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Nature. 1999 May 6;399(6731):57-60.

Early hominid stone tool production and technical skill 2.34 Myr ago in West Turkana, Kenya.

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CNRS, Préhistoire et Technologie, MAE (boite 3), Nanterre, France.


Well-documented Pliocene archaeological sites are exceptional. At present they are known only in East Africa, in the Hadar and Shungura formations of Ethiopia and in the Nachukui formation of Kenya. Intensive archeological survey and a series of test excavations conducted in the Nachukui formation since 1987 have led to the discovery of more than 25 archaeological sites whose ages range from 2.34 to 0.7 million years before present (Myr), and to the extensive excavation of two 2.34-Myr sites, Lokalalei 1 in 1991 and Lokalalei 2C in 1997. Lokalalei 2C yielded nearly 3,000 archaeological finds from a context of such good preservation that it was possible to reconstitute more than 60 sets of complementary matching stone artefacts. These refits, predating the Koobi Fora refits by 500 Kyr, are the oldest ever studied. Here we describe a technological analysis of the core reduction sequences, based on these refits, which allows unprecedented accuracy in the understanding of flake production processes. We can thus demonstrate greater cognitive capacity and motor skill than previously assumed for early hominids, and highlight the diversity of Pliocene technical behaviour.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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