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  • Researchers say the tool hints at early adoption of technology due to changes in natural resources 90,000 years ago.

    Researchers say the tool hints at early adoption of technology due to changes in natural resources 90,000 years ago. | Photo: Silvia Bello and Mohammed Kamal

Published 3 October 2018
Opinion

The artisan made the knife from a mammal rib bone, and over a series of steps, shaped and sharpened it into a 13cm-long knife.

Morocco is home to the world’s oldest known bone artifact: a 90,000-year-old knife which archaeologists discovered in the heart of the Dar-es Soltan 1 Cave, according to a new study.

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Scientists Abdeljalil Bouzouggar, Silvia Bello, Louise Humphrey and Simon Parfitt unveiled their findings in a study published in scientific journal Plos One.

According to Bouzouggar, the study director and a member of the Institut National des Sciences de l'Archéologie et du Patrimoine, “Aterians made specialized bone tools earlier than originally believed and more than 40,000 years before the Neanderthals.”

However, unlike other Aterian culture tools carved during the Middle Stone Age in the North African region, the artisan seems to have crafted the knife from a mammal rib bone and, over a series of steps, shaped and sharpened it into a 13cm-long knife.

Bello, co-author and a researcher from the Natural History Museum, said, “Aterians were capable of a complex and controlled sequence of actions involved in the manufacture of specialised bone knives.

"This find is significant because it shows how sophisticated bone tool technology was already around about 100, 000 years ago.

“It also show the existence of a new type of bone tool, with no other example in the rest of Africa,” said Bello, adding that it’s believed it was used to cut soft material due to limited signs of wear.

“Whatever its use, this tool was produced by very skilled manufacturers,” Bello said.

Though the knife’s style is unusual for the region, it does resemble other similarly antiquated artifacts found within another Moroccan cave, El Mnasra. Researchers say the tool possibly hints at an early adoption of technology due to changes in natural resources around 90,000 years ago, however more research is needed.

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