First results from lithic industry traceological analysis at the Tanzanian site of Thiongo Korongo

The CENIEH has led a study published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews, on the use-wear traces on the stone tools found in the main archaeological levels of this Acheulean site in Bed II, Olduvai Gorge

Researchers at the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) have just published a paper in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews presenting the first results of the use-wear analysis of the stone tools found in the main archaeological levels at the Acheulean site of Thiongo Korongo (TK), in Bed II at Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania), which is 1.35 million years old.

This traceological analysis of the stone tools from TK has centered on studying knapped lithic artefacts with one or more functional edges. The functional analyses looked at both lithic pieces that had not yet been considered tools and more usual types, such as racloir flakes, denticulate tools, cleavers and handaxes, all of them manufactured from the most representative raw materials at Olduvai Gorge: Nabor Soit quartzite and basalts.

“We have identified the use of pieces with little working, something that had not been documented to date in such ancient sequences. The results obtained let us propose important conclusions about human behavior during the early Acheulean in East Africa, and they make clear that there was functional management of the knapped pieces, which includes resorting to elements with very simple cutting edges”, explains Patricia Bello, lead author of this study.

Use of wood and other plants

With regard to the activities undertaken with these stone tools, it has been verified that in addition to actions related to the processing of animal carcasses. there were cutting, sawing, scraping and peeling of wood and non-woody plants. “These data are especially significant for identifying actions which it is very hard to discern in the archaeological record. Moreover, the available data offer evidence of the relevance of woody and non-woody plants in the activities of Homo erectus/ergaster”, states Bello.

This study, in which Joseba Rios-Garaizar, Joaquín Panera, Manuel Santonja and Susana Rubio-Jara of the CENIEH also participated, is part of the doctoral thesis undertaken at the CENIEH by Patricia Bello-Alonso. The research at TK is carried out under the auspices of the Spanish Government's National Research Plan, project codes HAR2013-45246-C3-2-P and HAR2017-82463-C4-2P.