ARCL140 Summer2020/TermProject Group4

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All group members contributed to the introduction and conclusion.

Elli Cunningham: site 1

Rachel Chen: site 2

Natasha Kruger: site 3

Parth Garg: site 4


Project Map

Name Site Latitude, Longitude
Elli Cunningham Dmanisi 41°19′0″N 44°21′0″E
Rachel Chen Konso Formation 5°15′N 37°29′E
Natasha Kruger Lake Turkana 3°54'59.4"N 35°50'14.6"E
Parth Garg Fengshudao 23°57′39″N 106°40′39"E


The manufacture of stone tools reflects the hominids’ cognitive processing, which is a significant aspect of human evolution. Based on the physical features, stone tools are classified into two industries: Oldowan and Acheulean. Acheulean industry is defined by its iconic tool – handaxe, however, other handwares such as picks, cleavers, trihedrals and unifaces are also included in this industry [1]. Technological practices associated with Acheulean that distinguish it from Oldowan involve preparation of stone cores, edge refining, bifacial flaking and soft-hammer percussion [2]. These practices all demonstrate a great advancement in cognitive and motor skill compared to the hominids using Oldowan tools. Additionally, the study of tools can reveal insight on how variations in behavioral evolution occurred amongst Hominins separated by different geological locations. For example, the presence and absence of certain types of acheulean tools can tell us more about how Homo erectus adapted under environmental settings differing in raw materials, and geographical constraints[3]. The archaic stone tools and Homo erectus remains at Dmanisi Georgia show the earliest known example of hominin successfully leaving and surviving outside of Africa. Dating from 1.78 to 1.8 Ma the stone tools are of the Oldowan industry[4] and indicate that hominins were able to carry on their knowledge of the making of tools and learn to adapt it to a different environment. Konso Formation is the earliest site discovered that contains a sequence of Acheulean tools. The tools found in this location straddled from ~1.75 to ~0.85 Ma and can be used to analyze the gradual cognitive development of Homo erectus. The artifacts unearthed at the Fenshudao site can be used to highlight two points: 1) The Homo erectus of East Asia were as advanced as their Western Counterparts thus challenging the Movius Line theory[5], and 2) examination of the tools is reflective to the steady intellectual improvement of Homo erectus over time. The remnants of stone tools found at Lake Turkana suggest that there was a gradual change between the Oldowan and Acheulean technologies, as well as showcasing the advancement of Homo erectus’ cognitive development through an increase in dexterity and complex planning.

SITE 1: Dmanisi

AUTHOR: Elli Cunningham

LOCATION: Dmanisi, Georgia in the region of Kvemo Kartli (latitude and longitude: 41°19′0″N 44°21′0″E)

AGE: 1.8 Ma [BP] [6]


Dmanisi was a medieval town located in the country of Georgia which is situated at the intersection of Europe and Asia. It is now an archaeological site 85 km southwest of Tbilisi (the capital of Georgia). The excavation site is 2.5 meters in high and is split into two major strata (A & B) both of which are located above the 1.85 Ma Masavera Basalt and below the medieval ruins[7]. The dating of the fossils are not definitive but are certainly no earlier than 1.85 Ma, with most putting the age between 1.85-1.78 Ma [7]. Extinct vertebrate fauna also support this timeline. [8]. Using paleontological and palynological remains it was determined that during the Early Pleistocene Dmanisi would have been slightly warmer and drier than today with a mixed woodland terrain. The flora at the time would have included species of both arboreal and shrubbery like nature[6] . The aforementioned fauna also contain a mix of species suited to closed and open habitat that would suggest a mosaic of both forested and plain environments[6]. Today the climate of Georgia is less humid and less forested then it would have been for these early hominins.


