Oldest known stone tool found in Turkey is 1.2 million years old

An international team of researchers has uncovered the oldest known human worked tool ever found in Turkey. Although it is called a ‘human worked’ tool it was actually created by one of our ancient ancestors about a million years before the evolution of modern homo sapiens.

The team, which included researchers from the UK, Turkey and the Netherlands used high-precision instruments to date deposits from the ancient river Gediz where the tool was found. The piece of quartzite flake provides insight into when early humans arrived in western Turkey from Asia and Africa. Researchers used radioscopic and palaeomagnetic measurements from love flows, which predate and post-date the find to establish a human presence 1.24 million and 1.17 million years ago.

Other tools and remains were recovered in the area in 2007 but dating tests returned uncertain results.

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

The discovery also dates from a tumultuous and fragile time for our ancient ancestors. Humans of that time would have been considered an endangered species by today’s standards. There were only an estimated 18,000 humans, of various species, spread out across Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.

The simple stone tool is about 2.2 inches by 1.7 inches made of quartz crystal. It is unclear what it was used for. However, based on similar tools from elsewhere in the world it is likely that it was used for cutting hides or meat.

“The flake was an incredibly exciting find. 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 artefact 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 behavior of our most distant ancestors,”  said Professor Schreve.

Because of its position as a gateway between Asia and Europe many civilizations have flourished in Turkey. It is home to some of the earliest known human cities and some of the earliest known agricultural sites.

Although this is the oldest tool found in Turkey it is far from the oldest in the world. The oldest known hominin tools were found in Africa’s Gona river system in an area known as the Afar triangle of the Great Rift Valley in Eastern Africa. Those tools date back an estimated 2.6 million years. More sophisticated picks and axes were also found in that area dating back 1.8 million years. Chopping tools, also dating back 1.8 million years, have been found in Dmanisi Georgia.

The paper detailing the Turkish find, entitled ‘The earliest securely-dated hominin artefact in Anatolia?’ is available online from the journal Quaternary Science Reviews.


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