Daily Mail – January 5, 2011
Archaeologists have discovered a set of tools they believe prove that man sailed the sea tens of thousands of years earlier than previously thought.
Rough axes and other tools thought to be between 130,000 and 700,000 years old were found close to shelters on the south coast of the Mediterranean island of Crete.
Crete has been separated from the mainland of Greece for about five million years, so whoever made the tools must have travelled there by sea, a distance of at least 40 miles.
The previous earliest evidence was of sea travel was 60,000 years ago; in Greece it was 11,000 years ago.
The findings upset the current view that human ancestors migrated to Europe from Africa by land alone.
The Greek Culture Ministry said in a statement yesterday: ‘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 previous earliest evidence of open-sea travel in Greece dates back 11,000 years.
The tools were found during a survey of caves and rock shelters near the village of Plakias by archaeologists from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the Culture Ministry.
Such rough stone implements are associated with Heidelberg Man and Homo Erectus, extinct precursors of the modern human race, which evolved from Africa about 200,000 years ago.
Maria Vlazaki, senior ministry archaeologist, said: ‘Up to now we had no proof of Early Stone Age presence on Crete.’
She said it was unclear where the hominids had sailed from, or whether the settlements were permanent.
‘They may have come from Africa or from the east,’ she said. ‘Future study should help.’
The team of archaeologists has applied for permission to conduct a more thorough excavation of the area, which Greek authorities are expected to approve later this year.