Archaeologists in Morocco have announced the discovery of North Africa’s oldest hand axe manufacturing site, dating back 1.3 million years.
- Before the find, the Acheulian stone tool industry in Morocco was thought to date back 700,000 years
- The news has been called a “chronological rebound”
- Researchers say the study also makes it possible to identify the oldest presence of humans in Morocco
The Stone Age find pushes back the start date of the Acheulian stone tool industry — associated with human ancestor Homo erectus — by hundreds of thousands of years.
It was made during excavations at a quarry on the outskirts of Casablanca.
This “major discovery … contributes to enriching the debate on the emergence of the Acheulian in Africa,” Abderrahim Mohib, co-director of the Franco-Moroccan Prehistory of Casablanca program, said.
Before the find, Morocco’s Acheulian stone tool industry was thought to date back 700,000 years.
New finds at the Thomas Quarry I site, first made famous in 1969 when a human half mandible was discovered in a cave, mean the Acheulian there is almost twice as old.
The 17-strong team behind the discovery comprised Moroccan, French and Italian researchers, and their finding is based on the study of stone tools extracted from the site.
Moroccan archaeologist Abdelouahed Ben Ncer called the news a “chronological rebound”.
He said the beginning of the Acheulian in Morocco was now close to the South and East African start dates of 1.6 million and 1.8 million years ago respectively.
Earlier humans had made do with more primitive pebble tools, known as Oldowan after their East African type site.
Research at the Casablanca site has been carried out for decades, and has “delivered one of the richest Acheulian assemblages in Africa,” Mr Mohib said.
Mr Mohib said the study also made it possible to attest to “the oldest presence in Morocco of humans” who were “variants of Homo erectus“.
Prehistoric man’s ability to “design the shape of the tool he wants,” such as the latest find, was a “very important technological advance”, he added.
In 2017, the discovery of five fossils at Jebel Irhoud in Morocco, estimated at 300,000 years old, overturned evolutionary science when they were designated as Homo sapiens, the same species as modern humans.
The Moroccan fossils were much older than some with similar facial characteristics excavated from Omo Kibish in Ethiopia, which dated back around 195,000 years.
The Paleolithic age is the first and longest period of prehistory, beginning more than 3 million years ago and ending 12,000 years ago.