Archaeologists in Morocco have announced the discovery of the oldest hand ax factory in North Africa, which dates back 1.3 million years, an international team reported Wednesday.
The find pushes back hundreds of thousands of years the start date in North Africa of the Acheulian stone tool industry associated with an important human ancestor, Homo erectus, team researchers told journalists in Rabat.
It was created during excavations in a quarry on the outskirts of the economic capital of Casablanca.
This “important discovery … contributes to enriching the debate about the rise of the Acheulian in Africa,” said Abderrahim Mohib, co-director of the Franco-Moroccan “Prehistory of Casablanca” program.
Before the find, the presence in Morocco of the Acheulian stone tool industry was thought to be 700,000 years old.
New finds at the Thomas Quarry I site, which first became famous in 1969 when a human half-mandible was discovered in a cave, mean the Acheulian there is nearly twice as old.
The 17-person team behind the discovery included Moroccan, French and Italian researchers, and their finding is based on the study of stone tools recovered from the site.
Moroccan archaeologist Abdelouahed Ben Ncer called the news a “chronological rebound”.
He said the onset of the Acheulian in Morocco is now close to South and East African start dates of 1.6 million and 1.8 million years ago, respectively.
Earlier humans had settled for more primitive pebble tools, known as Oldowan after their East African type site.
Research at the Casablanca site has been conducted for decades and has produced “one of the richest Acheulian assemblages in Africa,” Mohib said.
“It’s very important because we’re talking about prehistory, a complex period about which little data exists.”
Mohib said the study also made it possible to testify to “the oldest presence in Morocco of humans,” who were “variants of Homo erectus.”
In 2017, the discovery of five fossils at Jebel Irhoud in Morocco, estimated to be 300,000 years old, overturned evolutionary science when they were named Homo sapiens.
The Moroccan fossils were much older than some with similar facial features unearthed at Omo Kibish in Ethiopia, about 195,000 years old.