Crete yields earliest sea travel evidence
Archaeologists have found some ancient tools on the Greek island of Crete which they believe might be evidence of one of man’s earliest sea voyages.
The Greek Culture Ministry said in a statement that the tools are between 130,000 and 700,000 years old, about the same age as the shelters on the island’s south coast.
“The results of the survey not only provide evidence of sea voyages in the Mediterranean tens of thousands of years earlier than we were aware of so far, but also change our understanding of early hominids’ cognitive abilities,” the ministry statement said.
The tools were discovered during a survey of caves and rock shelters near the village of Plakias by archaeologists from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the Culture Ministry.
Such tools were mostly used by Heidelberg Man and Homo Erectus, two extinct precursors of the modern human race, which evolved from Africa about 200,000 years ago.
“Up to now we had no proof of Early Stone Age presence on Crete,” said senior ministry archaeologist Maria Vlazaki, adding that it was not clear where the hominids had sailed from, or whether the settlements were permanent.
“They may have come from Africa or from the east,” she said. “Future study should help.”
The island of Crete separated from the mainland about five million years ago, so whoever made the tools must have reached there by sea travelling at least 40 miles.
The finding does not support the popular theory that human ancestors migrated to Europe from Africa by land, the Associated Press reported.
The previous earliest evidence of open-sea travel dates back to 11,000 years ago in Greece and about 60,000 years worldwide.
The Greek-American archeology team has asked permission to conduct a more thorough excavation of the area. Greek authorities say they will answer later this year.