Close

Ancient humans started roaming Earth around five to seven million years ago when apelike creatures in Africa started to walk on two legs. According to the New York Times, human ancestors used stone tools around 2.5 million years ago, as evident from the fossils found. Although human ancestry can be traced back to that time, there is still a continuing debate about the oldest archaeological site in the world.

Experts in archaeology and anthropology told Live Science that there are three candidates for that title. One could be found in Kenya, while the other two are in Ethiopia.

World's Oldest Known Archaeological Site Candidates Make Giza Pyramids, Stonehenge Seem Young
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Pyramids are believed to have been created some 4,500 years ago.

Lomekwi 3

The first of the three candidates is the Lomekwi 3, where Hominini bones and stone artifacts are found. It is located on a low hill in West Turkana, Kenya, and is believed to be about 3.3 million years according to the study titled "3.3-Million-Year-Old Stone Tools From Lomekwi 3, West Turkana, Kenya," which was published in 2015 in the journal Nature.

Its discovery marked a new beginning to known archaeological sites in the world. Researchers said that the artifacts were likely created by Australopithecus afarensis, who used them to break open nuts.

"Lomekwi 3 is the oldest known archaeological site in the world," study co-author Jason Lewis, an assistant director of the Turkana Basin Institute, wrote to Live Science in an email.

Although not all are convinced of the antiquity of the stone tools found on the site, all scholars agree that Lomekwi 3 is a controversial archaeological site.

ALSO READ: 1.8 Million-Year-Old Jawbone of Eurasian Hunting Dog Found Alongside Human Remains


Kada Gona River

Some archaeologists, such as Yonatan Sahle, a senior of Archaeology at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Sahle said that unequivocal evidence for the oldest archaeological site in the world comes in the form of the 2.6-million-year-old stone tools from the Kada Gona river in Ethiopia.

Unlike the paper about Lomekwi 3 that has only recently been published, Sahle pointed out that research on the Kada Gona river has been around for decades already and has withstood academic scrutiny.

Moreover, the stone tools were most likely made by Australopithecus garhi, who lived in east Africa around 2.5 million years ago. Smithsonian's Human Origins project notes that human fossils found near the stone tools were among the first human ancestors to make sophisticated stone tools.

Ledi-Geraru

David Braun, an anthropology professor at George Washington University, said that if fieldwork fails to validate Lomekwi 3 as the oldest archaeological site in the world, his next choice would be Ledi-Geraru in Afar, Ethiopia that dates back about 2.8 million years ago.

In the 2015 paper, titled "Early Homo at 2.8 Ma from Ledi-Geraru, Afar, Ethiopia," published in Science, researchers found a partial Hominini mandible with teeth at Ledi-Geraru. They dated the fossil and examined the age of the surrounding sediment to determine its age.

However, Sahle expressed doubts about the dating of this site as it may be younger than 2.8 million years, as researchers claim. Sahle emphasized that the Gona site still has the best unequivocal evidence as to the oldest archaeological site in the world.

But whichever of the three candidates is the true oldest archaeological site in the world, all three make the Giza pyramids 4,500 years old and the Stonehenge, roughly 5,000 years old, seem young.

RELATED ARTICLE: Percussion Flaking Even Before Stone Age: Bone Tools Crafted From Elephant Remains Challenges Understanding of Early Humans

Check out more news and information on Archaeology in Science Times.