An international team of researchers from Turkey, the Netherlands and the UK made the age determination recently, relying upon highly precise instrumentation to date deposits from the bed of the Gediz river where the tool was originally uncovered. Based on their findings, the scientists say that the tool – a flake of quartzite – is considered to be indicative of when humanity first arrived in the region anywhere between 1.24 million and 1.17 million years in the past.
The stone tool itself is diminutive – only 1.7 inches by 2.2 inches. While there aren’t any clues as to what ancient humans used the tool for, similarly shaped tools discovered in other regions around the globe lead researchers to believe that there’s a high likelihood it was used for cutting meat or hides.
The time associated with the discovery on an evolutionary scale was a tumultuous one for the ancient humans of the era. Humanity had only just spread from the cradle of Africa, and scientists say that there were likely less than 20,000 humans spread throughout Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia. Turkey would have been an ideal location for human settlements due to its position as the gateway between both Europe and Asia; archaeologists say that some of the earliest known human settlements – and some of the first-ever agricultural sites to be discovered – have been traced to the region.
While this newly-dated stone tool is likely to be the oldest one ever discovered in Turkey, researchers say that there are other tools shaped by human hands – or by the hands of human ancestors – dating to older eras in other regions of the world. So far, the most ancient tools ever discovered in the Gona river system in Africa have been dated to 2.6 million years in the past. 1.8 million year old stone tools have also been discovered in Dmanisi, an archaeological site inside the former Soviet country of Georgia.