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Archaeologists and anthropologists continue to trace the path of human evolution, especially with the help of finds in Eastern Africa, where a range of sites narrates the stories of our ancestors. The direct association between a certain human species a specific techniques for the production of stone utensils (known technically as a lithic industry) has always revealed a single evolutionary journey, but new evidence sheds light on a novel theory.

In an article published on the Journal of Anthropological Sciences, Margherita Mussi of the Sapienza Department of Antiquities and Director of Archaeological Mission in Melka Kunture (Ethiopia), one of Sapienza’s foremost excavations, proposes, along with Rosalia Gallotti, a new interpretation of the development of the Acheulean Culture in the Lower Paleolithic.

The Acheulean Culture lasted from 1.8 million to 100,000 years ago and provided an important stage form human evolution, characterized by technical innovation in lithic reduction, including the characteristic "double-faced" almond-shaped handaxes, which ushered in an entirely new level of lithic innovation compared to previous periods. The earliest Acheulean industries have been found in Africa.

Margherita Mussi observed that during the development of the Acheulean Culture at oldest sties of Melka Kunture, mankind carefully selected what they needed in the immediate vicinity, rather than collecting stone types suitable for producing tools from tens of miles away, as happened about 1 million years ago.

Thus, the archaeologist formulated a new hypothesis: we are not dealing with a unitary phenomenon, but with two distinct Acheulean Periods. The first, which is the oldest and directly associated with Homo erectus, is certainly of African origin; however, the second and more recent period concerned Homo heidelbergensis, the precursor of Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens, who appeared suddenly on the scene of human evolution without providing any relevant clues to its are of origin.

"Alternative hypotheses," says Mussi, "must be considered, especially those advanced by other scholars, who at that crucial moment in our evolution indicate that a key role was played not only by Africa, but also by Asia."

References: GALLOTTI R., MUSSI M. 2017. Two Acheuleans, Two Humankinds: from 1.5 to 0.85 at Melka Kunture (Upper Awash, Ethiopian Highlands). JASS Journal of Anthropological Sciences 95: 137-181. DOI: 10.4436 / jass.95001