Discovery of stone tools at Crete pushes back seafaring by 130,000 years

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Washington, Feb 16 (ANI): Discoveries made during the last two summers on the Greek island of Crete have revealed stone tools dating back to 130,000 years, which is being considered strong evidence for the earliest known seafaring in the Mediterranean.

Crete has been an island for more than five million years, meaning that the toolmakers must have arrived by boat.

According to a report in New York Times, this finding seems to push the history of Mediterranean voyaging back more than 100,000 years.

The oldest established early marine travel anywhere was the sea-crossing migration of anatomically modern Homo sapiens to Australia, beginning about 60,000 years ago.

The archaeologists who found the tools on Crete noted that the style of the hand axes suggested that they could be up to 700,000 years old.

That may be a stretch, they conceded, but the tools resemble artifacts from the stone technology known as Acheulean, which originated with prehuman populations in Africa.

More than 2,000 stone artifacts, including the hand axes, were collected on the southwestern shore of Crete, near the town of Plakias, by a team led by Thomas F. Strasser and Eleni Panagopoulou.

They were assisted by Greek and American geologists and archaeologists, including Curtis Runnels of Boston University.

The Plakias survey team went in looking for material remains of more recent artisans, nothing older than 11,000 years.

Such artifacts would have been blades, spear points and arrowheads typical of Mesolithic and Neolithic periods.

"We found those, then we found the hand axes," Dr. Strasser said. "We were flummoxed. These things were just not supposed to be there," he added.

The research, if confirmed by further study, scrambles timetables of technological development and textbook accounts of human and prehuman mobility.

The cliffs and caves above the shore, the researchers said, have been uplifted by tectonic forces where the African plate goes under and pushes up the European plate.

The exposed uplifted layers represent the sequence of geologic periods that have been well studied and dated, in some cases correlated to established dates of glacial and interglacial periods of the most recent ice age.

In addition, the team analyzed the layer bearing the tools and determined that the soil had been on the surface 130,000 to 190,000 years ago.

Dr. Runnels said he considered this a minimum age for the tools themselves.

The standard hypothesis had been that Acheulean toolmakers reached Europe and Asia via the Middle East, passing mainly through what is now Turkey into the Balkans.

The new finds suggest that their dispersals were not confined to land routes. (ANI)

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