A team of US, Canadian and Greek archaeologists announced on Wednesday the discovery of stone tools on the island of Naxos which have been proven to go back at least 200,000 years. Naxos is a Greek island located in the very middle of the Aegean Sea.
The tools, according to the team of Tristan Carter of McMaster University, demonstrate that somehow, both Neanderthals and early humans found a way to reach this island — and stayed there for some time.
Discovering evidence of hominid activity at Stelida, Naxos hundreds of thousands of years ago completely changes the theory of how humans dispersed out of Africa, the scientists posit in their research, published recently in the journal Science Advances.
While Stone Age hunters are now known to have been living on mainland Europe for over one million years, the Mediterranean islands were previously believed to have been settled only 9,000 years ago, by farmers. The prevailing idea of that theory was that only modern humans — Homo sapiens — were sophisticated enough to build seafaring vessels.
However, scientists now believe that Naxos was not an island 200,000 years ago. During one of the glacial periods amounting to an ice age, when huge volumes of seawater was locked up in glaciers and ocean levels were low, there were apparently marshy land masses between continental Greece and Turkey.
“We believe that pre-Homo sapiens populations and early modern humans (Homo sapiens) were also entering Europe via what today is the submerged Aegean basin, (and) via what today is the island of Naxos, where they would have stopped off to extract chert (a type of rock) to make their tools,” Carter explained to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Some of these tools were in what is known as the Mousterian and Levallois styles, which are associated with Neanderthals in Greece. Others were of an Early Aurignacian type, associated with the first appearance of modern humans, Homo sapiens, in Europe.
What is perhaps most intriguing is that the very oldest tools found at Naxos actually date from tens of thousands of years before Neanderthals, let alone modern humans, were known to have reached the Aegean.
Carter explains, however, that no ancient bones have been found on the island. “Unfortunately, the soil is very alkaline, so human bones do not survive,” the archaeologist told Haaretz.
More information on the fascinating Stelida archaeological findings may be found by clicking here.