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PARIS: The remains of crudely fashioned stone tools unearthed in China advances the presence of human ancestors in Asia by around 200 millennia to 2.1 million years ago, scientists said on Wednesday.

If correctly dated, the find means that hominins — the group of humans and our extinct forefather species — left Africa earlier than archaeologists have been able to demonstrate thus far, a team reported in the scientific journal Nature.

“Our discovery means that it is necessary now to reconsider the timing of when early humans left Africa,” said study co-author Robin Dennell of Exeter University in England.

Hominins are believed to have emerged in Africa more than six million years ago. They left the continent in several migration waves starting about two million years ago.

The first migrants were likely members of the species Homo erectus (upright man) or Homo ergaster (working man) — extinct predecessors of our own group, Homo sapiens (wise man), which first emerged about 300,000 years ago.

Previously, the oldest evidence for hominins in Asia came from Georgia in the form of fossilised skeleton bits and artefacts dated to between 1.77 million and 1.85 million years ago.

The latest find of 96 stone tools, mainly flakes made with rudimentary hammers and likely used for cutting meat and other food, was extracted from 17 layers of sediment in the southern Chinese Loess Plateau.

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2018