World's eldest protein and tools discovered in Jordan desert

Findings date back 250,000 years, new horizon for scientists

09 August, 16:30

    Archaeological excavation in a Stone Age burial (archive) Archaeological excavation in a Stone Age burial (archive)

    (by Mohammad Ben Hussein).

    AMMAN - Archaeologists have discovered the world's eldest evidence of protein residues and stone tools in Jordan's eastern desert of Azraq, dating back 250,000 years, researchers said today. Scientists found around 10,000 tools and remains of a horse, rhinoceroses, elephant, as well as other animals including lion and ducks and examined 7,000 instruments such as scrapers, flakes, projectile points, and hand axes. They also found a total of 17 which tested positive for blood and other animal products.

    The findings, which also included evidence of early human hunting and ability to tolerate harsh climate conditions, were made by scientists from the University of Victoria in cooperation with American and Jordanian archaeologists, said Director of department of Archaeology Munther Jamhawee in a statement run by Petra news agency.

    "The finding sheds light on activity of early humans, Hominins, their techniques and other aspects of life in order to survive including storing of their kills," said Jamhawee.

    The discovery was also reported at the Journal of Archaeological Science, which included details of the findings in a site known as Shishan Mars, a desert oasis located close to Azraq, Jordan. "Researchers have known for decades about carnivorous behaviors by tool-making hominids dating back 2.5 million years, but now, for the first time, we have direct evidence of exploitation by our Stone Age ancestors of specific animals for subsistence," said leading scientist from university of Victoria April Nowell in a statement posted in the journal. "Based on lithic, faunal, paleoenvironmental and protein residue data, we conclude that Late Pleistocene hominins were able to subsist in extremely arid environments through a reliance on surprisingly human-like adaptations including a broadened subsistence base, modified toolkit, and strategies for predator avoidance and carcass protection," she and her colleagues wrote.

    The discovery suggests that the people living in the region 250,000 years ago were able to adapt surprisingly well to a demanding habitat, the study authors said. "The hominins in this region were clearly adaptable and capable of taking advantage of a wide range of available prey, from rhinoceros to ducks, in an extremely challenging environment," explained Nowell.

    "What this tells us about their lives and complex strategies for survival, such as the highly variable techniques for prey exploitation, as well as predator avoidance and protection of carcasses for food, significantly diverges from what we might expect from this extinct species," she continued, adding that the team's work "opens up our ability to ask questions about how Middle Pleistocene hominins lived in this region."

    Scientists hope the new findings will pave the way for better understanding of hominin diets and give evidence on the early tools used to hunt and survive. (ANSAmed).

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