oldest stone tool
December 24, 2014

Oldest stone tool ever discovered in Turkey

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

A stone knife discovered in Turkey is the oldest tool of its kind to ever be found there, and it suggests that humans passed from Asia into Europe far earlier than originally believed.

In research published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews, researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London and an international team of colleagues report on a humanly-worked quartzite flake that was discovered in the ancient deposits of the river Gediz in western Turkey. High-precision dating indicates that the tool is roughly 1.2 million years old.

The finding supports claims that early humans were in living in Turkey’s Anatolian peninsula at the time – claims based on the discovery of skull fragments from Homo erectus discovered in the region last year, according to the Daily Mail. Previously, it was believed that those remains were only 500,000 years old.

According to the study authors, the finding provides a major new insight into how and when early humans entered Europe from Asia and Africa. Using high-precision equipment, they were able to date the deposits of  the ancient river meander, providing the first accurate timeline for when the first humans would have started occupying the region.

“This discovery is critical for establishing the timing and route of early human dispersal into Europe,” said Danielle Schreve, a professor at the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway. “Our research suggests that the flake is the earliest securely-dated artifact from Turkey ever recorded and was dropped on the floodplain by an early hominin well over a million years ago.”

Both high-precision radioisotopic dating and palaeomagnetic measurements from lava flows, which both pre-date and post-date the meander, were used to establish that early humans were likely present in this area between approximately 1.24 million and 1.17 million years ago.

“The dating of the flake suggests that the maker would have been Homo erectus, which is widely believed to have evolved in Africa and then spread into Eurasia by 2 million years,” Schreve told the Daily Mail, adding that the site “has been re-dated several times, with dates from around half a million to just over a million years old, so the new evidence from the Gedix River really firms up our knowledge of chronology of early human occupation in Turkey.”

“The flake was an incredibly exciting find,” she added. “I had been studying the sediments in the meander bend and my eye was drawn to a pinkish stone on the surface. When I turned it over for a better look, the features of a humanly-struck artifact were immediately apparent. By working together with geologists and dating specialists, we have been able to put a secure chronology to this find and shed new light on the behaviour of our most distant ancestors.”

Researchers from Newcastle University and the University of Southampton in the UK, Harran University in Turkey, and Twente University, VU University, Wageningen University, Utrecht University in The Netherlands were also involved in the study.

“When the flake was struck, it would have had razor-sharp edges and presumably been used, as we know other flakes were, for cutting hides, meat or even plant materials There are a handful of sites in southern Europe – Spain, Italy and southern France – that have produced artifacts dating to around 1.2 million years,” Schreve told the UK newspaper, calling the find “secure confirmation, for the first time, of early humans in this area.”

“The dating of these sites is very controversial in many cases, or the stone tools are not clearly associated with the dated deposits, which makes it difficult to make meaningful observations as to the timing and route of dispersal of early humans,” she added. “The key point regarding the new flake from Turkey is that it comes from river sediments that are sandwiched between volcanic deposits, which can be securely dated using two very robust methods, Argon-Argon dating and palaeomagnetism.”

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