Proof Humans In Europe Continuously For 1.2 Mil Years

Story ByAna LacasaSub EditorJoseph GolderAgencyNewsflash

Archaeologists have found ancient tools which they say for the first time in history prove human beings and their ancestors have had a continuous presence in Europe going back 1.2 million years.

The tools were discovered at the Gran Dolina dig site, within the important archaeological area of Atapuerca, located in the province of Burgos, in the north-central Spanish region of Castile and Leon.

The tools are made of quartzite, a rock mainly composed of quartz.

Ana Pantoja-EI Atapuerca/Newsflash

While there are records of people being there from 1.2 million years ago until today, there had been a 100,000-year gap until this discovery, from 600,000 years ago to 500,000 years ago. The site also has remains of animals from 500,000 or 600,000 years ago, according to a press release that the Atapuerca Foundation provided Newsflash.

Researchers say they are sure that more tools will be discovered soon and that the remains found so far will give them further information about the technology used by human beings and their ancestors who lived in the area during this period of time.

According to the press statement, archaeologists say the discovery of these tools is very important as for the first time it provides information about an era in Europe which was previously unknown.

Susana Santamaria-F.Atapuerca/Newsflash

The co-director of the Atapuerca excavation project, Jose Maria Bermudez de Castro, told Newsflash that the three tools were found in an area of almost two square metres (6.5 square feet).

According to Bermudez de Castro, the discovery is a key piece in the comprehension of the sequence of human occupation in Europe, saying the evidence shows that mountains of the Burgos province were occupied by humans and their ancestors without interruption for at least 1.2 million years.

The tools are believed to have been used for dismembering hunted animals and to build wooden tools, although Bermudez de Castro said: “We would need between 30 and 40 remains to confirm information about the technology used by humans at that time”.

Bermudez de Castro said in the press conference that only one archaeological piece found up until now has been able to confirm the presence of human beings in Europe around 500,000 or 600,000 years ago.

This piece is the jaw of Mauer, which was discovered in 1907 in the German village of Mauer that was named as Homo heidelbergensis, as it was discovered in the Heidelberg region in Germany and “had characteristics similar to that of the neanderthals”.

Susana Santamaria-F.Atapuerca/Newsflash

Now Bermudez de Castro says the new evidence shows that the human beings living in the Atapuerca mountains were there before neanderthals, although “we do not know what kind of hominid we were then.

“Since then and until around 120,000 years ago, all the populations must be linked, they had the same origin, south-western Asia, what is currently Iraq, Syria and Israel.

“The population arrived, some of them disappeared, others mixed with other cultures, others fought for the territory, it is a very complex model that we have no idea about nowadays”.

Fundacion Atapuercca/Newsflash

According to the expert, the lack of evidence of human remains from 600,000 years ago could be because our ancestors did not tend to use caves and lived outdoors, so the remains were not preserved.

Their population density was very low, maybe one person every five square kilometres, gathered in small clans in places where there were animals to hunt and water available.

Bermudez de Castro said: “There are a lot of questions now to be answered, and this is very interesting.”

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Ana Lacasa

I am a senior writer and journalist and editor of the Spanish desk for the Central European News agency.

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