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By taking a wrong turn in a dry riverbed in Kenya, scientists discovered a trove of stone tools far older than any ever found before. Nobody knows who made them – or why. At 3.3 million years old, they push back the record of stone tools by about 700,000 years. More significantly, they are half-a-million years older than any known trace of our own branch of the evolutionary tree. Scientists have long thought that sharp-edged stone tools were made only by members of our branch, whose members are designated “Homo,” like our own species, Homo sapiens. That idea has been questioned, and the new finding is a big boost to the argument that tool-making may have begun with smaller-brained forerunners instead.

This undated photo made available in May 2015 by the Mission Prehistorique au Kenya - West Turkana Archaeological Project shows the excavation of a stone tool found in the West Turkana area of Kenya. This and other artifacts, dated at 3.3 million years old, are much older than the earliest known trace of our own branch of the evolutionary family tree. So it’s a new challenge to the traditional idea that only members of our branch made stone tools. The discovery was reported in the journal Nature on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. (MPK-WTAP via AP)

This undated photo made available in May 2015 by the Mission Prehistorique au Kenya – West Turkana Archaeological Project shows the excavation of a stone tool found in the West Turkana area of Kenya. This and other artifacts, dated at 3.3 million years old, are much older than the earliest known trace of our own branch of the evolutionary family tree. So it’s a new challenge to the traditional idea that only members of our branch made stone tools. The discovery was reported in the journal Nature on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. (MPK-WTAP via AP)

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