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Study: Human ancestors early seafarers
by Staff Writers
Raleigh, N.C. (UPI) Aug 18, 2011

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Evidence suggests our early ancestors went to sea 130,000 years ago, more than 100,000 years earlier than previously thought, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers including a North Carolina State University geologist base that assertion on stone tools discovered on the Mediterranean island of Crete, The (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer reported Wednesday.

Since Crete has been an island for eons, any prehistoric people who left tools behind would have had to cross open water to get there, scientists said.

The tools are so old they predate the human species, they said, and instead of being made by Homo sapiens they were made by our ancestors, Homo erectus.

NCSU geologist Karl Wegmann helped in dating the tools by identifying rock formations in which some of the tools were found embedded.

Crete is slowly rising out of the sea 35 times more slowly than fingernails grow, so knowing the elevation above sea level of the rocks where the tools were found embedded gives researchers the figure of 130,000 years ago.

"The thing to me that really makes this unique and exciting is ... these other sister species maybe weren't entirely stupid like we portray them," Wegmann said. "They were capable of really complex things."

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