelew, Z., McPherron, S. P., Patterson, D. B., Reeves, J. S., Thompson, J. C., & Reed, K. E. (2019). Earliest known Oldowan artifacts at >2.58 Ma from Ledi-Geraru, Ethiopia, highlight early technological diversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(24), 11712-11717. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1820177116