Ancient hominids may have been seafarers

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Washington, January 10 (ANI): New evidence has emerged recently which indicates that ancient hominids that left Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago to see the rest of the world may have been seafarers, not just land dwellers.

According to a report in Science News, stone hand axes unearthed on the Mediterranean island of Crete indicate that an ancient Homo species had used rafts or other seagoing vessels to cross from northern Africa to Europe via at least some of the larger islands in between.

Several hundred double-edged cutting implements discovered at nine sites in southwestern Crete date to at least 130,000 years ago and probably much earlier, according to archaeologist Thomas Strasser of Providence College in Rhode Island.

"Many of these finds closely resemble hand axes fashioned in Africa about 800,000 years ago by H. erectus," he said.

It was around that time that H. erectus spread from Africa to parts of Asia and Europe.

Until now, the oldest known human settlements on Crete dated to around 9,000 years ago.

Traditional theories hold that early farming groups in southern Europe and the Middle East first navigated vessels to Crete and other Mediterranean islands at that time.

"We're just going to have to accept that, as soon as hominids left Africa, they were long-distance seafarers and rapidly spread all over the place," Strasser said.

Questions remain about whether African hominids used Crete as a stepping stone to reach Europe, or accidentally ended up on Crete from time to time when close-to-shore rafts were blown out to sea, according to archaeologist Robert Tykot of the University of South Florida in Tampa.

"Only in the past decade have researchers established that people reached Crete before 6,000 years ago," Tykot said.

Strasser's team cannot yet say precisely when or for what reason hominids traveled to Crete. (ANI)

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