Earliest Hominins: Stone-Age Tools Found, Who Used Them?

First Posted: Jan 14, 2016 02:47 PM EST

Researchers have discovered stone-aged tools that are the least 118,000-years-old on Sulawesi, an Indonesian island. The researchers noted that the sharp-edge tools were made from chipping flakes from limestone. However, there were signs of early humans who built these tools. The study is shedding new light on some of the first peoples who inhabited Australia.

The findings were excavated from four different sites on the island of Sulawesi, which is raising questions about the identity of extinct human species that once occupied the island. Fossil samples from a small species of hominin were discovered back in 2003 on Flores, which is a neighboring island. Studies have shown that Homo floresiensis (Hobbit) had arrived on Flores about a million years earlier. The study shows that other islands were also inhibited before the Homo sapiens (modern man) showed up 50,000 years ago, according to Gerrit van den Bergh, lead author of the study from the University of Wollongong.

Scientists believe that the Hobbit was a relative of the species Homo erectus and they became smaller in size through hundreds of generations. This process was referred to as "insular dwarfing."

"We know from genetic evidence that the first people coming to Australia, and their descendants, have a tiny proportion of their DNA inherited from an enigmatic group of humans called the Denisovans," van den Bergh said in a news release.

Denisovans had human and Neanderthal lineages, however they spilt from the lineage and existed until 40,000 years ago.

"The genetic exchange between the ancestors of the modern Australians and Denisovans probably took place somewhere in Southeast Asia," van den Bergh said. "It could well be that the makers of the recently dated stone tools from Sulawesi could have been these Denisovans."

Van den Bergh claimed that the tools were not made by Homo sapiens as they were too old for that to be possible.

The findings of this study were published in the journal Nature.

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