Scientist findings in Tanzania show how ancient humans used tools 2 million years ago

The ability to adapt to changing environments has deep roots. In a technology-driven world, people tend to conflate adaptability with technological change, especially when it comes to navigating adverse climates and places. But not every technological revolution is a result of environmental change.

Sometimes existing tool kits—containing, for instance, simple cutting and scraping flakes—allowed early humans to exploit new resources and thrive under changing conditions. As a species, humans are also characterized by the ability to swiftly use disrupted environments. And, as new research conducted at Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge reveals, this adaptability was already apparent millions of years ago.

Our new study, published in Nature Communications, is the result of a true team and multidisciplinary effort. Principal investigators from Canada and Tanzania worked with partners in Africa, North America, and Europe to describe a large assemblage of stone tools, fossil bones, and chemical proxies from dental and plant materials. We also examined the microscopic bits of silica left behind by plants, ancient pollen, and airborne charcoal from natural fires retrieved from ancient riverbed and lake outcrops in the Serengeti plains.

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