Tools that predate the first humans – a mysterious archaeological discovery

Approximately 3.3 million years ago someone began chipping away at a rock by the side of a river. Eventually, this chipping formed the rock into a tool, perhaps, used to prepare meat or crack nuts. And this technological feat occurred before humans even showed up on the evolutionary scene.

In 2015, a group of American paleontologists unearthed a collection of carved tools at a Pliocene archaeological site, which is more than 3.3 million years old. Around 3.3 million years ago, someone began chipping away at a riverside rock. This chipping eventually transformed the rock into a tool, maybe used to prepare meat or break nuts. And this technical achievement occurred long before humans appeared on the evolutionary landscape.

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Researchers believe that tools discovered at the Lomekwi 3 excavation site in Kenya, such as the one depicted above, are the oldest known evidence of stone tools at 3.3 million years old. © Image Credit: Public Domain

Since early hominids, Homo habilis, came hundreds of years later, the find is a troubling enigma: Who manufactured these tools? The finding occurred at the archaeological site of Lomekwi 3, Kenya, and scholars believe it has the potential to change archaeology and compel history to be rewritten.

This discovery was added to a list of other mysterious discoveries that according to mainstream archaeology is not possible. Among the nearly 150 tools found at the archaeological site are hammers, anvils, and carved stones that could have been used millions of years ago to open and crack nuts or tubers, and carve the trunks of fallen trees to get insects for food.

According to an article published on, the Lomekwi 3 knappers, with a developing understanding of stone’s fracture properties, combined core reduction with battering activities.

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Harmand and Lewis, above, found telltale scars on the stones found at the Lomekwi site in Kenya, suggesting they were likely used as tools by early hominins. © Image Credit: Public Domain

Given the implications of the Lomekwi 3 assemblage for models aiming to converge environmental change, hominin evolution, and technological origins, we propose for it the name ‘Lomekwian’, which predates the Oldowan by 700,000 years and marks a new beginning to the known archaeological record.

“These tools 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 can’t understand from fossils alone. Our finding disproves the long-standing assumption that Homo habilis was the first tool-maker,” said Dr. Harmand, lead author of a paper published in Nature.

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A stone tool discovered at the Lomekwi site in Kenya protrudes from the sediment. © Image Credit: Public Domain

“Conventional wisdom in human evolutionary studies since has supposed that the origins of knapping stone tools were linked to the emergence of the genus Homo, and this technological development was tied to climate change and the spread of savannah grasslands,” said co-author Dr. Jason Lewis of Stony Brook University.

“The premise was that our lineage alone took the cognitive leap of hitting stones together to strike off sharp flakes and that this was the foundation of our evolutionary success.”

Until now, the earliest stone tools connected with Homo had been dated at 2.6 million years and came from Ethiopian deposits near the fossil remains of the first representative of the Homo habilis, which called for their exceptional ability to use their hands to manufacture tools.

Oldowan is the name of this “first” human industry. And the archaeological term “Oldowan” is the first stone tool archaeological industry in prehistory. Oldowan tools were employed by ancient hominids over much of Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, and Europe during the Lower Paleolithic era, which lasted from 2.6 million years ago to 1.7 million years ago. The more advanced Acheulean industry came after this technical enterprise.

The authorship of these stone tools is one of the major issues posed by their discovery. For a long time, anthropologists believed that our Homo genus cousins, a line that goes directly to Homo sapiens, were the first to produce such tools. However, in this situation, the researchers do not know who created these really old tools, which should not exist according to standard archaeology. So, does this amazing discovery prove the so called ‘fictional histories’ of some famous books to be true?