1-Million-Year-Old Artifacts Found in South Africa

Jul 26, 2014 by Sci-News.com

Archaeologists from the University of Toronto and the University of Cape Town have unearthed a large number of Early to Middle Pleistocene stone artifacts including hand axes, flakes and other tools at an archaeological site near the town of Kathu in Northern Cape Province, South Africa.

Hand axes found at the Kathu Townlands site, Northern Cape Province, South Africa. Image credit: Walker SJH et al.

Hand axes found at the Kathu Townlands site, Northern Cape Province, South Africa. Image credit: Walker SJH et al.

The site, named the Kathu Townlands, is one of the richest archaeological sites in South Africa. It is up to 1,000,000 years old.

The Kathu Townlands is one component of a grouping of prehistoric sites known as the Kathu Complex.

Other sites in the complex include Kathu Pan 1 which has produced fossils of animals such as elephants and hippos, as well as the earliest known evidence of tools used as spears from a level dated to half a million years ago.

The 2013 excavations at the Kathu Townlands have produced tens of thousands of stone tools such as flakes, cores and bifaces.

Flakes and cores found at the Kathu Townlands site, Northern Cape Province, South Africa. Image credit: Walker SJH et al.

Flakes and cores found at the Kathu Townlands site, Northern Cape Province, South Africa. Image credit: Walker SJH et al.

“The Kathu Townlands was the site of ongoing intensive occupation and exploitation for stone tool manufacture,” Dr Michael Chazan of the University of Toronto’s Department of Anthropology and his colleagues wrote in a paper published in the journal PLoS ONE.

“While one function of the site might have been as a quarry, rough-outs and primary flakes are rare, and there is a small component of finished tools (including rare hand axes made on non-local quartzite) suggesting that the site might have had a more diversified function.”

Dr Chazan added: “we need to imagine a landscape around Kathu that supported large populations of human ancestors, as well as large animals like hippos.”

“All indications suggest that Kathu was much wetter, maybe more like the Okavango than the Kalahari. There is no question that the Kathu Complex presents unique opportunities to investigate the evolution of human ancestors in Southern Africa.”

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Walker SJH et al. 2014. Kathu Townlands: A High Density Earlier Stone Age Locality in the Interior of South Africa. PLoS ONE 9 (7): e103436; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103436