Acheulean tools geologically dated to 1.76 million years ago

A study being published later this week in Nature reports that geologists have dated the Kenyan sediments where a collection of Acheulean tools were discovered, such as the hand ax below, to 1.76 million years ago — at least 160,000 years older than previous dates for technology created by Homo erectus.

Acheulean hand ax

Although the New York Times article summarizing the study focuses on the newsworthiness of these tools as the oldest, it makes a few other interesting points.

The story of human progress is unavoidably a story of technological innovation, Paleolithic designs fading into oblivion as Neolithic tools take their place. Right? Not necessarily.

In reality, it’s not always as simplistic as one technology giving way to the “next,” as these recently dated discoveries show. Older Oldowan tools were discovered alongside the more advanced Acheulean tools, indicating that “the two technologies are not mutually exclusive.”

Other highlights (or, things Andrew didn’t know):

  • The first humans to leave Africa didn’t take the Acheulean technology with them.
  • Acheulean technology wasn’t widely adopted for another several hundred thousand years.

Full NYTimes.com article via Boing Boing.