15 – Emergence of Oldowan tools

2.6 million years ago

The first stone tool industry, a range of specific cutting and crushing tools, dates back to 2.6 million years. This toolkit signals the emergence in hominins of higher cognitive abilities, larger demonstration of multistep planning, and even the possibility of teaching others. There are several types of Oldowan tools including scrapers, awls, and flakes. Oldowan stone tools, first discovered in Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, persist for over a million years and have been found at later hominin fossil sites outside of Africa. These stone tools, particularly the flakes, would have been crucial in allowing hominins to access meat by helping to remove flesh from carcasses much more easily. The tools were originally associated with Homo habilis (the earliest well-recognized species in our genus and translated as “handy man”), but it is thought that the tools predate this species. This means that either an early species of Homo made these tools or that they were the products of a pre-Homo australopith species.

Image credit David L. Brill. From Lucy to Language, Simon & Schuster, 2006.


    Pliocene5.3 to 2.58 million years ago

Environmental and Climate Changes

  • Shifts to even more open and arid environments 3 to 2.5 Ma

Changing Species