Tools point to early Cretan arrivals

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Evidence for the world’s earliest seafaring has emerged from an archaeological survey in Crete. Tools of Lower Palaeolithic type, at least 130,000 years old, have been found on the Greek island, which has been isolated by the Mediterranean Sea for at least the past five million years, so that any human ancestors must have arrived by boat. At this date, they would have been of a pre-modern species: the earliest Neanderthalers or even Homo heidelbergensis, the species to which Boxgrove Man belonged, are among possible contenders, but no such remains have so far been found on Crete.

“The early inhabitants of Crete reached the island using sea craft capable of open-sea navigation and multiple journeys — a finding that pushes the history of seafaring in the Mediterranean back by more than 100,000 years and has implications for the dispersal of early humans,” Professor Curtis Runnels said. The oldest uncontested marine crossing until recently was from Indonesia to Australia, dating to perhaps 60,000 years ago and made by anatomically modern humans of our own species, Homo sapiens, although we now know that earlier settlement on the island of Flores in Indonesia also necessitated a sea-crossing.

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