Sep 29, 2023
The Stone Age was nearly 500,000 years ago. During it, our ancient human relatives chopped down trees and used the wood to build tools and wedges. They also built what could be the earliest known wooden structure.
In 2019, researchers came across primitive woodworking. They were digging through Kalombo Falls. It is an archaeological site in Central Africa’s Zambia. The group was chiefly searching for stone works from an era called the Stone Age. This was a prehistoric time when stone was used to make sharp tools. The group did not expect to discover a wooden platform structure or tools.
The biggest surprise: a 1.4-meter-long log with tapered ends and a deeply carved notch where it rested on another large piece of wood. This finding puzzled British researcher Larry Barham. But when he saw a set of Lincoln Logs, he had an idea. The children’s toy made him notice similarities in the wood’s notches. This allowed the wood pieces to be securely stacked perpendicular to one another, Barham realized.
A modern dating technique called luminescence suggests that the large wooden objects are at least 476,000 years old. That’s 100,000 years before the existence of Homo sapiens, or modern humans. This means that ancient hominins must have made them.
Barham and his colleagues at the University of Liverpool in the UK detailed their findings last week in the journal Nature. They described the dating procedure used, too.
Wood decays quickly, even when buried. But what if this wasn't the case, and wood was preserved at dig sites as well as stone or bone? "We would probably use the term Wood Age rather than Stone Age," Barham said.
Photo from Unsplash courtesy of Alexander Andrews.
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