Scientists from the Centro Nacional de Investigacion (CENIEH) in Spain analysed archaeological remains found at sites in the region of Ain Hanech (Algeria), the oldest currently known in the north of Africa.
For a long time, East Africa has been considered the place of origin of the earliest hominins and lithic technology, according to the study published in the journal Science.
Up to now, very little was known about the first hominin occupation and activities in the north of the continent.
Scientists led by Mohamed Sahnouni, an archaeologist at CENIEH, showed that ancestral hominins actually made stone tools in North Africa that are nearly contemporary with the earliest known stone tools in East Africa dated to 2.6 million years.
These are stone artifacts and animal bones bearing marks of cutting by stone tools, with an estimated chronology of 2.4 and 1.9 million years, respectively.
The sites were dated using paleomagnetism, electron spin resonance (ESR), and the biochronology of large mammals excavated together with the archaeological materials.
Paleontologist Jan van der Made from the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid used fossils of animals such as pigs, horses and elephants from very ancient site to corroborate the ages yielded via paleomagnetism, which is induced by the Earth's magnetic field.
The artefacts of Ain Boucherit were manufactured of locally available limestone and flint and include faces worked into choppers, polyhedra and subspheroids, as well as sharp-edged cutting tools used to process animal carcasses.
"The lithic industry of Ain Boucherit, which is technologically similar to that of Gona and Olduvai, shows that our ancestors ventured into all corners of Africa, not just East Africa," said Sahnouni.
Ain Boucherit is one of the few archaeological sites in Africa that has preserved evidence of bones with associated marks of cutting and percussion in situ with stone tools, resaerchers said.
This shows that these ancestral hominins ate meat and marrow from animals of all sizes and skeletal parts, implying skinning, evisceration and defleshing of upper and intermediate extremities, they said.
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