Sharma Centre for Heritage Education, India

These mysterious stone blades point to early human toolmaking in India

Archaic humans like Neandertals didn’t start off with the most impressive toolkit: big stone hand axes and flakes to skin and carve meat. Now, a clutch of more than 7000 stone artifacts—some quite sophisticated—near Chennai, India, suggests that early people there had either made contact with more technologically advanced humans—or developed the tools on their own at least 250,000 years ago. The tools, unearthed over a period of 20 years, show a distinct shift over time, away from ancient Acheulian artifacts like stone hand axes 400,000 years ago to more precise Middle Palaeolithic tools, including blades for hafting and possibly points, researchers report today in Nature. Now, some of those tools (above) have been dated to at least 250,000 years ago, soon after modern humans—the possible inventors of the technology—emerged in Africa. If the age and identity of the tools hold up, it suggests that they were made by archaic humans who figured out how to make the blades either on their own or from contact with modern humans who migrated out of Africa earlier than believed.