Dmanisi was first known as a city in the Middle Ages and as such was already a site of interest to archaeologists. In 1936 excavations began on the ruins, headed by the historian Ivane Javakhishvili. Decades later in 1982 three meter deep pits were discovered that contained the remains of extinct animals. This generated renewed interest and from 1983-1991 more animals bones were discovered alongside some primitive stone tools. These tools were dated by comparing the known age ranges of the animals found alongside them (biostratigraphy) and were found to date between the Late Pliocene to the Early Pleistocene. In 1991 the first hominin remain was discovered, a mandible with a row of teeth still attached. This mandible was clearly from an early primate, likely Homo rather than an Australopithecus and produced a great deal of excitement as it suggested that hominins left Africa much earlier than expected.[6] After several tests it was determined to likely be an early Homo erectus and dated around 1.8 Ma. In the following years more remains have been discovered, most notably five skulls of disputed classification and ranging dates between 1.85-1.78 Ma.


The earliest findings at Dmanisi included various vertebrate fauna that date from the Late Pliocene to Early Pleistocene[8]. These fossils gave an indication of the types of animals that would have lived alongside the early hominins discovered in Dmanisi. These fossils also narrow down a time period via dating by use of biostratigraphy. Also during this time archaic stone tools were discovered in the same substrata. The tool style of core flaking closely resembled that of the Oldowan Industry of East Africa[6] used by Homo habilis since 2.6 Ma[8]. Over 1000 of these ancient artifacts have so far been unearthed including the rare chopper, a few scrapers and many flakes. [8] All materials used from these tools was a local basalt[8]. This shows that the creators likely left Africa with the knowledge of how to create these tools . In 1991 hominin remains started to be discovered starting with mandible that was clearly from an individual of the genus Homo. This discovery was revolutionary as it showed that hominins had left Africa far earlier than the previously thought date of around 1 Ma[6]. More fossils began to be discovered all ranging from 1.85-1.78 Ma include at numerous individuals, five skulls, and many other random bones[6]. The exact taxa of the remains discovered at Dmanisi is an on going debate, with many placing the remains as a European branch of H. erectus[6]. However, others dispute this as some of the fossils share features that are more seen in later members of Homo.[6] In general while there is some controversy the hominins discovered at Dmanisi are classified as H. erectus and seem to show a population that left Africa long before the initial estimates and settled for almost 100,000 years.

This discovery cements one of the major events in human evolution as this group was able leave and travel to an unknown environment with different climate and animals and survive. The discovery of a known style of tool shows that these hominins were able to use their prior knowledge to survive in a new location. This reflects the cognition and ability to adapt and make use of surroundings in early hominins which connects us further to our origins.

SITE 2: Konso Formation

AUTHOR: Rachel Chen

LOCATION: Konso, South-Western Main Ethiopian Rift (latitude and longitude: 5°15′N 37°29′E)

AGE: 1.9 Ma [BP]


Konso Formation was found within the Konso area, which is located at the southernmost part of the Ganjuli graben of the Main Ethiopian Rift [9]. Konso Formation is approximately 180 meters thick and its sediments were deposited between 1.9 and 1.4 Ma ago spanning from Pliocene to Pleistocene epoch (Nagaoka et al. 2005). Based on sedimentary stratigraphy, this formation is demarcated into several members, including Sorobo, Turoha, Kayle, and Karat Members (Nagaoka et al. 2005). Although Konso Formation is composed of sedimentary rocks today, the dark brown or dark grey clay beds of lake origin displayed in each layer indicate that this locality was repeatedly immersed in lacustrine environments in the past (Nagaoka et al. 2005). Excavation of snails, bivalves and sponge in this site further justifies the claim that Konso Formation supported a diverse fresh water ecology (Nagaoka et al. 2005).The floodplain and fluvial margins which contained silt and sand got deposited gradually over time forming sedimentary layers, and the richness of silt and sand in this area helped to preserve a wide range of hominid fossils and remains (Nagaoka et al. 2005).


