Early Human Innovation: Rick Potts

Jason Nichols
March 15, 2018
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Rick Potts in the field
Jason Nichols

Rick Potts, director of the National Museum of Natural History’s Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian, surveys an assortment of Early Stone Age handaxes discovered in the Olorgesailie Basin, Kenya. The first evidence of human life in the Olorgesailie Basin comes from about 1.2 million years ago. For hundreds of thousands of years, people living there made and used large stone-cutting tools called handaxes. According to three new studies published in Science, early humans in East Africa had—by about 320,000 years ago—begun manufacturing more sophisticated tools than those of the Early Stone Age handaxes, tens of thousands of years earlier than previous evidence has shown in eastern Africa.

Photo courtesy Jason Nichols