State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

World’s Oldest Unused Stone Tools Found (So They Say)

Unattributed picture of the apparent find, from the Onion.
Unattributed picture of the apparent find.

Last week, it was announced that scientists had found the world’s oldest stone tools, in Kenya, dated at 3.3 million years. The precise dating of the tools was made possible by Chris Lepre and Dennis Kent of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who used periodic reversals in earth’s magnetic field to nail the timing.

Now, in a related study, a separate team says they have discovered the world’s oldest stone tools that were never used–an apparent revelation about early human leisure time. A collection of awls, choppers and scrapers also found in Kenya show no wear whatsoever, demonstrating that the makers just kept them lying around, possibly for fun. “Based on the evidence we uncovered, it appears [an] ancient human ancestor was the earliest species to keep a variety of specialized stone implements nearby without ever picking one of them up and putting it to use,” said Dr. Phillip Davidson, who reportedly works for the Smithsonian Institute.

Davidson said the tools, from the Lower Paleolithic period, were set down in a designated space in a dwelling, then simply stayed in the same spot untouched for the next 2 million years. A writeup of the findings adds that the tools “were found next to a set of completely unused stone hand weights and a formal animal-hide loincloth that the protohuman appears to have worn only one time.”

The findings were first reported in the satirical publication The Onion.

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