Newly discovered stone tools push the dawn of Greek archeology back a quarter of a million years


The find announced on Thursday is the oldest archaeological site in the antiquities-rich country.

Deep in an open pit coal mine in southern Greece, researchers have discovered the oldest archaeological site in the antiquities-rich country, dating back 700,000 years and associated with the hominid ancestors of modern humans.

The find announced on Thursday would push the dawn of Greek archeology back a quarter of a million years, although older hominin sites have been discovered elsewhere in Europe. The oldest, in Spain, dates back more than a million years.

The Greek site was one of five surveyed in the Megalopolis area during a five-year project involving an international team of experts, the culture ministry said in a statement.

It was found to contain crude stone tools from the Lower Paleolithic period — about 3.3 million to 300,000 years ago — and the remains of an extinct species of giant deer, elephant, hippopotamus, rhinoceros and a macaque monkey.

The project was directed by Panagiotis Karkanas of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Eleni Panagopoulou from the Greek Ministry of Culture and Katerina Harvati, professor of Paleoanthropology at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

The artifacts are “simple tools, such as sharp stone flakes, belonging to the Lower Paleolithic stone tool industry,” the co-directors said in comments emailed to The Associated Press.

They said it was possible the objects were produced by Homo antecessor, the hominid species that dates back to that period in other parts of Europe. Homo Antecessor is thought to have been the last common ancestor of modern humans and their extinct Neanderthal cousins, who split about 800,000 years ago.

“However, we won’t know for sure until fossil remains of anthropomorphs are recovered,” project managers said. “(The site) is the oldest currently known human presence in Greece and overturns the known archaeological record in the country by up to 250,000 years.”

The tools, which were likely used for butchering animals and processing wood or other plant matter, were made about 700,000 years ago, although the researchers said they await further analyzes to refine the dating.

“We are very excited to report this finding, which demonstrates the great importance of our region for understanding human migration to Europe and for human evolution in general,” said the three co-directors.

Archaeologist Nikos Efstratiou, a professor of prehistoric archeology at the University of Thessaloniki, who was not involved in the project, said the discovery was “very important” in its own right, not just because it represented the country’s oldest known site.

“There is an archaeological context in which tools and animal remains have been found,” Efstratiou said. “It’s an important and very early site … that allows us to go far back, and in a valid way, to the age of the first tools in Greece.”

Another of the sites investigated in the Megalopolis region of the southern Peloponnese peninsula – home to the extremely later sites of Mycenae, Olympia and Pylos – contained the earliest Middle Palaeolithic remains found in Greece, dating to around 280,000 years ago. years.

“(It is) one of the earliest sites in Europe to have tools characteristic of the so-called Middle Paleolithic tool industry, suggesting that Greece may have played an important role in the development of the (stone) industry in Europe,” the researchers said.

The Megalopolis plain has been mined for decades for coal to power a local power station. During Paleolithic times it contained a shallow lake.

The area has long been known as a source of fossils, and in ancient times huge prehistoric bones excavated there were linked to Greek myths of a long-extinct race of giants who fought the gods of Olympus. Some ancient writers mentioned Megalopolis as the site of a major battle in this supernatural war.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here