Scientists in Tanzania used equipment from 2 million years ago – Quartz Africa

The ability to adapt to changing environments has deep roots. In a technology-driven world, people face adaptability with technological change, especially when it comes to navigating adverse climates and locations. But not every technological revolution is the result of environmental change.

Sometimes existing tool kits — for example, simple cutting and scraping flex — allow early humans to exploit new resources and thrive in changing circumstances. As a species, humans are also characterized by the ability to use disrupted environments rapidly. And, as new research conducted at the Olduvai Gorge of Tanzania shows, this adaptability became apparent millions of years ago.

Our new study, published in Nature Communications, is the result of a true team and multi-disciplinary effort. Principal investigators from Canada and Tanzania together with partners in Africa, North America and Europe described a large combination of chemical screens from stone tools, fossil bones, and dental and plant material. We also examined plants, ancient pollen, and microscopic bits of silica left by natural fires derived from ancient riverbeds and lake outflows in the Serengeti plains.

Taken together, the data we gathered represent the earliest evidence for human activity in the Olduvai Gorge: about 2 million years ago. It also shows that early humans used a great variety of habitats as they adjusted for early change.

East Africa is one of the world’s major areas for human genesis research. It boasts an extraordinary record of extinct species over several million years. For more than a century, paleo-anthropologists have detected sedimentary outflows and unpublished hominin fossils in surveys and pigs. But the link between these fossils and their environmental context remains elusive. This is because many paleoecological datasets have not been associated with cultural relics left directly by extinct early humans. Our study is an important step to fill that gap.

Miscellaneous Artworks and Data

The dataset was obtained during a recent survey of the unexplained western part of the ancient basin. The locality is called Evas Oldupa; In the mother language spoken by local residents, it means “the way to the gorge”. It is an apt name: the site connects the path that connects the rim of the valley with its bottom. Here, the exposed valley wall reveals 2 million years of history.

The team worked closely with Maasai scholars and communities while excavating the site. The research group employed a large group of participants, male and female, selected by the local community. And in addition to community outreach in the national language, Swahili, we are providing college education opportunities for two Maasai scholars interested in archeology and heritage, as well as many other Tanzanians.

The exposed stone tools in relation to “culture” archaeologists are identified as Oldowan. It is a milestone representing early humans who interact with their environment in novel ways, for example, by dietary innovations combining meat and plants. In East Africa, Oldowan began about 2.6 million years ago.

The concentration of stone tools and animal fossils is evidence that both humans and organisms gathered around water sources. We also learned that Oldowan hominins widened their net for resources. Our data suggests that early humans carried rocks for equipment they received from distant sources in the basin 12 kilometers east. They also developed the flexibility to use different changing environments.

Our research shows that the geological, sedimentary and plant landscape around Iwas Oldupa changed a lot, and quickly. Yet humans continued to come here to use local resources for 200,000 years. They used a great variety of habitats: fern meadows, woodland mosaics, naturally lit landscapes, lakeside palm groves, steps. These habitats were regularly blanketed by ashes or reworked by mass flows associated with volcanic eruptions.

Thanks to the past and ongoing radiometric work — using the Argon method, which dates the deposition of volcanic materials sandwiched archaeological finds — we find these artifacts known as the Early Pleistocene 2 million years ago Was.

What is not clear is which hominin species made the devices. We did not recover hominin fossils, but its remains are Homo habilis The young have been found in sediment from another site 350 meters away. It is likely that either Homo habilis Or a member of the genus Paranthropus-The remains of which have been found earlier in the Olduvai Gorge – were tool makers. More research will be needed to ensure this.


One reason for this research is so important that it shows, again, the value of cooperation. Archaeologists, geologists, biologists, chemists, and physicists were all involved in the study at Ewas Oldupa.

This is thanks to the many samples and artifacts that these experts gathered and analyzed that we now also know that the adaptation of major geomorphic and ecological changes had no effect on the technology hominins used. They roamed many dwellings but used only one tool kit in the midst of unpredictable environments.

This is a clear indication that humans were not technically constrained 2 million years ago and already had the ability to expand geographic boundaries, as they prepared to exploit a multitude of habitats within Africa – And, possibly, beyond.

Julio Mercader Florin, Professor, University of Calgary

This article is republished from Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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