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Letters to Nature
Nature 385, 333 - 336 (23 January 1997); doi:10.1038/385333a0

2.5-million-year-old stone tools from Gona, Ethiopia

S. Semaw*, P. Renne, J. W. K. Harris*, C. S. Feibel*, R. L. Bernor, N. Fesseha & K. Mowbray*

* Department of Anthropology, Douglass Campus, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903, USA
Berkeley Geochronology Center, 2455 Ridge Road, Berkeley, California 94709, USA
Laboratory of Paleobiology, Department of Anatomy, College of Medicine, Howard University, Washington DC 20059, USA

The Oldowan Stone tool industry was named for 1.8-million-year-old (Myr) artefacts found near the bottom of Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Subsequent archaeological research in the Omo (Ethiopia) and Turkana (Kenya) also yielded stone tools dated to 2.3 Myr. Palaeoanthropological investigations in the Hadar region of the Awash Valley of Ethiopia1, revealed Oldowan assemblages in the adjacent Gona River drainage2. We conducted field work in the Gona study area of Ethiopia between 1992 and 1994 which resulted in additional archaeological discoveries as well as radio-isotopic age control and a magnetic polarity stratigraphy of the Gona sequence. These occurrences are now securely dated between 2.6–2.5 Myr. The stone tools are thus the oldest known artefacts from anywhere in the world. The artefacts show surprisingly sophisticated control of stone fracture mechanics, equivalent to much younger Oldowan assemblages of Early Pleistocene age. This indicates an unexpectedly long period of technological stasis in the Oldowan.

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