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China-Kenya joint project discovers tools from 200,000 years ago in Kenya

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China-Kenya joint project discovers tools from 200,000 years ago in Kenya

A China-Kenya joint paleontological and archaeological team has discovered in Kenya a number of stone tools made during the Paleolithic period.

The old stone age tools date back hundreds of thousands of years, offering new clues to the origin of modern humans.

According to a leading member of the team, Zhao Qingpo, the stone tools, excavated near Lake Bogoria in Baringo County, feature a refined tool-making method known as the Levallois technique, which was developed more than 200,000 years ago.

Qingpo is from China's Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology.

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The tools, utilising the Levallois technique dating over 200,000 years, may signify the origin of modern humans.

"This period is a crucial stage for the origin of modern humans, and the tools that we have discovered may have been made by modern humans, or intelligent people, at the very early stage," he said.

He noted that research will be done to determine the exact period in which the stone tools were produced.

Paleontological evidence has shown that Africa is the origin of humans, with human fossils dating back 6 million years having been discovered in Kenya.

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However, the exact location of the origin of early modern humans is still a matter of debate.

This is not the first time that large-scale archaeological excavation has been done in Baringo.

The China-funded joint team, which comprises more than 20 members from institutes including the Henan provincial institute, the Turkana Basin Institute in northern Kenya and the National Museums of Kenya, has been cooperating on excavation in the region since 2017, although efforts were interrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the latest joint excavation, which began in early October and ended early this month, hundreds of stone tools made during the Old Stone Age have been discovered.

All the excavated stone tools will be photographed and 3D digital models will be made for further research, Zhao said.

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The Director of Research and Science at the Turkana Basin Institute and the China-Kenya joint Project director, Mr. Job Kibii said Baringo has many artifacts and fossils.

Kibii said that since October 3, when joint work began, the team has unearthed more than 600 artifact items and more than 3,000 items have been discovered since the project began in 2017.

The official said the fossils of animals that coexisted with the human ancestors who made the stone tools have also been found.

“We have found fossils of ancient pigs, antelopes and elephants in our field work,” he said.

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The team hopes to specify a time frame for the tools found at the site, he said, adding that the tools can offer clues about who the humans were, how mentally developed they were, what challenges they faced and the resources they used.

He said that each type of stone tool had a specific use, whether for harvesting tubers or slaughtering animals, and therefore can illustrate the mode of subsistence at the time.

Soil samples will be collected and sent to China for dating, Kibii said, noting that there is preliminary evidence that people lived in what is now Baringo County 500,000 years ago.

A Research Fellow at the National Museums of Kenya Faith Wambua, said that through working with the Chinese team, she has become familiar with new technology such as photogrammetry, which can be used to prepare a 3D model for a stone tool.

Wambua, who has been working on the project since 2017, said the 3D makes it possible for Chinese archaeologists to conduct research without having to go to Kenya.

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She said the discovery of such items as stone tools helps people understand their origins and appreciate the need to preserve their heritage for future generations.

Rebecca Muthoni, a staff member at the palynology and paleobotany section of the National Museums of Kenya, said she will collect soil samples and process them in the laboratory to understand the type of vegetation that existed in the area, the environment, the wildlife that lived there and what people ate.

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