Archaeological Discovery In North Africa Changes The Human Origin Story, Again

Human evolution, origins, and history are ultimately a complex thing to understand. Evidence of that are the numerous discoveries made in the past century that have proven how little we actually know about our ancestors.

Stone tools with sharp edges recovered at the archeological site in Algeria. Image Credit: M. Sahnouni.

The more we search, to more we learn how little we understand.

Now, scientists have found that human ancestors settled in Northern Africa much sooner than previously thought. And that’s kind of a big deal, as it forces us to reconsider the human origin story, AGAIN.

Experts have recovered a number of artifacts and animal bones bearing cut marks of stone tools at archaeological sites in Algeria.

The fascinating part, they date back between 1.9 million and 2.4 million years.

This means a couple of things.

First of all, it has long been agreed on that early humans originated in East Africa. However, this discovery tells us that early human dispersal was far more widespread. 

The discovery challenges the idea that humans only originated from Eastern Africa. It indicates that there were human ancestors roaming across the Sahara around the same time, which practically means that all of the African Continent could be considered the Cradle of Mankind. In other words, the new find indicates that North Africa was not just a place where human ancestors lived and developed stone tools, it was a place where they evolved.

Among the oldest stone tools ever recovered are the Oldowan. Their age, as well as fossil bones found in their vicinity, can be traced back to around 2.6 million years to Gona, Ethiopia.

The new study published in the Journal of Science, scholars have revealed that similar stone tools were already produced in northern parts of the continent around 2.4 million years ago.

 Dr. M. Sahnouni, the lead author and director of the Ain Hanech Project explains: “The Ain Boucherit archaeology, which is technologically similar to the Gona Oldowan, shows that our ancestors ventured into all corners of Africa, not just East Africa.”

“The evidence from Algeria has changed earlier views regarding East Africa being the cradle of humankind. Actually, entire Africa was the cradle of humankind,” he added.

Scientists from the Ain Hanech Project have been excavating archaeological sites in Northern Africa for the past two decades. During this time, they have found a number of clues that help us rewrite the human origin story.

Their latest find comes from materials they dug up in two levels of a geological formation at a site called Ain Boucherit which is believed to date back to 2.4 million and 1.9 million years ago.

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