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Found in Morocco, a single bone knife is the oldest tool associated with the Aterian culture

A Dar es-Soltan 1 Cave B&C El Mnasra Cave./Ph. Silvia Bello and Mohammed Kamal -Fotokam
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A single bone artefact found in Morocco is the oldest well-dated specialized bone tool manufactured by the Aterian culture of the Middle Stone Age, reveals a new study.

According to the survey conducted by Abdeljalil Bouzouggar of the Institut National des Sciences de l’Archéologie et du Patrimoine in Morocco, Silvia Bello, Louise Humphrey and Simon Parfitt of the Natural History Museum, London and colleagues, shows that North Africa had a unique technological complex.

Retrieved in 2012 in Dar es-Salltan 1 cave about 260 miles inland the Atlantic coast in Morocco, the bone dates to 90.000 years ago. Close examination of the tool shows that it was made and manufactured in a different way than sub-Saharan artefacts.

For the scientists, the single bone artefact is a tool associated with the Aterian culture, a Middle Stone Age stone tool industry centered in North Africa. They believe that it is a mammal rib that was shaped and sharpened into a knife.

«Aterians were capable of a complex and controlled sequence of actions involved in the manufacture of specialized bone knives», Dr Silvia Bello, researcher at the Natural History Museum and co-author on the paper said.

«Such distinctive bone technology implies the emergence of an independent modern techno-complex unique to North Africa around 100,000 years ago», she explained.

For the researchers, the finding is a new insight into the development of modern human cognition. «Aterians made specialized bone tools earlier than originally believed and more than 40,000 years before the Neanderthals», explained lead author Dr Abdeljalil Bouzouggar.

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