In 1988, Paleoanthropological Inventory of Ethiopia was established by the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture [10]. The mission of this organization was to explore new paleoanthropological locations in Ethiopia (SUWA et al., 2007). Konso Formation was initially found by Paleoanthropological Inventory of Ethiopia in 1991 and has been further investigated by the Konso Paleoanthropological Research Project (SUWA et al., 2007). Due to the diversity of fossils that Konso Formation contains, this location is subdivided into more than 20 archeological sites for excavation [11]. Throughout this project, a rich mammalian fauna succession was discovered spanning from ~1.9 to ~1.3 Ma (SUWA et al., 2007). In 1993 through 1997 and 2000 during summer seasons, researchers have uncovered nearly 8000 attributable mammalian species within Konso Formation [12]. In addition to mammalian fossils, early Acheulean stone tools were also unearthed at sites KGA4-19 with the oldest one tracing back to ~1.6 Ma (Beyene et al., 2013). Furthermore, Hominid remains of Australopithecus boisei and Homo erectus from ~1.45 and ~1.3 Ma were also discovered by the paleontologists conducting the Konso Paleoanthropological Research Project (SUWA et al., 2007).


The earliest discovery of Acheulean assemblage in Konso Formation was made at KGA6 (Beyene et al., 2013). Flake-based cutting tools found in this collection were relatively large, however, refinement that yielded a wide variety of tools such as handaxes, cleavers and picks can be seen in this assemblage (Beyene et al., 2013). The modification of stones that shaped the cores into various types of tools demonstrates that the creators had advanced cognitive and motor abilities. The age of this earliest known Acheulean technology in Konso coincides with the age of KNM-ER 3733, the earliest Homo erectus discovered recently with the identified age of 1.65-1.7 Ma (Beyene et al., 2013). The timing accordance implies that the emergence of Homo erectus followed right after the presence of large Acheulean tools. In the formation, another set of handaxes and picks dating back to ~1.2 Ma were also unearthed (Beyene et al., 2013). Although both the shape and flake scar number of picks in this collection show consistency compared to the ones that are ~1.75 Ma old, handaxes discovered in this assemblage indicate a significant technological evolution. Increasing flake scare counts, refined symmetrical flaking and uniformity of edge and tip thinning are articulated by these handaxes (Beyene et al., 2013). Doubtlessly, advancement of motor skills is necessary for the hominids to elaborate on the materials. Additionally, sophisticated workmanship also renders the evolution of Homo erectus’ cognitive capacity which enabled them to plan and execute the formation of stone stools. In the same Acheulean tool sequence, a younger set of Konso Acheulean with the age of ~0.85 Ma was unveiled as well (Beyene et al., 2013). This collection of Konso Acheulean witnessed a further progress of stone tool innovation. Instead of being bifacially shaped, ~0.85 Ma stone tools even present standardized 3D symmetry which requires strong spatial cognition (Beyene et al., 2013). The Acheulean stone tools found in Konso Formation between ~1.75 Ma to ~0.85 Ma illustrates the gradual evolution of tool modifying techniques in Homo erectus. The evolution of tools reflects that the workmanship and cognition capacity of H erectus or Hominids advance over time accordingly.

SITE 3: Lake Turkana

AUTHOR: Natasha Kruger

LOCATION: Lomekwi 3 near the west bank of Lake Turkana, Kenya, 3°54'59.4"N 35°50'14.6"E

AGE: 1.76ma [BP]).


These stone tools were found around Lake Turkana in Kenya. This was also near the site where the Homo Erectus child skeleton the “Turkana Boy” was found[8]. Homo Erectus is known to have been scattered across Africa so it is not surprising that remains of the stone tools were found in Kenya, in fact, while there were no skeletons found accompanying the tools, Homo Erectus remains were found across the lake at the same sediment level[8]. Lake Turkana is home to the largest desert lake, it is drier now and the water levels have lowered and so around the time of Homo Erectus, it is hypothesized that the shoreline was much larger and it is also suggested that paleogeographic changes occurring during this time period influenced this[13]. At the time of Homo Erectus, there is evidence to suggest that the region was a savannah with scattered grasslands, which was a change from before when there were forest canopies[14]. The change in climate was most likely a motivator for the increased stone tool usage to scavenge and hunt for new types of food.


