Archaeologists found hundreds of stone tools in a gold mine located in the Eastern Desert Atbara River (EDAR) area of Sudan (approximately 45 miles east of Atbara) that could be as old as a million years. The tools were believed to have been made by the Homo erectus species.
Because of miners looking for gold in the area, archaeologists were able to analyze the ancient tools found in the exposed layers of the mines. The large tools included quartzite hand axes that contained transverse cutting edges and almond-shaped cleavers that had chamfered edges on each side that created a pointed tip. Stone flakes were also discovered which is what lead archaeologists to think that the site was used as a workshop.
Impact pits were even found which indicated that they worked with bones, wood, and other materials. This is why experts believe that the mine was a type of workshop used by the Homo erectus species to produce the tools.
Experts analyzed the sand that was lying on top of the tools by using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and they were able to date it back to approximately 390,000 years ago. “This means that the layers below are certainly older. Based on the style of workmanship of the tools, I believe that they may be over 700,000 years old, and perhaps even a million years old – similar to their counterparts in South Africa,” explained Professor Mirosław Masojć from the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Wrocław.
The experts have indicated that this is the oldest evidence of tool production around Egypt and Sudan with a well-confirmed chronology as Masojć stated, “Yes, ancient tools are found in deserts, but never before have they come from layers that we can safely determine their age.”
The cleavers that were discovered in the gold mine were similar to other tools found in Kenya and Ethiopia that were around a million years old. In fact, several artifacts used by Homo erectus and Homo sapiens have been discovered at about 200 different locations around that region. The most recent artifacts dated back approximately 60,000 years and the oldest ones were about 500,000 years old which means that the findings at the gold mine were about twice as old.
As they continue to explore the mine, there could be even older tools as they search deeper. We’ll have to wait and see if they make any more significant discoveries in the gold mine.
Several pictures of the tools can be seen here.