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The story of human origins has changed again thanks to the new discovery in Algeria



The discovery of 2.4 million-year-old stone tools and slaughtered bones in place in Algeria suggests that our distant relatives of hominins have spread to the northern regions of Africa far earlier than archaeologists have predicted. The finding adds confidence to the newly emerging proposition that the old hominins lived – and evolved – outside the presumed Eden Garden in East Africa.

This exceptional discovery can only be revealed in 2006, when Mohamed Sahnouni, the lead author of a new study and archaeologist at the Spanish National Research Center for Human Evolution, found interesting artifacts at Ain Boucherit in northeastern Algeria near El-Eulma. These items were stored in a sedimentary layer exposed to a deep gorge.

Two years later, Sahnouni found another layer in place, one older. From 2009 to 2016, his team worked closely with Ain Boucherit, excavating stone tools and animal remains.

Sahnouni and his colleagues used more stratigraphic layers, called AB-Up and AB-Lw, at the age of 1.9 million and 2.4 million years. Items within these two layers are now the oldest known artifacts in North Africa, with the oldest previous being the 1.8 million-year-old stone tools found in the late 1990s at the nearby Ain Hanech site.

The tools found in the 2.4 million years AB-Lw are 600,000 years older than those found in Aina Hanech and 200,000 years younger than the oldest instruments found in East Africa (and the world) by Oldowan of Gony , Ethiopia, dating 2.6 million years ago. Scientists believed that early hominids had evolved in this area of ​​Africa, which extends northwards a million years later. However, this finding now indicates much earlier distraction on the continent.

To put these data into perspective, our species, Homo sapiens, appeared 300,000 years ago. So the unknown hominins who built these instruments approached around 2.3 million years around eastern and northern Africa before modern humans appeared on the scene. New discoveries in Ain Boucherit, the details of which were published today in Science, suggest that North Africa was not just a place where human ancestors lived and developed tools – that's where they evolved.

This new research actually feeds on the emerging narrative that people throughout the African continent have evolved as a whole, and not just in East Africa, according to conventional thinking. What's more, it should cause an increased archaeological interest in North Africa.

To the previous layers, Sahnouni used three different techniques: magnetostratigraphy, Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) dating and biochannel analysis of animal bones found in conjunction with tools.

Eleonor Scerri, an Oxford University archaeologist who was not affiliated with a new study, said the scientists did a great job of dating, saying it was "incredibly difficult" to accurately date old hominin sites.

"The authors combined multiple data methods and created an age estimate for early cast [AB-Lw layer] about 2.4 million years ago, "said Scerri Gizmodo. They did this first by reconstructing the sequence of geomagnetic rotations preserved in the locality that are well-dated worldwide. Scientists then found a chronological place … of occupational strata within this sequence by combining the data of electrospin resonance (ESR) of minerals in sediments and the identification of fossil [animals]. "

Scerri said that these methods carefully restrict data, but include certain uncertainties and assumptions.

Jean-Jacques Hublin, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, who also did not participate in a new study, was not thrilled by the dating used by Sahnouni and his colleagues.

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and some may have some reservations about the proposed age for Ain Boucherit and Ain Hanech," said Hublin Gizmod. "Palaeomagnetism is not a method of dating, it helps to limit the data obtained by other methods and is subject to different interpretations."

Pretty fair. This is an extraordinary statement, so the independent effort that these layers and artifacts would have given to this day would support the study's conclusions.

"If confirmed, the findings suggest that hominins occupied northern Africa almost a million years earlier than previously thought," Scerri said. "This data would also cause Oldowan in North Africa to be just a little younger than in East Africa."

According to Oldowan, Scerri refers to the world's oldest stone-making industry. This technology irrevocably changed the evolutionary history of hominin and created the ground for even more sophisticated stone tools, such as the subsequent Acheulean culture.

Notably, the stone instruments found in Ain Boucherit, remarkably similar to Oldowan's instruments from East Africa. Oldowan lithics represent a stone core with flakes removed from the surface, resulting in sharp edges. In addition to these tools, researchers have discovered highly flocked spherical rocks, the purpose of which is not entirely clear.

"The archeology of Ain Boucherit, which is technologically similar to Gone Oldowan, shows that our predecessors have ventured into every corner of Africa, not just East Africa," Sahnouni said in his statement. "Evidence from Algeria has changed [our] an older perspective on East Africa [as] to be the cradle of mankind. In fact, the whole of Africa was the cradle of humanity. "

To explain the presence of the Oldowan technology in North Africa, scientists represent two scenarios: either technology has been developed hominins in East Africa about 2.6 million years ago, rapidly expanding with newly developed technology to the north, or hominins living in the north Africa has invented the Oldowan technology independently on other groups.

From the point of view of the acquired bones, the archaeologists found traces of mastodones, elephants, horses, rhinoceroses, hippos, wild antelope, pigs, hyenas and crocodiles – oh my! Obviously, these ancient hominins were not picky eaters. Importantly, many of these animals are associated with an open savannable environment and easily accessible bodies of persistent fresh water. It probably describes the lands inhabited by these Homologs Oldowan at the time.

Analysis of fossilized bones revealed features of butchers such as V-shaped bars involved in germination and deflection, and notch incisions suggesting bone marrow extraction. Ain Boucherit is now the oldest place in North Africa with tangible archaeological evidence of using meat in conjunction with the use of stone tools.

"The effective use of cut-edge sharp-edged stone tools at Ain Boucherit suggests that our predecessors were not mere deviations," said Isabel Caceres, an archaeologist at the University of Rovira and Virgili, Spain, and co-author of the study. declaration. "At this point, it is not clear [is] regardless of whether they were hunting, but the evidence clearly showed that they successfully competed with carnivores for meat and enjoyed the first approach to animal bodies. "

Unfortunately, no bones of hominin have been found on site, so scientists can only make educated estimates of the exact species responsible for the instruments. It could have been Homo habilis, an early human species, or even late Australopithecines, The hominid family associated with the famous fossil Lucy.

Scerri said that this document highlights the importance of North Africa as well as the Sahara, as archaeologists are trying to get more information about human origins. The paper also raises new questions about earlier hominin development, such as the origin and spread of Oldowan technology.

"This document can not answer these questions, but it will change the story by raising them, which in fact points to the existence of alternatives to the dominant model of East African origin," Gizmodo said.

"As the authors emphasize, the 3.3 million-year-old fossil Australopithecus bahrelghazali have already been found in the Saharan region of Chad. The findings, reported by Sahnouni and colleagues, therefore provide a growing body of evidence that North Africa and the Sahara can well bring about discovers that are changing.


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These findings are strikingly consistent with Scerri's own research. In Trends in Ecology and Evolution, published in July last year, Scerri and her colleagues proclaimed Homo sapiens had a pan-African origin and our species did not develop from a single population of ancestors.

"In our model, human ancestors were scattered across Africa," she explained. "Different populations at different times and places encountered the fact that these dynamic patterns of mixing and separation eventually led to the emergence of behavioral and biological characteristics of current human populations." Sahnouni and colleagues have a similar view, although quite loosely, because they have preceded the nearest flash of divergence of our species by about 1.8 million years. "

Scerri hopes that scientists will make more concerted efforts to explore the allegedly "less important" regions of Africa in order to gain more accurate information – and real – an image of the evolution of hominin over time.

"Exploring the Sahara and other areas located in the less charming corners of the map of human origins is likely to bring significant returns, which does not diminish the incredibly important and valuable findings from East and South Africa."

[Science]

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