Home Greek islands Neanderthals reached the Greek island of Naxos 200,000 years ago

Neanderthals reached the Greek island of Naxos 200,000 years ago

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The site of Stelida on the Greek island of Naxos. Credit: Screenshot from Youtube / SNAP Archeology

According to groundbreaking archaeological evidence, it is now believed that Neanderthals and early humans inhabited Naxos 200,000 years ago, much earlier than before.

A team of American, Canadian and Greek archaeologists announced Wednesday the discovery of stone tools on the island of Naxos that date back at least 200,000 years. Naxos is a Greek Cycladic island located right in the middle of the Aegean Sea.

Grecian Delight supports Greece

The tools, according to Tristan Carter’s team at McMaster University, demonstrate that somehow Neanderthals and early humans found a way to reach this island – and stayed there for a time.

Neanderthals were an extinct species of the genus Homo that inhabited Europe, the Near East, the Middle East, and Central Asia, between 230,000 and 40,000 BC, during the late Middle Pleistocene and most of it. the Upper Pleistocene.

Paleogenetic studies indicate a common origin for modern humans and Neanderthals, as well as hybridizations between the two species of hominids, in at least two places and times: the Near East and Western Europe.

Discoveries shed light on Neanderthals in Greece

By uncovering evidence of hominid activity in Stelida, Naxos hundreds of thousands of years ago completely changed the theory of how humans dispersed out of Africa, scientists say in their research, recently published in the journal Scientists progress.

While Stone Age hunters are now known to have lived on the European mainland for over a million years, it was previously believed that the Mediterranean islands were colonized only 9,000 years ago by farmers.

Before the discovery of Stelida in 1981, the oldest settlements around the Cycladic islands were 7,000 years old.

The discovery of the site calls into question much of what were previously accepted theories regarding early humans and Neanderthals in the region.

The dominant theory as to why the Mediterranean islands were inhabited much later was that only modern humans – Homo sapiens – were sophisticated enough to build sea vessels.

Did the first humans and Neanderthals come to Naxos on foot?

However, scientists now believe that Naxos was not an island 200,000 years ago.

During one of the ice ages equivalent to an Ice Age, when huge volumes of seawater were trapped in glaciers and ocean levels were low, there were apparently swampy land masses between Greece mainland and Turkey.

“We believe that pre-Homo sapiens and early modern humans (Homo sapiens) also entered Europe via what is now the submerged Aegean basin, (and) via what is now the island of Naxos. , where they would have stopped to extract chert (a type of rock) to make their tools, ”Carter told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Some of these tools belonged to the so-called Mousterian and Levallois styles, which are associated with the Neanderthals in mainland Greece. Others were of an early Aurignacian type, associated with the first appearance of modern man, Homo sapiens, across the European continent.

Perhaps most intriguing is that the oldest tools found on Naxos actually date back tens of thousands of years before Neanderthals, let alone modern humans, reached the Aegean Sea.

Carter explains, however, that no ancient bones have been found on the island. “Unfortunately, the soil is very alkaline, so human bones do not survive,” said archaeologist Haaretz.

These discoveries have inspired new debates and research on the arrival of Neanderthals and the first humans on the Mediterranean islands. Archaeologists plan to continue excavation at the site, hoping to find more groundbreaking artifacts.

Evidence of Neanderthals sailing to Crete 130,000 years ago

Discoveries of Stone Age tools made on the Greek island of Crete in 2010 indicate that man traveled the Mediterranean 130,000 years ago – not 10,000 years as it was originally believed. – according to Science magazine.

In an article titled “In Search of a Stone Age Odysseus,” the authors say that until a decade ago, archaeologists assumed that Odysseus’ adventurous journeys, as reflected in Homer’s Odyssey, were the first undertakings in the Mediterranean, which would have taken place 10,000 years ago.

Others have assumed that sea travel was a human endeavor that began in the Bronze Age.

However, excavators in 2010 claimed to have found stone tools in Crete that are at least 130,000 years old, suggesting that humans traveled the seas as early as the Neanderthal stage of human development.