(ORDO NEWS) — Prehistoric stone tools found in a cave in Poland 50 years ago have just been identified as some of the oldest ever discovered in the region.
And although scientists have not yet found the bones of these people, tools that have already been found and well dated speak of their presence.
The tools from the Tunel Wielki Cave in Malopolska are between 450,000 and 550,000 years old. This dating may allow scientists to learn more about the people who created them, as well as their migration and lifestyle in Central Europe during prehistoric times.
A new kind of people
Tunel Velki Cave was excavated in the 1960s and archaeologists returned to the site again in 2016. Layers of material have been dated to about 11,700 years ago, with some dating back to the Middle Paleolithic, which extended up to 40,000 years ago.
But archaeologist Claudio Berto of the University of Warsaw felt that the dating was at odds with what he observed. Animal bones found at the site, he concluded, were almost certainly over 40,000 years old.
So, in 2018, scientists returned to the cave. They reopened and widened one of the trenches, carefully examining the various layers of material accumulated over the years and collecting more bone material for analysis.
They found that the upper layers did indeed contain the bones of animals that lived during the late Pleistocene and Holocene. But the bottom layer was clearly older.
It contained the bones of several species that lived half a million years ago: the European jaguar Panthera gombaszoegensis ; the Mosbach wolf, the ancestor of modern gray wolves, Canis mosbachensis ; and Deninger’s bear Ursus deningeri.
The layer in which the bones were found also contained traces of flint impacts, including flint fragments, “blanks” from which other tools could be molded, and the stones from which they were made. There were also some ready-made tools such as knives.
Since these objects were found in the same layer as the bones, this means that their age is very similar. This assumption was confirmed by excavations carried out in the cave in 2018. They confirmed the arrangement of layers described by researchers half a century ago.
The authors of the new work also found more waste products and animal bones. The researchers suggest that these tools belong to the Heidelberg man, but paleontologists have yet to find the bones of this extinct human species.
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