A team of researchers just announced that they found flint tools that were used by an extinct species of humans. The tools date to more than half a million years ago, making them some of the oldest human-made objects that have ever been discovered in Poland. Unsurprisingly, the find is shaking the world of archaeology, as it could give us new information about where we came from and what life was really like for our ancestors.
The science and other stuff to know
An interdisciplinary team of experts from the University of Warsaw published a study in the journal Scientific Reports. In the publication, the team discussed small flint tools that were found by archaeologists 50 years ago in a cave called Tunel Wielki in Poland. At that time, the areologists and paleontologists who excavated the area didn’t imagine the excessive age of the pieces, which ultimately needed to wait more than four decades for in-depth study.
The initial excavation resulted in a collection of items, teeth, and small mammalian bones. Scientists previously believed that the oldest traces of humans in that area dated to no more than 40 thousand years old. However, the artifacts turned out to be between 450 and 550 thousand years old.
Dr. Kot, the lead author of the study, noted the significance of this discovery, saying that there are “no older traces of man’s presence on our lands [Poland].”
It was determined that the remains found belonged to the Homo heidelbergensis species, the ancestor of the Neanderthals. Although these are not the direct ancestors of modern Homo sapiens, it has been thoroughly established that our ancestors mated with Neanderthals — meaning that they are a part of our bloodline.
Dr. Kot notes that the find was a surprise. Scientists didn’t expect that there would be any human settlements in that area dating to that age, as the climatic conditions were so adverse. In this respect, the find throws many of our assumptions out the window.
However, Dr. Kot adds that her team believes that this location may have pushed the limits of survival for our ancestors, who could not migrate further north because conditions were too hostile for them.
“We found traces that may indicate that the people who stayed there used fire, which probably helped to tame these dark and humid places,” Kot told Science In Poland. She also emphasized that these findings could give us new information about the adaptive abilities of the Homo heidelbergensis and, consequently, of our own evolution.
In many ways, this is just the beginning of research in this specific area. Kot and her team continue to work on dating the archaeological pieces in search of more clues about the behavior, movement, and daily activities of our ancestors. More specifically, the researchers hope that they will find Homo heidelbergensis bones in Cave Tunel Wielki. If they are uncovered, they would be the oldest early human remains discovered in Poland by a wide margin. Currently, the oldest bones belong to a Neanderthal that is just 50,000 years old.