The discovery of stone tools of 2.4 million years and the bones of the cubes at the site in Algeria suggest that our distant hominine relatives spread in the northern regions of Africa much earlier than archaeologists assumed. The find adds credibility to the newly-emerged suggestion that ancient hominins lived-and evolved-before the supposed paradise garden in East Africa.
This remarkable discovery can be traced back to 2006, when Mohammed Sahnuni, the lead author of a new study and archaeologist at the National Human Rights Evolution Research Center in Spain, found some intriguing artifacts at a location called Ain Bucherith in northeastern Algeria, near the city of El-Eulma. These objects were embedded in sedimentary layers exposed by a deep ravine.
Two years later, Sannuni found another layer of the site, one even older. From 2009 to 2016, his team worked precisely in Ain Bucherit, discovering stone tools and preserved animal remains.
By using multiple dating techniques, Sannuni and his colleagues dated both stratigraphic layers, called AB-Up and AB-Lw, with a lifetime of 1.9 million and 2.4 million years respectively. The items in these two layers are now the oldest known artefacts in North Africa, and the previous oldest ones are the old stone tools of 1.8 million years found in the late 1990s at a nearby place called Ain Hanech.
The tools found within the AB-Lw layer, 2.4 million years old, are 600,000 years older than those found in Ain Hahnem and 200,000 years younger than the oldest tools found in East Africa (and the world, for that) – the tools of Aldouan from Gona, Ethiopia, dating back 2.6 million years ago. Scientists believed that early hominins developed in this area of Africa, spreading to the north about a million years later. But this finding now suggests a much earlier date of dispersal of the continent.
To put these dates in perspective, our species, Homo sapiens, appeared 300,000 years ago. Thus, unknown hominins who built these tools rolled around East and North Africa about 2.3 million years ago before modern humans hit the stage. New discoveries by Ain Buserrit, whose details were published today in science, suggest that North Africa is not only a place where human ancestors lived and developed tools – it was the place where they developed.
Indeed, this new research is fueled by new stories, with people developing throughout the African continent as a whole, and not just in East Africa, like conventional thinking. What's more, this should encourage the increased archaeological interest in North Africa.
To date, the layers, Sahnouni uses three different techniques: magnetostratigraphy, Electron Electron Spin Resonance (ESR), dating, and biocronical analysis of animal bones found in combination with tools.
Eleonora Skerry, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford, who was not associated with the new study, said the researchers did a great job of dating, saying it was "incredibly difficult" to accurately give old hominine sites.
"The authors combined multiple dating methods to produce an age-based assessment of early occupation of [AB-Lw layer] about 2.4 million years ago, "Scarry told Gizmodo. They did so by first reconstructing the sequence of geomagnetic upheavals preserved at the site, which are globally well-dated.The researchers then found the chronological site of … occupation layers within of this sequence through a combination of electrospin resonance (ESR) dating to minerals in sediments and identifying fossil [animals]. "
Scerri said these methods fine-tune dates, but include some uncertainties and assumptions.
Jean-Jacques Hublin, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology – was also not involved in the new study – he was not impressed by the familiar techniques used by Sanuni and his colleagues.
"Extraordinary allegations require extraordinary evidence, and some reservations can be made in relation to the proposed ages for the locations of Ain Buserrit and Ain Hanch," Hublin told Gizmodo. "Paleomagnetism is not a method of dating, it helps to limit dates obtained by other methods and is subject to various interpretations."
Fair enough. These are really outstanding claims, so the independent efforts to provide these layers and artifacts would support the conclusions of the study.
"If confirmed, the findings suggest that hominins occupied North Africa for nearly a million years earlier than they previously thought," said Sherry. "These dates would also have made Aldown in North Africa just a little younger than in East Africa."
By Aldovan, Scerri refers to the world's oldest known stone tool industry. This technology irrevocably altered the evolutionary history of Homin, setting a stage for even more sophisticated stone tools, such as the Achelian culture that follows.