This site was found by Jason Lewis who is a paleoanthropologist at Rutgers University who leads a field expedition in Kenya in 2011[14]. He and his wife were working on the West Turkana Archaeological Project and stumbled upon Lomekwi 3 in an old river ravine that had dried up[14]. There they found stones with marking that was sticking out of the sediment. It was initially hard to pinpoint exactly who made the tools and how, but it was suggested that they were created by Homo erectus when skeletal remains were found across the lake at the same sediment level[8]. The mudstone with iron minerals found on and around the tools has the direction of the earth’s magnetic field in them and thus uniquely shows the age of the tools, which was narrowed down to approximately 1.76 million years ago[15]. These tools are arguably from the Acheulean stone tool industry despite there age. The Acheulean stone industry is similar to its predecessor the Oldowan industry, but it is a more complicated technology with a greater variety in stone tools types, for example, handaxes[1]. These tools were bifacial and often modified making much more complex[1].


The stone tools that were found near Lake Turkana in Kenya resembled handaxes that matched the Acheulean technology. The handaxes were pear-shaped and oval with chiselled edges, which are often coupled with Homo Erectus’ tools[15]. These tools are often heavier and are suggested to have been used for chopping woods or meats and hunting or scavenging[15]. With these tools some less technologically complicated tools were found, that resembled the Oldowan tool industry, which suggests that Homo Erectus possibly started out using this industry and then over time developed the Acheulean technology that is commonly associated with them[15]. The evidence of the two stone tool industries shows a gradual change and further enforces that Homo erectus was the first to use Acheulean technology. However, despite this, it has been argued by Dr. Ian Tattersall, who is a paleoanthropologist, that it is possible this was a different group entirely because there were not any remains found at the site, only in the region[8]. Regardless ultimately of which group it was, he argues that Acheulean technology came from Oldowan culture and they were most likely both present during the same time period at some point[8]. This shows the evolution of the human race in general, and more specifically in Homo erectus’ case suggests that they continued to become more dexterous and were able to develop more complex thought patterns[8]. It is possible that this can be seen as they adapted to changing physical environments and found new ways to use stone tools to hunt for food, allowing them to consume increasingly nutritious foods with higher caloric counts[14].

SITE 4: Fengshudao (Bose Basin)

AUTHOR: Parth Garg

LOCATION: The Fengshudao site in Bose Basin (23°57′39″N, 106°40′39E, North-West of Nanning, the capital city of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Southern China, and 300 kms North of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam)

AGE: Formed at the beginning of the Paleogene period.[16]


Fengshudao is situated across the south bank of the Chengbihe River, a branch of the Youjiang River, in northwest part of Bose Basin[3]. During the Eocene, the basin was initially started of as a giant lake composed of lacustrine mudstone, and sandstone sediments[17].At the end of the Eocene, the Paleogene strata were condensed, crumpled and raised, which transformed the lake to a residual rift basin[16].The Youjiang River appeared inside the basin sometime during the Early Pleistocene, which eroded the older sediment and deposited new sediments[18] . A reservoir was built in 1857 near the Fengshudao site which led to the formation of a lake and this lake covers the lower fluvial terraces of the river and therefore only the fourth and the fifth terraces are above the water at present[3]. This site is rich in Iron and Aluminium, and thus is rich in Laterite. The surrounding ecology of the bose basin consists of low elevation mountains made of Triassic sandstone, shale and mudstone[3].


From December 2004 to January 2005. excavation was carried out at the Fengshudao site, and this site was chosen because a large number of eroding bifacial tools were found deposited on the surface[3]. During the seven week period, 49.3 square metres of area was dug and a total of 88 stone artifacts which consisted of five handaxes were excavated in situ, and it was the first occurrence of finding a handaxe in situ for the whole of Bose basin[3]. Apart from the Fengshudao site, there have been many other archaeological expeditions that have been carried out in the Bose basin. The first discovery (1973) of stone tools estimated to be belonging to the late Pleistocene period were surface collected in the ShangSong site, which motivated many local museums to conduct searches in many of the open-air sites found on the basin and more than 6000 artifacts were collected by 1983[3]. A detailed analysis of the excavation revealed that majority of the stone tools were retrieved from the fourth fluvial laterite terrace[3].


