Ancient Stone Tools in Baringo Offer Insight into Early Human Innovation

Baringo, Kenya – The Great Rift Valley, often referred to as the cradle of mankind, has yielded another significant archaeological discovery on the shores of Lake Bogoria in Baringo County, Kenya. Researchers have unearthed ancient stone tools, estimated to be between 350,000 to a million years old, placing Baringo County prominently on the global archaeological map.

According to Kenya News Agency, The discovery was made possible through collaborative fieldwork supported by the National Museums of Kenya (NMK), the Henan Academy of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, and the Luoyang Institute of Archaeology in China. This project, jointly funded to the tune of Sh12 million (US$80,000) per year, is also aiding in the training of Kenyan researchers. The excavation has so far revealed over 800 artifacts, including picks, flakes, and hand axes along Lake Bogoria’s shores.

Dr. Emmanuel Ndiema, Head of Earth Sciences at NMK, explained that the field survey aims to collect rock samples to determine the archaeological culture represented, the exact age of the tools, and, if possible, to find any fossils to identify the ancestors who made and used these tools. The director of the project is Professor Wei Xingtao from the Henan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, with Dr. Ndiema as the deputy.

Dr. Ndiema emphasized the importance of the tools, indicating they represent more sophisticated stone tool-making techniques possibly developed by modern human ancestors. These findings include stone flakes sheared off larger rocks, likely used for cutting and sharpening, suggesting older human technological advancements yet to be discovered.

The excavations, ongoing for three years, provide new insights into how early hominids utilized the landscape and adapted to environmental changes. Baringo County is also the site where Orrorin Tugenensis, the world’s second-oldest human fossil, was discovered, dating back about 6.2 million years.

Dr. Ndiema highlighted that 30 new sites have been mapped for further excavation in Baringo County. The discoveries are expected to boost the county’s ambition to host Kenya’s first UNESCO Global Geopark, which would spotlight unique geological features for educational and protective purposes. If approved, Kenya will join Tanzania and Morocco as the only African countries hosting a UNESCO Global Geopark.

Dr. Rebecca Muriuki from NMK’s Department of Earth Sciences noted that the excavation of these hand tools could significantly enhance the region’s tourism potential, introducing fresh ideas into Kenya’s tourism diversification. She added that this new status could bring in substantial investments and offer local communities new opportunities.

The project’s implications extend beyond tourism, as the discoveries aid researchers in understanding early humans’ technological advances, sustenance, and environmental interactions. Archaeologist Mr. Julius Marti emphasized the importance of these sites for learning about stone tools, volcanic activities, and the history of the Rift Valley’s lakes. He explained that the toolmakers likely moved between the Rift Valley’s lower-lying areas and highlands based on climate conditions, indicating a technological advancement associated with expanding intelligence.

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