Earliest European human tools found in Ukraine

Artefacts from an archaeological site at Korolevo in Ukraine estimated to be around 1.4 million years old are the earliest securely dated evidence for the presence of early humans – known as hominins – in Europe, according to international scientists, including an Australian. The team used a modern technique to estimate the age of the mud in which artefacts, including stone tools, were buried. They also investigated what conditions would have been like there at the time, and say these early humans may have exploited warmer periods between ice ages to move into more mountainous areas such as Korolevo. The site lies between the Caucasus and southwestern Europe, where remains dated to around 1.8m years ago and around 1.2m years ago, respectively, have been found. That suggests our ancestors colonised Europe from east to west, the authors conclude.

Journal/conference: Nature

Link to research (DOI): 10.1038/s41586-024-07151-3

Organisation/s: La Trobe University, Czech Academy of Sciences, Czechia

Funder: Czech
Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MEYS) (CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/16_019/0000728); RADIATE
(Horizon 2020, 824096) transnational access (21002366-ST); RADIATE guest researcher
programme; MEYS (LM2018120); Czech Science Foundation (22-13190S); and Charles University
Grant Agency (310222).

Media release

From: Springer Nature

Dating the earliest known human presence in Europe

Artefacts from an archaeological site in Ukraine estimated to be around 1.4 million years old represent the earliest securely dated evidence for hominin presence in Europe. The findings, reported in Nature this week, shed light on the arrival of the first humans into Europe and the direction of their travel.

Hominins are thought to have arrived in Eurasia between two and one million years ago, but precise dating has been challenging owing to the scarcity of archaeological sites of that age (part of the Palaeolithic period). The archaeological site of Korolevo in western Ukraine has yielded Palaeolithic tools since the 1970s and is among the most northern of early Palaeolithic sites, yet no one has been able to date it precisely.

Roman Garba and colleagues use a dating method based on the decay of cosmogenic nuclides to determine the precise age of sediments in which Korolevo artefacts, such as stone tools, were buried. They estimate that the tools may be around 1.4 million years old. The authors also studied habitat suitability over the past 2 million years and suggest that early hominins probably exploited warmer interglacial periods to colonize higher latitude sites, such as Korolevo. Korolevo occupies a key space geographically between the Caucasus and southwestern Europe, which are known to have been occupied by hominins around 1.8 million and 1.2 million years ago, respectively. The dating puts Korolevo in the middle temporally as well as spatially, providing support for a long held but previously unsubstantiated hypothesis that Europe was colonized from east to west, the authors conclude.

SOURCE

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