From East to North Africa: Early evidence of hominin faunal exploitation from Gona (Ethiopia) and Ain Boucherit (Algeria) Early Pleistocene sites.

Isabel Cáceres1, Mohamed Sahnouni2, 3, 4, Sileshi Semaw2, 4, Michael J. Rogers5, Nadia Kandi6

  1. Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolucio Social (IPHES), & Àrea de Prehistòria, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain ;
  2. Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH), Burgos, Spain;
  3. Centre National de Recherches Préhistoriques, Anthropologiques et Historiques (CNRPAH), Algiers, Algeria;
  4. Stone Age Institute & Anthropology Department, Indiana University Bloomington, Indiana, USA;
  5. Department of Anthropology, Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA ;
  6. Ddépartement d’Archéologie, Université Lamine Debaghine Sétif 2, Sétif, Algeria;


Identifying the earliest evidence of lithic tool use by hominins in butchering tasks is one of the critical issues in Human Evolution. Archaeological sites that are older than 2.0 Ma are few in number and, bones with cut marks or intentional bone breakage for marrow exploitation are scarce at these sites. Over the past two decades, several researchers have made claims of finding archaeological materials that are older than 3.0 Ma. However, these claims have been controversial due to various reasons: including the lithic tools being reported without associated faunal remains; dubious stratigraphic contexts; bones with doubtful cutmarks and; cutmarked bones being reported with no associated lithic tools. Therefore, problems related to clear stratigraphic context, or issues related to equifinality also come to question the early use of tools (prior to 2.6 Ma) for exploiting animal resources. Confirmed archaeological evidence exits at 2.6-2.5 Ma for East Africa (Gona, Ethiopia) and at 2.3 Ma for North Africa (Ain Boucherit, Algeria), where the oldest evidence for the use of stone tools has been unequivocally demonstrated. Both sites present clear associations between lithic technology and cutmarked bones, as well as with percussion marks attesting hominin marrow consumption. We present here the latest data from the two Oldowan sites, and we describe the type of faunal exploitation carried out by Early Pleistocene hominins, highlighting the similarities and differences between them. The results suggest that the first toolmakers used Oldowan technology to facilitate effective consumption of animal resources, also pointing out that this technology was useful to achieve this objective beginning around 2.6 Ma.

Subject Communication
Language of text English
Topics AFR.001: Recent Advances in Early Stone Age Studies in Africa, New Insights on the Oldowan and the Acheulian Stone Technology
Keywords Gona; Ain Boucherit; Oldowan subsistence; faunal exploitation; cutmarks;
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