A group of scientists led by Mohamed Sahnuni, an archaeologist at the National Institute for Human Rights Studies (CENIEH), has just published an article in the journal The science that breaks with the paradigm that the cradle of Mankind is located in East Africa, based on archaeological sites found in sites in the Ain Khaneh region (Algeria), the oldest currently known in North Africa.
For a long time, East Africa was considered the place of origin of the earliest hominins and lytic technologies, because until now very little was known about the first occupation of hominins and activities in the north of the continent. Two decades of field and laboratory research, directed by Dr. Sakhnuni, showed that generic hominin actually made stone tools in North Africa, which were close to modern times, with the earliest known stone tools in East Africa, dating back 2.6 million years.
These are stone artifacts and animal bones bearing stone cutting tools, with an estimated chronology of 2.4 and 1.9 million years, respectively, found on two levels in Ain Bouchert sites (in the Ain Khanech study area), which were dated using paleomagnetism, electron spin resonance (EPR) and biochronology of large mammals excavated along with archaeological materials.
Fossil animals such as pigs, horses and elephants from the most ancient places were used by paleontologist Jan van der Made from the National Museum of Art in Madrid to confirm the age obtained by paleomagnetism obtained by geochronologist CENIEH Josep Parés and ESR, found by Mathieu Duval from the University Griffith.
Ain Boucherit artifacts were made from local limestone and flint, and included faces that were processed into shredders, polyhedra and sub-feroids, as well as sharp cutting tools used to process animal carcasses. These artifacts are characteristic of Aldoun stones, known from 2.6 to 1.9 million Summer objects in East Africa, although those from Ain Bouchery show subtle variations.
“The foundry industry, Ain Boucherit, a technologically similar technology from Gona and Olduvai, shows that our ancestors risked all parts of Africa, not just East Africa. Facts from Algeria change the old view that East Africa was the cradle of humanity. In fact, all of Africa was the cradle of humanity, ”said Sakhnuni, project leader Ain Khaneh.
Not just scavengers
Ain Boucherit is one of the few archaeological sites in Africa that testify to the presence of bones with appropriate marks of cutting and percussion in place using stone tools, which unmistakably shows that these ancestral gominins used meat and bone marrow in animals of all sizes and skeletal parts, which meant skinning, dredging and deflexion of the upper and intermediate limbs.
Isabel Cáceres, IPHES taphonomist, commented that “the effective use of sharp tools in Ain Boucherit suggests that our ancestors were not just garbage collectors. It is unclear whether they are hunting, but the evidence clearly shows that they have successfully competed with carnivorous animals and gained first access to animal carcasses. ”
At this moment, the most important question is who created the stone tools found in Algeria. Hominin’s remains are still not found in North Africa, which are modern with the earliest stone artifacts. Strictly speaking, not a single hominin has yet been documented in direct connection with the first stone tools known from East Africa.
However, a recent discovery in Ethiopia has shown that the presence of early Homo dates back to 2.8 million years, most likely the best candidate also for materials from East and North Africa.
Scientists have long thought that hominins and their material culture originated in the Great Rift Valley in East Africa. Surprisingly, the earliest known hominin, dated to 7.0 million years, and 3.3 million years Australopithecus bahrelghazali, were found in Chad, in the Sahara, 3000 km from rift valleys in eastern Africa.
According to Sileshi Semau, a scientist from CENIEH and co-author of this document, explains that hominins modern with Lucy (3.2 million years old) probably wandered around the Sahara, and their descendants may have been responsible for leaving these archaeological sites riddles now found in Algeria, close to contemporaries from East Africa.
“Future research will focus on finding human fossils in nearby Miocene and Plio-Pleistocene sediments, in search of instrumental craftsmen, and even older stone tools,” concludes Sakhnuni.