Archaeologists uncovered ancient wooden logs dating back almost half a million years on the riverbanks of Zambia. Published in Nature Journal, these findings suggest that the stone-age ancestors were more advanced and innovative than previously thought.
The discovery challenges the prevailing belief that they led simple, nomadic lives.
The revelation came as part of the “Deep Roots of Humanity” research project led by archaeologist Professor Larry Barham at the University of Liverpool.
Around 500,000 years ago, early humans were believed to be leading a hunter-gatherer existence. The evidence indicates that these logs were used in the construction of a structure. It implies that ancient humans were capable of creating more complex and permanent settlements.
Professor Barham opines that these logs challenge the long-held assumptions about the capabilities and lifestyles of early humans. They were builders capable of creating new and large structures from wood according to Professor Barham.
Tool marks and deliberate shaping of the wood suggest that the stone-age ancestors used their intelligence, imagination, and skills to innovate and construct structures that served as shelter. This indicates a level of social organisation and planning so far underestimated.
The excavation of the site also revealed a treasure trove of other ancient wooden tools including digging sticks. These tools, along with the structure made from the logs, paint a picture of early humans as resourceful and inventive beings, who adapted their environment to their needs.
Geoff Duller, a geography professor at the University of Aberystwyth and a member of the research team, these observations. He explained that the notches on the wooden logs were meticulously cut, allowing the two logs to fit together seamlessly. This suggests that the logs were intentionally shaped and joined to create structural objects, providing further evidence that ancient humans were not only capable of building shelters but also employed sophisticated construction techniques.
Further analysis of the site has confirmed the age of the wooden artefacts to be approximately 476,000 years old. Perrice Nkombwe, a team member from the Livingstone Museum in Zambia, stated that the find has the potential to reshape the understanding of early human history in this region.
One early wooden discovery that predates the Zambia find by about 100,000 years is a 400,000-year-old spear found in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, in 1911. The wood remained waterlogged in the riverbanks near Kalambo Falls, close to the Zambia-Tanzania border.
The age of the layers of earth in which the wood was buried was measured using luminescence dating, a technique that involves grains of rock absorbing natural radioactivity from the environment over time, effectively acting like tiny batteries.
The wooden artefacts, now transported to the UK for analysis and preservation, are stored in tanks to replicate the waterlogged conditions that preserved them for the past half-million years. Eventually, these invaluable artefacts will return to Zambia for public display.
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