ARCHAEOLOGY: Low-tech origins of human society discovered

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Humans began using stone tools almost 2.6 million years ago, according to examination of archaeological finds, which may be the oldest known artefacts, in a river valley in Ethiopia. The tools were used for chopping and pounding, and are almost 300,000 years older than the previously "oldest known" tools. The new finds mainly consist of flakes of rock with chipped edges, which would have been used for cutting or chopping, and a few "pounded pieces" which would have been shaped by battering, like anvils.

In today's edition of the science journal Nature, the archaeologists, led by Sileshi Semaw from Rutgers University in New Jersey, write: "We predict that even older artefacts will be found."But the researchers were able to say little about the hominids who would have made the tools. The earliest human fossil traces, discovered next to Lake Turkana in Kenya in 1995, date back more than 4.4 million years.