Ancient bone hand ax identified in China | Science News

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Ancient bone hand ax identified in China

People may have dug up roots with shovellike tool

3:41pm, January 14, 2015
Bone hand ax

JAW DIGGER  This 24-centimeter-long hand ax, shown from three angles, is the earliest known bone hand ax from East Asia. Ancient humans used part of a stegadon jaw (left) to make the 170,000-year-old tool.

Researchers say they have identified the first example of a bone, not stone, hand ax crafted by ancient humans in East Asia. Makers of the curved, pear-shaped implement probably used it to dig up edible roots in a densely vegetated part of South China around 170,000 years ago, say paleontologist Guangbiao Wei of China Three Gorges Museum in Chongqing and his colleagues.

Part of a lower jaw from a stegodon, a now-extinct, elephant-like creature, provided raw material for the tool, the researchers report January 8 in Quaternary International. The jaw includes a wide, thick piece of curved bone with a grip-ready indentation on its inner surface, the scientists say.

Excavation of a Chinese cave in 2002 yielded the hand ax, along with bones of stegodons and other large animals. Until now, though, the artifact’s age was unknown. Wei’s team dated the find by measuring the decay rate of forms of uranium and thorium in the fossilized bone.

Bone hand

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