A total of 155 artifacts were excavated from the Fengshudao site which included cores, whole flakes, bipolar cores, bipolar flakes, scrapers, choppers, picks, handaxes, chipped cobbles, débitage, and manuports, and the lithic assemblage found here was similar to the assemblages found at other sites in the basin with the only difference being that a higher density of bifacial worked implements were found at Fengshudao than any other place in the basin[3]. The handaxes discovered here have an estimated age of 803 ka, and were manufactured by the Homo Erectus of this time[5]. These handaxes were considered to be more or less similar to the acheulean handaxes found in the Western part of the old world, i.e the left of the Movius line. The finding of these handaxes posed a very interesting observation because it challenged the Movius Line Hypothesis. According to the Movius Line hypothesis, acheulean type stone tools were at large present in the western part of the old world and not the eastern part which indicated that the Hominins of the West were more cognitively advanced compared to the Hominins of the East. But, the findings of the sophisticated handaxes at Fengshudao potentially challenge the Movius Line theory[3]. Another point of relevance of the Bose Basin is that the stone artifacts unearthed in this basin has shown an increase in the number of flake scars over time which is reflective of tools becoming more refined that were used by the Homo Erectus[19]. This is an indication that Homo Erectus have gradually evolved to exhibit higher levels of cognitive abilities and behavioral flexibility and adaptions as inferred from the increasing diversity and refinement of tools unearthed all over the Bose Basin.


Processing of stone tools represent an important aspect of hominids’ behaviours. Furthermore, stone tools creation and use are often seen as a defining characteristic in the human species. The ability to utilize and reshape stone to our advantage shows advanced cognition and ability to plan ahead. Ancient hominins of various species slowly progressed from the first primitive and simple style known as Oldowan to a more complex and multi-layer style of tools known as Acheulean. The presence or evolution of a certain tool industry in a location can tell us a lot about the hominin that lived there millions of years including group structure and lifestyle among others. The discovery of Oldowan stone tools among the first hominins to leave Africa shows resourcefulness and the ability to adjust to different environments. In other sites, including Lake Turkana, Konso Formation and Fengshudao, Acheulean tools together with Homo erectus fossils were discovered which demonstrate the close relationship between Homo erectus and the innovative stone industry.The transition from Oldowan to Acheulean stone industry upon the emergence of Homo erectus indicates the evolutionary development of our ancestors’ cognition skill. The increase of scar flake count, standardization of tool forms and diversification of tool types altogether illustrates the advancement of spatial planning and executive capacity of Homo erectus who developed a larger brain which allowed them to do sophisticated cognitive processing.  


The references list should be automatically generated from the collected citations included in your project Wiki.

Note that a minimum of 3 unique references is required for each individual site. Any references in the Introduction and Conclusion may be unique or can be drawn from those that were presented in the individual site sections.

