A portion of a pig’s tusk, a small sample of volcanic sediment, a battered cobble, a primate’s molar tooth: What do these seemingly unremarkable remains have in common, and more to the point, why are they of interest to paleoanthropologists and archaeologists? First of all, if they are all discovered at certain sites in Africa or Eurasia, they may be quite ancient—perhaps millions of years old. Further, some of these materials actually inform scientists directly of the accurate and precise dating of the finds. Last, and most exciting, some of these finds may have been modified, used, and discarded by creatures who looked and behaved in some ways like us, but were, in other respects, very different. And what of that molar tooth? Is it a fossilized remnant of an ancient hominin? These are the kinds of questions asked by paleoanthropologists and archaeologists, and to answer them, these researchers travel to remote locales in the Old World.
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