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3.4 million-year-old cut marks challenged

Controversy is brewing around cut marks found on 3.4 million-year-old bones. The claim is that they were not made by strone tools, but rather caused by trampling.

In the current Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, a team led by Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo of Ciudad Universitaria in Madrid, examines the August report of evidence for the pre-human species Australopithecus afarensis butchering antelope nearly a million years earlier than the previously-established age for such tool use.

Reported in the Aug. 12 Nature by a “Dikika” site team headed by Zeray Alemseged of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, the evidence consists of cut marks on two fossilized bones from the Hadar Formation in Ethiopia. In the critique, Domínguez-Rodrig and colleagues complain the cut fossils were surface fossils, adding to uncertainty over their origin. The critics performed a trampling experiment, stomping on rocks with grass-soled shoes and looking at the results, claiming to see cut marks that resemble the Nature report ones.

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