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Early humans may have left Africa earlier than thought

DISCOVERY: One of the tools found in China (Image: Professor Zhaoyu Zhu)

PRIMITIVE HUMANS may have left Africa earlier than previously thought, a new discovery of ancient artefacts suggests.

Experts believe that stone tools unearthed in China are around 270,000 years older than items previously believed to be the earliests evidence of the presence of humans outside Africa.

The Chinese and British researchers who have examined the artefacts believe they date back as far as 2.1 million years and were not made by the homo sapiens but by another member of the homo evolutionary group.

The stone tools were found at Shanchen, northern China. The majority of them were made from quartzite and quartz rock that is likely to have come from the foothills of the Qinling Mountains, approximately five to 10km from the site of the dig.

Africa has historically been identified as a place where key species surfaced. Throughout history, early humans left Africa many times.

Professor Robin Dennell, co-author of the report and an academic at the University of Exeter, said that learning to produce sharp tools “opened up a new world” for primitive humans.

Dennell said: "With those new skills, they were able to expand out of Africa into the grasslands and open woodlands of Asia, in much the same type of environment as in East Africa. The Asian fauna at that point had never encountered a bipedal, tool-using, carnivorous ape before, and I suspect hominins found it easy to acquire meat."

Although bones of pigs and deer were also found at the dig site, scientists have not been able to confirm that the artefacts were used for hunting animals.

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