Ax fragment found in Australia is world's oldest

The world's oldest ax fragment has been discovered in Western Australia, researchers have announced. The fragment is very small, being only about the size of a dime or a fingernail, but it shows a distinct shape and polish that hints at its past life — as a tool used during the Stone Age by humans to make life a bit easier. According to researchers, the tool hints that these newly-arrived humans were technically inclined and able to craft items for use in the rather inhospitable Australian wild.

The ax fragment is 45-49,000 years old, according to the University of Sydney, a time range that puts it at about the same time humans arrived on the landmass. As well, the fragment (shown in close detail in the video below) is 10+ millennia older than other ax blades found that feature a ground edge.

The fragment itself is not a new discovery, having first been excavated from its earthy home back in the 90s by Australian National University's Professor and archaeologist Sue O'Connor. The fragment was found in a rocky shelter named "Carpenter's Gap" amidst other artifacts, including preserved scraps of food.

It wasn't until 2014 that a study lead researchers to zero in on the fragment; they realized it was an ax blade fragment, and that it had come from what was known to be one of the oldest levels of the excavation site. This led to new studies which ultimately determined its age; researchers assume the fragment was chipped off a blade when its owner sharpened it.

SOURCE: University of Sydney