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Perhaps the oldest evidence of human presence in Europe has been found in Ukraine

Perhaps the oldest evidence of human presence in Europe has been found in Ukraine

WASHINGTON – Ancient stone tools discovered in western Ukraine may be the oldest known evidence of early human presence in Europe, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The chipped stones, deliberately shaped from volcanic rock, were taken from a quarry in Korolevu in the 1970s, and archaeologists used new methods to date the layers of sedimentary rock surrounding the tools to more than a million years ago.

“This is the oldest dated evidence of a hominin in Europe,” said Mads Forsho Knudsen, a geophysicist at Aarhus University in Denmark, and co-author of the new study.

He said it is not clear which human ancestors made these tools, but it could be Homo erectus, the first species to walk upright and master the use of fire.

“We don't have any fossil remains, so we can't be sure,” said Roman Garba, an archaeologist at the Czech Academy of Sciences and co-author of the study.

He added that the chipped stone tools may have been used to cut meat and perhaps scrape animal skins.

The researchers suggest that the tools could be 1.4 million years old, but other experts say that the study's methodology indicates that they may be a little more than a million years old, making them fall in roughly the same time range as other ancient tools discovered in Spain.

Rick Potts, who directs the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian Institution, said the oldest stone tools were found in East Africa and date back 2.8 million years.

The Ukrainian site is important because it is the “oldest site in the far north”, suggesting that early humans who dispersed from Africa with these tools were able to survive in diverse environments.

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“Early humans, using stone tool technology, were able to colonize everywhere from hot Iberia (Spain) to Ukraine where it was very cold at least during the seasons – an amazing level of adaptability,” Mr Potts stressed.