I read this story over at the National Geographic website earlier and found it fascinating. It seems that a team of archeologists have found an crudely constructed ancient axe on the Isle of Crete, off the coast of Greece, that indicates that man has been traveling by sea far longer than we ever suspected.
The archeologists were actually hoping to find simple stone tools from a civilization that sailed those waters roughly 11,000 years ago. Instead, they discovered the axe, which closely resembles others that have been found in central Europe and Africa. Those tools date back 175,000 years, which tells them that men were building boats and traveling the waters of the Mediterranean for tens of thousands of years earlier than was first believed.
One of the more telling quotes from the article, which puts this all into perspective, comes from archeologist Curtis Runnels, who said “The idea of finding tools from this very early time period on Crete was about as believable as finding an iPod in King Tut’s tomb.” Runnels added that he was “flabbergasted” by the discovery.
All told, the team of archeologists discovered more than 30 similar axes and other primitive tools at 9 different dig sites spread out across the island. Radio carbon dating for the various stratification levels from which they were found indicate that the newest of the tools were left on Crete some 45,000 years ago, while the oldest date back 130,000 years.
The find has also opened up debate as to how the migration of man spread across Europe. It is widely believed that Africa was the birth place of primitive man, and they migrated outward from there. The theory has always been that we traveled on foot through the Middle East and into Asia and Europe from there, But now that theory could be challenged with the thought that perhaps our ancestors traveled by boat into Europe, hopping across islands as they went. Either way, we know that they were exploring the open waters long before we ever suspected. It seems that the concept of a “Mediterranean Cruise” isn’t such a new thing either.
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