Excavation (Representational Image) Photograph:( Reuters )
As a result of the discovery, the beginning of the Acheulian stone tool industry associated with the human ancestor Homo erectus has been pushed back hundreds of thousands of years
An international team of archaeologists announced Wednesday that they had uncovered the oldest Stone Age hand-axe manufacturing site in North Africa.
Discovered in Morocco the site, dates back 1.3 million years.
Researchers on the team told journalists in Rabat that the find pushes back in time the start of the Acheulian stone tool industry associated with human ancestor Homo erectus by hundreds of thousands of years.
In the outskirts of Casablanca, Morocco's economic capital, this site was discovered during excavations at a quarry.
Abderrahim Mohib, co-director of the Franco-Moroccan "Prehistory of Casablanca" programme, said the new discovery "contributes to enriching the debate on the emergence of the Acheulian in Africa."
According to Mohib, the Casablanca site has been investigated for decades and has yielded one of the richest assemblages of Acheulians in Africa.
"It is very important because we are talking about prehistoric time, a complex period for which little data exists."
Mahib said the study was also able to establish the "earliest human presence in Morocco" which was made up of "variants of Homo erectus".
Creating tools according to the shape one wants, as shown in the latest find, was a "very important technological advance," he said.
In the past, the Acheulian stone tool industry was regarded as an ancient presence in Morocco dating back 700,000 years.
In 1969, the site of Thomas Quarry I became famous when half a human jaw or mandible was found in a cave there. Now, new finds mean the Acheulian was nearly twice as old as first thought.
The finding is based on a study of stone tools excavated from the site that the 17-member discovery team, comprised of Moroccan, French and Italian researchers.
The news was called a 'chronological rebound' by Moroccan archaeologist Abdelouahed Ben Ncer.
He said the beginning of the Acheulian in Morocco is now close to the South and East African start dates of 1.6 million and 1.8 million years ago respectively.
French Foreign Ministry, Paul-Valery Montpellier 3 University, and the Moroccan Institute of Archaeology (INSAP) collaborated to develop the "Prehistory of Casablanca" programme.
The project also involved French and Italian laboratories.
Palaeolithic age begins more than three million years ago and ends more than 12,000 years ago, making it the longest period of prehistory.
(With inputs from agencies)