Just a week after scientists reported evidence that our species left Africa earlier than we thought, another discovery is suggesting the date might be pushed back further. Homo sapiens arose in Africa at least 300,000 years ago and left to colonize the globe. Scientists think there were several dispersals from Africa, not all equally successful. Last week's report of a human jaw showed some members of our species had reached Israel by 177,000 to 194,000 years ago. Now comes a discovery in India of stone tools, showing a style that has been associated elsewhere with our species. They were fashioned from 385,000 years ago to 172,000 years ago, showing evidence of continuity and development over that time. That starting point is a lot earlier than scientists generally think Homo sapiens left Africa.
This tool style has also been attributed to Neanderthals and possibly other species. So it's impossible to say whether the tools were made by Homo sapiens or some evolutionary cousin, say researchers who reported the finding Wednesday in the journal Nature. "We are very cautious on this point" because no human fossils were found with the tools, several authors added in a statement, per the AP. Michael Petraglia, an archaeologist who specializes in human evolution in Asia but didn't participate in the work, said he did not think the tools show that our species had left Africa so long ago. "I simply don't buy it." Instead, he said, he believes one of our evolutionary cousins in India developed the tool style independently. "It's a whodunit, and we don't have the answer," a paleoanthropologist not involved with the study tells NPR.