According to archaeologists from the universities of Liverpool and Aberystwyth, humans were building wooden structures half a million years ago, earlier than would have been thought possible.
The study, published in the journal Nature, reports the excavation of well-preserved wood at the archaeological site of Kalambo Falls, Zambia, which is at least 476,000 years old and predates the evolution of our own species. , Homo sapiens.
Expert analysis of stone tool cut marks in the wood shows that these early people shaped and joined two large tree trunks to build a structure, probably the foundation of a platform or part of a dwelling.
This is the world’s first evidence that logs deliberately fit together. To date, evidence of human use of wood has been limited to its use for making fires, digging sticks, and making spears.
Wood is rarely found at such ancient sites as it often rots and disappears, but at Kalambo Falls the wood was preserved by persistently high water levels.
This discovery challenges the prevailing view that Stone Age people were nomads. At Kalambo Falls, these people not only had a constant source of water, but the forest around them also provided them with enough food to settle and build structures.
“This discovery has changed the way I think about our early ancestors,” Professor Larry Barham of the University of Liverpool’s Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, who leads the Deep Roots of Humanity research project, said in a statement. –. Forget the term “Stone Age” and look at what these people did: They made something new and great out of wood. “They used their intelligence, imagination and skills to create something they had never seen before, something that had never existed before,” he points out.
He adds: “They changed their environment to make life easier, if only by creating a platform on which they could sit next to the river and do their daily tasks.” “These people were us more similar than we thought,” he emphasizes.
Experts from Aberystwyth University carried out special dating of the finds, using new luminescence dating techniques that show when the minerals in the sand around the finds were last exposed to sunlight to determine their age.
Professor Geoff Duller from Aberystwyth University points out that “at this advanced age, dating the finds is very difficult and we have used luminescence dating to do this.” “These new dating methods have far-reaching implications and allow us to go much further into the past to date and reconstruct sites that give us insight into human evolution.”
“The Kalambo Falls site was excavated back in the 1960s when similar pieces of wood were recovered, but they could not be dated so their true significance was not clear until now,” he adds.
The Kalambo Falls site on the Kalambo River is located above a 235 meter high waterfall on the border between Zambia and the Rukwa region of Tanzania on the edge of Lake Tanganyika. The area is on UNESCO’s “provisional” World Heritage List due to its archaeological significance.
“Our research shows that this site is much older than previously thought, so its archaeological significance is now even greater,” emphasizes Duller. “It gives more weight to the argument that it should be a United Nations World Heritage Site.”
This research is part of the groundbreaking Deep Roots of Humanity project, an investigation into how human technology developed in the Stone Age. The project is funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council and includes teams from the Zambia National Heritage Conservation Commission, Livingstone Museum, Moto Moto Museum and Lusaka National Museum.
“Kalambo Falls is an extraordinary place and an important heritage site for Zambia. “The Deep Roots team looks forward to further exciting discoveries from the flooded sandy areas,” says Professor Barham.