A team of scientists has found some 200,000-year-old stone tools in Indonesia, suggesting that the human species was living in some parts of the islands far earlier than previously thought.
The tools were made out of limestone and have probably been used to cut meat and to prepare hides.
Very Old Tools
The team led by the University of Wollongong have successfully dated the rocks where stone the tools were found using radiometric dating, for which the radioactive decay of the material is analyzed.
The dating suggests the tools be at least 100,000 years, even 200,000 years-old, and this is far older than when modern humans is thought to having left Africa. So, what human species that manufactured the tools are still unclear.
The study authors speculate that it could actually be Homo sapiens that manufactured the tools on the island hundreds of thousands of years ago, but that would put our understanding of early human migration across the Earth on its head.
The tools being this old would coincide their manufacturing with the origin of our own species in Africa. And even if it is possible that humans reached Southeast Asia very quickly, it seems very likely that the tools were instead made by some other human ancestor or perhaps a cousin, of the Homo genus, perhaps Homo Erectus or Denisova.
The human cousin nicknamed “The Hobbit”, Homo floresiensis, were discovered on the island of Flores in the Indonesian archipelago in the early 2000s. This meter tall prehistoric human probably lived between 95,000 and 12,000 years ago.
Scientists have discovered tools made a million years ago on Flores, but these were probably made by an even older human species.
Van den Bergh. G. D. Et. Al. “Earliest hominin occupation of Sulawesi, Indonesia“, Nature 2016, DOI: 10.1038/nature16448.