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Letters to Nature
Nature 293, 464 - 465 (08 October 1981); doi:10.1038/293464a0

Microwear polishes on early stone tools from Koobi Fora, Kenya

Lawrence H. Keeley* & Nicholas Toth

*Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, Chicago, Illinois 60680, USA
Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA

The functions of the stone artefacts made and used by early hominids has been a matter for speculation. However, recent experimental work has demonstrated that microscopically distinct wear-polishes form on tools of cryptocrystalline silica when used on different materials, and that these microwear polishes survive on ancient implements1–3. We have now examined 54 artefacts from five early Pleistocene archaeological sites, dated to 1.5 Myr ago, in the Koobi Fora region of Kenya for microwear polishes and other traces of use. Wear traces were found on nine artefacts, variously resembling traces induced experimentally by cutting soft animal tissue and soft plant material and by scraping and sawing wood. These results greatly extend the time range for which microwear polish analysis is applicable and increase the evidence of early hominid adaptation.

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References

1. Keeley, L. H. Experimental Determination of Stone Tool Uses: a Microwear Analysis (University of Chicago Press, 1980).
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4. Isaac, G. L. & Harris, J. W. K. in Koobi Fora Research Project Vol. 1 (eds Leakey, R. E. F. & Leakey, M.) 64−85 (Clarendon, Oxford, 1978).
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