Turbulent Era Sparked Leap in Human Behavior: Aerial Photo

Human Origins Program, Smithsonian
October 21, 2020
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Aerial photo of drill site
Human Origins Program, Smithsonian

Potts and colleagues documented a major behavioral and cultural shift among humans in 2018 based on artifacts recovered at an archaeological site known as Olorgesailie in modern-day Kenya. Decades of study at Olorgesailie by Potts’ team and collaborators at the National Museums of Kenya have determined that early humans at Olorgesailie relied on the same tools, stone handaxes, for 700,000 years. Then, beginning around 320,000 years ago, people living there entered the Middle Stone Age, crafting smaller, more sophisticated weapons, including projectiles. At the same time, they began to trade resources with distant groups and to use coloring materials, suggesting symbolic communication.

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