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New Evidence Of Early Human Navigation

January 3, 2011

According to official reports, archaeologists on the Greek island of Crete have found startling evidence that early humans were able to navigate across open waters thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

The Greek Culture Ministry said that U.S. and Greek archaeologists reached that conclusion after finding stone tools and axes that dated back 130,000 years ago on Crete, which was already an island at that time.

“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.

Previous evidence of open-sea travel in Greece dates back 11,000 years.

It said that the chiseled shards found in the areas of Plakia and Preveli in 2008 and 2009 “constitute the most ancient sign of early navigation worldwide.”

The Greek archaeologists who work with Athens-based American School of Classical Studies originally began searching for the remains of Stone Age settlements in the island’s southwest dating to 10,000 BCE.

Conclusive evidence of human habitations on Crete had been established for the Neolithic period, up to 7,000 BCE.

“Up to now we had no proof of Early Stone Age presence on Crete,” senior ministry archaeologist Maria Vlazaki, who was not involved in the survey, told The Associated Press.

“They may have come from Africa or from the east,” she said. “Future study should help.”

The ministry said that the tools discovered could be up to 700,000 years old.

The team applied for permission to conduct a more thorough excavation of the area, which Greek authorities are expected to approve later on this year.

Image Caption: This image, provided by the Greek Ministry of Culture, depicts stone tools found on Crete. Credit: Greek Culture Ministry

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