Scientific Colloquium
March 15, 2017, 3:30 p.m.

"The World's Oldest Stone Tools"  

In 2011, Dr Harmand and her team unearthed the earliest stone tools ever found dated at 3.3 million years old, which predates the previous record by 700,000 years. The artifacts were found at the archaeological site Lomekwi 3 on the western shore of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya. They show that at least one group of ancient hominins started intentionally knapping stones to make sharp tools long before previously thought. These tools published in the journal Nature in 2015 shed light on an unexpected and previously unknown period of hominin behavior, and can tell us a lot about cognitive development in our ancestors that we canít understand from fossils alone. Though itís unclear who made the tools, this finding disproves the long-standing assumption that Homo habilis was the first tool-maker. Tool-making began before any members of the Homo genus walked the Earth.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Harmand is an Associate Professor in Anthropology at The State University of New York at Stony Brook and co-Director of the West Turkana Archaeological Project. Dr. Harmand is an expert in Early Stone Age archaeology. Her research program revolves around the central theme of how, when and why did stone tool manufacture and use originate among hominins. Since 1998, she has focused her research on reconstructing the genesis of hominin technology, a period for which the archaeological record is meager. In 2011, her annual field expedition in northern Kenya yielded the earliest archaeological site known, dated at 3.3 million years. In addition, Prof. Harmand, along with her team, is exploring the biomechanics involved in the making and possible use of stone tools. She is also currently collaborating with primate archaeologists. Prof. Harmand worked as a Research Scientist at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France from 2009 to 2012.

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