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Oldowan Tradition


Rift Valley, Tanzania, Africa

Rift Valley, Tanzania, Africa

Scott Chacon

The Oldowan Tradition is the name given to a pattern of stone-tool making by our hominid ancestors, from 2.5-1.5 million years ago. It was first defined by Louis and Mary Leakey at Olduvai Gorge.

Stone tools in the Oldowan Tradition were made from cobbles by hard-hammer percussion, and they include large scrapers, choppers, hammerstones, and a range of smaller tools from stone flakes such as awls and smaller scrapers. Oldowan includes the earliest stone tools found to date (with the possible exception of KBS), and is usually associated with our ancestor Homo habilis.


This definition is part of the About.com Guide to the Lower Paleolithic.

Carbonell, Eudald, Marina Mosquera, Xose P. Rodriguiz, and Robert Sala 1999 Out of Africa: The dispersal of the earliest technical systems reconsidered. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology18(2):119-136.

Potts, Richard 1991 Why the Oldowan? Plio-Pleistocene toolmaking and the transport of resources. Journal of Anthropological Research 47(2):153-176.

Susman, Randall L. 1991 Who made the Oldowan tools? Fossil evidence for tool behavior in Plio-Pleistocene hominids. Journal of Anthropological Research 47(2):129-152.

This glossary entry is part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Also Known As: Oldowan Industrial Tradition, Mode 1
Common Misspellings: Olduwan
Oldowan Tradition sites are found throughout Africa, in Ethiopia (Goma, Omo, Gadeb), Kenya (the Lake Turkana Region), South Africa (Swartkrans and Sterkfontein) and Algeria (Ain Hanech).

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