Prehistoric man worked with wood half a million years ago. Science

Archaeologists have discovered two wooden beams in Zambia that fit together perfectly. It is inevitable that the wood was processed by prehistoric people for some kind of construction. This occurred at least 476,000 years ago.

The results of the archaeological research were published in the scientific journal “Nature”. This indicates that our prehistoric Stone Age ancestors were already building structures, perhaps shelter in this case. According to archaeologist Larry Parham of the University of Liverpool, this discovery “changes the current picture of our ancestors.” Until now, researchers have assumed that prehistoric humans lived a simple nomadic life. But this could indicate part of the settlement.

The pieces of wood – one of which was one and a half meters long and 25cm wide – were found at the bottom of the Kalambo River in Zambia. “One on top of the other, an incision has been made in both pieces of wood,” explains archaeologist Geoff Dowler of Aberystwyth University. “You can clearly see that those cuts were made with stone tools. In this way the two wooden pieces fit together and become construction tools. Stone tools were also found nearby.

© via Reuters

After analyzing prehistoric sand grains in the wood grooves, the blocks were found to be approximately half a million years old. This makes it the oldest carved piece of wood ever found. It must serve as some sort of structure, such as a walkway or some sort of huts. Until now, no evidence has been found of humans using wood except to make fires or make digging tools and spears.

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This find is exceptional because the wood itself is not stored well at all, but usually rots after less than a hundred years. In this case, the swampy Kalambo River bed, which meanders along the border between Zambia and Tanzania, allowed the wood to become waterlogged and remain intact for thousands of years.

Via Reuters
© via Reuters

Not only do scholars not know exactly which structure was made, it is also unclear what kind of ancestor was doing carpentry work here. No bones have been found at the site yet. The wood is much older than the oldest fossils of modern humans (Homo sapiens), which are about 315,000 years old. “It could have been Homo sapiens, but also another species – Homo erectus or Homo naledi. There were a number of hominin species in South Africa at that time,” says Professor Geoff Dowler. “Homo heidelbergensis also lived in that area at that time.” It was a thin, upright prehistoric man, and his appearance was not much different from modern humans.

Kalambo Falls in Zambia.
Kalambo Falls in Zambia. © via Reuters

Denton Watson

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