Friday, 05 Dec, 2008 Environment

How old is human race? New data


New archeological evidences have been found in Ethiopia. As it turned out, the human race may be 80,000 years older than scientists previously believed.

It took archaeologists more than 35 years to determine the age of tools discovered in the Ethiopian Rift Valley. With the help of modern techniques they revealed that those tools could be at least 276,000 years old. Until that moment the oldest samples of Homo sapien bones were found to have 195,000 years.

The discovery was made due to argon-argon dating. This reliable method is used to compare isotopes of argon in order to define more precisely the age of geological materials.

Paul Renne, director of Berkeley Geochronology Center, said that making of small blades found in Gademotta required manual dexterity, as well as integrated cognitive capabilities. As scientists suppose, these tools can be referred to the beginning of Homo sapiens development.

"It seems that we were technologically more advanced at an earlier time that we had previously thought," said Leah Morgan, study co-author.

According to the information provided by National Geographic, Gademotta, the place of discovery, offered favorable living conditions for settlers as it had access to fresh water from the Lake Ziway and supplied them with black rock glass called obsidian.

"Due to its lack of crystalline structure, obsidian glass is one of the best raw materials to use for making tools," said Morgan.

It's interesting to note that researchers came across a gap about 300,000 years ago over the period of Stone Age. Large-seized unpolished stone-axes representing Acheulean period gave way to finer blades of the Middle Stone Age which varied in form. Referring to the Afar region in Ethiopia, it should be mentioned that the change of technology happened about 160,000 years ago.

"A modern analogy might be the transition from ox-carts to automobiles, which is virtually complete in North America and northern Europe, but is still underway in the developing world," expressed his opinion Renne.

According to Leah Morgan from the University of California, the technological progress started earlier in Gademotta due to available sources of obsidian. However, it's still difficult to say, who created those tools. Some experts suppose it could be Homo sapiens. Their opponents claim that a different human species could have the necessary intellectual abilities and manual nimbleness. Nevertheless, these findings are of paramount importance for science.

"The new date for Gademotta changes how we think about human evolution, because it shows how much more complicated the situation is than we previously thought," said Laura Basell, an archaeologist from the University of Oxford.

The study carried out in Gademotta was funded by the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration. Results of the investigation will be presented in the journal Geology.

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