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Clark, J.D (1994). "The Acheulean Industrial Complex in Africa and Elsewhere". Integrative Paths to the Past: 451–469.
  2. Sharon, Gonen (2007). Acheulian large flake industries: technology, chronology, and significance. British Archaeological Reports Ltd,.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 Wang, Wei; et al. (2014). "Middle Pleistocene bifaces from Fengshudao (Bose Basin, Guangxi, China)". Journal of Human Evolution. 69. Explicit use of et al. in: |last= (help)
  4. Lordkipanidze, D., Jashashvili, T., Vekua, A.; et al. (2007). "Postcranial evidence from early Homo from Dmanisi, Georgia". Nature. 449. Explicit use of et al. in: |last= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Gibbons, Ana (2000). "Chinese Stone Tools Reveal High-Tech Homo erectus". Science. 287: 1566 – via JSTOR.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 Gabunia, L., Antón, S.C., Lordkipanidze, D., Vekua, A., Justus, A., Swisher III, C.C. (2001). "Dmanisi and dispersal". Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews. 10.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. 7.0 7.1 Ferring, R., Oms, O., Agustí, J., Berna, F., Nioradze, M., Shelia, T., Tappen, M., Vekua, A., Zhvania, D., & Lordkipanidze, D. (2011). "Earliest human occupations at Dmanisi (Georgian Caucasus) dated to 1.85–1.78 Ma". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 26.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 Gabunia, L., Vekua, A., Lordkipanidze, D., Swisher, C.C., Ferring, R., Justus, A., Nioradze, M., Tvalchrelidze, M., Anto´n, S.C., Bosinski, G., Joris, O., de Lumley, M.A., Majsuradze, G., Mouskhelishvili, A.. (2000). "Earliest Pleistocene cranial remains from Dmanisi, Republic of Georgia". Science. 288.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name ":3" defined multiple times with different content
  9. Nagaoka, Shinji; Katoh, Shigehiro; WoldeGabriel, Giday; Sato, Hiroshi; Nakaya, Hideo; Beyene, Yonas; Suwa, Gen (February 2005). "Lithostratigraphy and Sedimentary Environments of the Hominid-Bearing Pliocene–Pleistocene Konso Formation in the Southern Main Ethiopian Rift, Ethiopia". Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 216: 333–357.
  10. SUWA, GEN; ASFAW, BERHANE; HAILE-SELASSIE, YOHANNES; WHITE, TIM; KATOH, SHIGEHIRO; WOLDEGABRIEL, GIDAY; HART, WILLIAM K; NAKAYA, HIDEO; BEYENE, YONAS (2007). "Early Pleistocene Homo Erectus Fossils from Konso, Southern Ethiopia". Anthropological Science. 115 (2): 133–151.
  11. Beyene, Yonas; Katoh, Shigehiro; WoldeGabriel, Giday; Hart, William K; Uto, Kozo; Sudo, Masafumi; Kondo, Megumi; Hyodo, Masayuki; Renne, Paul R. (2013). "The Characteristics and Chronology of the Earliest Acheulean at Konso, Ethiopia". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 110 (5): 1584–1591.
  12. SUWA, GEN; NAKAYA, HIDEO; ASFAW, BERHANE; SAEGUSA, HARUO; AMZAYE, AWOKE; KONO, REIKO T.; BEYENE, YONAS; KATOH, SHIGEHIRO (2003). "Plio-Pleistocene Terrestrial Mammal Assemblage from Konso, Southern Ethiopia". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 23 (4): 901–916.
  13. Rogers, Michael J. (July 1994). "Changing patterns of land use by Plio-Pleistocene hominids in the Lake Turkana Basin". Journal of Human Evolution. Volume 27.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Thompson, Helen (May 20, 2015). "The Oldest Stone Tools Yet Discovered Are Unearthed in Kenya". Smithsonian. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Ams, Jonathan (September 1, 2011). "Exciting stone tool find in Kenya". BBC. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Li, Z.W (2001). "Formation mechanism and evolutionary feature of Tertiary basin in Guangxi". Guangxi Oil Gas. 4.
  17. Chen, Y.Z; et al. (2005). "Sequence stratigraphy and sedimentary evolution of Nadu formation and Baigang Formation of the Paleogene in Baise Basin". J. Univ. Petroleum (Edition of Natural Science). 29: 1–6. Explicit use of et al. in: |last= (help)
  18. Yuan, B.Y; et al. (1999). "On the geomorphological evolution of the Bose basin, a lower Paleolithic locality in south China". Acta Anthropol. Sin. 18: 215–224. Explicit use of et al. in: |last= (help)
  19. Yamei, Hou; et al. (2000). "Mid-Pleistocene Acheulean-like Stone Technology of the Bose Basin, South China". Science. 287: 1622–1626. Explicit use of et al. in: |last= (help)