[ ohl-duh-wuhn, awl- ]

  1. of or designating a Lower and Middle Pleistocene industrial complex of eastern Africa, characterized by assemblages of stone tools about two million years old that are the oldest well-documented artifacts yet known.

Origin of Oldowan

1930–35; Oldow(ay) (German spelling of Olduvai) + -an

Words Nearby Oldowan

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Scientific definitions for Oldowan


[ ōldə-wən, ôl- ]

  1. Relating to the earliest recognized stage of Paleolithic tool culture, dating from around 2.5 to 1.5 million years ago and characterized by crude cores of quartz or basalt from which flakes were removed with blows from a hammerstone. Both the flaked cores and the flakes themselves were probably used as tools for such tasks as chopping, cutting, and scraping. Oldowan tools are associated with early Homo habilis sites at Olduvai Gorge, in Tanzania, and other East African locations; they may also have been made by late australopithecines. Oldowan tools show little change during the million years they were in use, and were gradually replaced by the Acheulian tools associated with Homo erectus.

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