Archaeologists discover 1.2 million year old 'Workshop' in mind-blowing find.

Scientists have discovered a trove of nearly 600 obsidian hand-axes that were crafted more than 1.2 million years ago in Ethiopia by an unknown group of hominins, the family consisting of modern humans and our many extinct relatives, reports a new study. 

The discovery pushes the timeline of obsidian tool use back by an astonishing 500,000 years, and reveals that the hominins who lived in this part of Ethiopia, known as Melka Kunture, must have been considerably skilled crafters in order to work with this capricious material.

Obsidian is a volcanic glass that forms from rapidly cooled lava, an origin that gives this rock its typical dark color and brittle structure. As a fragile and sharp-edged glass, obsidian is a useful material for making tools and weapons, but those same qualities make it tricky to sculpt because it can so easily break and cause injuries. 

Many human cultures have relied on obsidian for both aesthetic and functional items over the past several millennia. However, the use of this glass deeper in the Pleistocene era, a period that spans roughly 2,580,000 to 11,700 is less common, with notable exceptions such as obsidian hand-axes found in Kenya that date back some 700,000 years.

Humans are the only hominins that still walk the Earth today, but our wider ancestral family once included a variety of close relatives during the Pleistocene era. Some of these bygone hominins were sculpting simple stone tools as early as 3.3 million years ago, but the use of dedicated “workshops” for tool-crafting was previously assumed to have emerged much later in the archeological record. 

The new study opens a tantalizing window into the mysterious hominin community that lived in this river ecosystem 1.2 million years ago, and learned to take advantage of some of the most challenging resources in its environment. Future discoveries may further expose the extent to which our long-lost relatives developed the adaptations that would ultimately help our own species gain a competitive edge in a beautiful, but dangerous, world.

Source: www.vice.com


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