Archaeologists have made a groundbreaking discovery along the banks of the Kalambo River in Zambia. They have unearthed two carefully worked and joined trunks of the “bushwillow” tree, dating back nearly 500,000 years. These wooden artifacts represent the oldest known example of pre-human beings constructing wooden structures, predating our own species. This finding challenges the prevailing belief that early humans during that time simply roamed the landscape as hunters and gatherers.

The modified trunks, worked with stone tools, appear to have been a framework for a structure. This suggests that early humans may have used it as a raised path or platform to navigate the wet surroundings. Archaeologist Larry Barham of the University of Liverpool, the lead author of the study published in the journal Nature, proposes that the platform could have served multiple purposes, such as storage, being the base of a hut, and more.

This discovery provides significant insights into the technological skills and behavior of our primitive human ancestors. Preservation of wood at archaeological sites from this era has been extremely rare until now, making it challenging to understand how early humans utilized this material. The Kalambo Falls site offers a unique opportunity to gain a more complete understanding of these people’s lives.

Geographer and study co-author Geoff Duller from the University of Aberystwyth in Wales explains the importance of wood as a construction material. It can be shaped in various forms, making it durable and strong. This suggests that early humans possessed cognitive abilities beyond what was previously believed based solely on evidence from stone tools.

Although no human remains were found at the site, Barham suggests that the artifacts were likely created by Homo heidelbergensis, a species that existed between 700,000 and 200,000 years ago. Homo heidelbergensis had distinct physical features, such as a prominent supraorbital ridge and a larger cranial capacity.

The discovery highlights the ingenuity and adaptability of early humans to alter their environment. The finding at Kalambo Falls demonstrates that these ancient hominids had the ability to create a built environment, showcasing a cognitive ability that was previously not attributed to them based solely on stone tools.

This study sheds new light on the technological achievements and cultural complexity of our primitive human ancestors. The preservation and discovery of these ancient wooden structures add an important chapter to our understanding of human history.

– Nature Journal
– University of Liverpool
– University of Aberystwyth