Stone cutting tools link early humans to prehistoric India

March 25, 2011, AAAS
Stone cutting tools link early humans to prehistoric India
Extensive excavations brought to light stratified sequences of occupation by prehistoric populations.

Dating of recently discovered artifacts in South India indicates that early humans lived in the region more than a million years ago, and that they used distinct 'Acheulian' stone cutting tools, a new study reports in journal Science.

Acheulian tools originated in Africa around 1.5 million years ago and are thought to have spread throughout Eurasia.

The exact chronology of this spread, however, has been a longstanding puzzle. Knowing how old the oval and pear-shaped hand axes, cleavers and other are will help archeologists understand early into South Asia and the Indonesian archipelago.

The artifacts were discovered in one of the richest Paleolithic sites in Tamil Nadu, India, called Attirampakkam. Nestled in the Kortallayar , the site was discovered in 1863 by British geologist Robert Bruce Foote, and has been excavated (off and on) since then.

Shanti Pappu and colleagues determined the ages of these tools, which suggest that Acheulian tool-making humans were present in South Asia around a million years ago or earlier, existing at the same time as other populations in southwest Asia and Africa.

The team discovered more than 3,500 quartzite stone artifacts, including more than 70 Acheulian hand axes, cleavers and flakes (small chipped stones).

By taking paelomagnetic measurements, the researchers were able to directly date the sediments that covered the Acheulian tools. All paleomagnetic measurements from around the site showed a reversed polarity, meaning that the predates the period after the last reversal of Earth’s magnetic field.

The discovery of reverse polarity establishes the fact that the sediments are more than a million years old.

To obtain an even more precise age of the artifacts, the researchers applied a burial dating technique that measures isotopes of two earth metals, aluminum and beryllium.

The findings hint that with distinctive tools migrated throughout Eurasia over a million years ago.

A related Perspective outlines the paper’s major findings and discusses how this new evidence affects scientists understanding of the South Asian Acheulian.

Explore further: Hand axes in Europe nearly a million years old: study

More information: "Early Pleistocene Presence of Acheulian Hominins in South India," by S. Pappu et al., Science (2011).

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not rated yet Mar 26, 2011
1 million years. Amazing. Not 'us', nor Neanderthal, but still... pre 'us'.
What is interesting is that science also says that about 60k years ago, 'we' were nearly wiped out .. to a worldwide population of less than 100k.
So much happened is so short a geologic time. And we don't know anything about anything older than 500M years.
5 / 5 (1) Mar 26, 2011
That was the Toba eruption 70kya and it's thought that there were only 3000 - 10,000 human survivors on the whole planet.

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