Unbelievably, the stone tools found in Ain Buserrit were remarkably similar to those of Oldowans in East Africa. Oldwood lithics have rocky cores with snowflakes on the surface, resulting in sharp edges. In addition to these tools, the researchers discovered strongly rotating stones in the shape of a ball, the purpose of which is not quite clear.
"The archeology of Ain Bucerit, technologically similar to Gona Ollowan, shows that our ancestors have engaged in all parts of Africa, not just in East Africa," Sanoni said in a statement. "The evidence from Algeria has changed [our] an earlier opinion about East Africa [as] to be the cradle of humanity. In fact, all of Africa was a cradle of humanity. "
To explain the presence of Aldouan technology in North Africa, the researchers set up two scenarios: Or the technology was developed by the hominins in East Africa about 2.6 million years ago, who quickly expanded themselves and their new inflection in the north, or the hominins living in North Africa Africa has invented Oldowan technology independently of other groups.
Regarding the discovered animal bones, archaeologists have found traces of mastodons, elephants, horses, rhinos, hippo, wild antelopes, pigs, hyenas and crocodiles – oh, mine! Obviously, these ancient hominins were not picky dishes. More importantly, many of these animals are linked to open savannah environments and easily accessible bodies of constant fresh water. This probably describes the landscape inhabited by these homonins at Aldouan at that time.
The analysis of fossilized bones revealed the characteristic signs of porridge, such as the V-shaped teeth involved in eviction and deflation, and affect the incisions indicating extraction of the bone marrow. Ein Boucherrit is now the oldest site in North Africa with tangible archaeological evidence of the use of meat related to the use of stone tools.
"The effective use of cutting tools for sharp knives in Ain Buserrit indicates that our ancestors are not just cleaners," said Isabel Caceres, archaeologist at the University of Rovira and Virgilia in Spain and co-author of the study, a statement. "It's not clear at this time [is] whether they were hunting or not, but the evidence clearly showed that they competed successfully with meat carnivores and enjoyed the first access to animal carcasses. "
Unfortunately, hominine bones have not been found on the site, so researchers can only make educated assumptions about the exact species that are responsible for the tools. It could have been Homo habilis, early human species around at that time, or even late Australopitins, The genus of the hominine associated with the Lucy fossil.
Scerri said the document highlights the importance of North Africa, and also the Sahara, for archaeologists who want to learn more about human origin. The newspaper, she says, also raises new questions about the previous hominine evolution, such as the origins and dissemination of Aldoan's technology.
"The newspaper can not answer these questions, but it changes the narrative by raising them, in fact pointing out there may be alternatives to the dominant model of East African origin," she told Gizmodo.
"As the authors point out, the fossils of 3.3 million years Australyleptex bhrehelhazali have already been found in the Saharan region of Chad. The results released by Sahnouni and his colleagues, therefore, add to the increasing number of evidence that North Africa and the Sahara could make changes in the discovery of the game. "
People do not develop from an ancestral nation
In the 1980s, scientists learned that all people living today are derived from a woman called the "Mitochondrial Eve", which lived in Africa between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago.
These findings are incredibly consistent with Scerri's own research. In a book on trends in ecology and evolution published last July, Scari and her colleagues argue that Homo sapiens there was pan-African descent and that our species did not evolve from an ancestral population.
"In our model, human ancestors were already scattered across Africa," she explained. "Different populations came into contact with each other at different times and in different places, with these dynamic patterns of intermingling and separation that led to the emergence of behavioral and biological features of the modern human population. The findings of Sanuni and his colleagues fit in this regard , although rather loosely as they precede the earliest beats of the divergence of our species for about 1.8 million years. "
Moving forward, Serry hopes that scientists will make more common effort to explore the supposedly "less important" regions of Africa to get more precise – and real – a picture of hominine evolution over time.
"The Sahara Survey and other areas found in less glitzier corners on the site of human origin are likely to give important returns, which in no way reduces the incredibly important and valuable findings of eastern and southern Africa."[Science]