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A study published today in the journal Nature analyzed more than 7,200 stone tools from middle Paleolithic Attirampakkam creekside site in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Archaeologists from the Sharma Centre for Heritage Education have been unearthing these tools for the last 20 years from the site. There aren’t any human remains, yet, so it’s hard to say exactly which species have occupied the site. But Shanti Pappu, one of the archaeologists who led the study reconstructed history and technology over nearly 2 million years.

Stone tools recovered at the Attirampakkam site in India from the middle paleolithic — including Levallois technology. Photo: Sharma Centre for Heritage Education, India

Stone tools recovered at the Attirampakkam site in India from the middle paleolithic — including Levallois technology. Photo: Sharma Centre for Heritage Education, India

Between 1.7 and 1.07 million years ago, the hominins that lived at this site made primitive hand axes and cleavers. There was an abrupt culture shift between 449 and 321 thousand years ago, as Levallois technology appears. Levallois fine points and flakes began to replace the clunkier older technology for the next 200,000 or so years. Again without human remains, it is hard to say whether new hominin migrations out of Africa brought the technology into India or that the technology emerged simultaneously, independently in Africa, Europe, and Asia. What can be said is the Levallois stone making culture emerged in India roughly 385,000 years ago — right around the same time they started showing up in Africa and Europe, about 250,000 years earlier than previously known.

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