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Stone Tools Found On Crete Push Back Humans' Maritime History

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the perhaps-a-swallow-brought-them-there dept.

Transportation 176

The New York Times reports that stone tools discovered on the Greek island of Crete, and reported last month at an academic conference, are strong evidence for rethinking the maritime capabilities of early humans. The researchers who found the tools (hand-axes, cleavers, and scrapers) estimate them to be at least 130,000 years old; if they're right, humans have been traveling long distances at sea (Crete is 200 miles from the northern African coastline) for at least several tens of thousands of years longer than earlier believed.

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Obligatory ... (5, Funny)

Webster9 (1156495) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216786)

132,010 BC @ 00:12 Webster9 wrote: First Post

Re:Obligatory ... (1)

lul_wat (1623489) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216838)

Join the Navy they said..

Re:Obligatory ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31216900)

Amazing Webster9, you knew about hand sex, cleavage and strippers?

Re:Obligatory ... (3, Funny)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217014)

The only obligatory remark is of course re. "from the perhaps-a-swallow-brought-them-there dept.":

Would that be an African Swallow, or a European Swallow?

Re:Obligatory ... (4, Funny)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217320)

And God said "First Post. Oh, and someone turn on the damn lights!" And there was Light...

Re:Obligatory ... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31217752)

Shouldn't that be First Boat?

First Post (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31216788)

In a related story, next to one of the axes they found a mast with the words "First Post".
But the amazing part was the -1 Offtopic heading right beside the inscription.

Re:First Post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31216924)

What's the most confusing day in Harlem? Father's day!

You failed first post. For that you deserved a nigger joke.

FIRST BOAT (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31216792)

Yay, now I'm a troll too

Re: FIRST BOAT (3, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217988)

Yay, now I'm a troll too

First boast?

Not Necasrily? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31216794)

Why does this give evidence that we have been traveling for longer periods of time. Is it because the stove is from Africa, because than it just shows that stone on Crete was from Africa, and so could have washed up onto the beach. Or am I missing the point :-)?

Re:Not Necasrily? (5, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216872)

FTA:

Crete has been an island for more than five million years, meaning that the toolmakers must have arrived by boat.

Stone tools found on an island indicates that humans were capable of rudimentary sea travel in order to get to Crete from the mainland. Also FTA:

More than 2,000 stone artifacts, including the hand axes, were collected on the southwestern shore of Crete, near the town of Plakias

That is an awful lot of stone tools to have just "washed up on to the beach" wouldn't you think so?
TFA states that the team was originally looking for much younger tools on the order of ~11,000 years old when they found these instead. Also FTA:

The cliffs and caves above the shore, the researchers said, have been uplifted by tectonic forces where the African plate goes under and pushes up the European plate. The exposed uplifted layers represent the sequence of geologic periods that have been well studied and dated, in some cases correlated to established dates of glacial and interglacial periods of the most recent ice age. In addition, the team analyzed the layer bearing the tools and determined that the soil had been on the surface 130,000 to 190,000 years ago.

Dr. Runnels said he considered this a minimum age for the tools themselves. They include not only quartz hand axes, but also cleavers and scrapers, all of which are in the Acheulean style.

In other words, the dating of the soil associated with the tools indicates that they are at least 130,000 years old and are of a tool style used by humans/ancestors that is very ancient. The tools were not neccessarily made by early humans as at the time these tools were likely created, humans were not the only hominids. The upper limit for the date of these tools is ~700,000 years which would pre-date modern humans although it seems unlikely that they are that old.

Re:Not Necasrily? (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217290)

Stone tools found on an island indicates that humans were capable of rudimentary sea travel in order to get to Crete from the mainland.

They could have been carried by swallows.

Re:Not Necasrily? (2, Funny)

chocapix (1595613) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217830)

FTA:

Crete has been an island for more than five million years, meaning that the toolmakers must have arrived by boat.

Stone tools found on an island indicates that humans were capable of rudimentary sea travel in order to get to Crete from the mainland.

Don't jump to conclusions. Maybe they just built a bridge.

Re:Not Necasrily? (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 4 years ago | (#31218058)

No, the bridge [wikipedia.org] was built by apes [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Not Necasrily? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31217852)

Couldn't they have been carried off by a storm? After all, if these were bears or lions and not humans, nobody would be mentioning their seafaring capabilities.

Re:Not Necasrily? (3, Interesting)

aralin (107264) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216886)

Crete is 200 miles from coast now. How high was middeterean see during the ice age and have there been islands in between? Maybe they did not travel 200 miles but much lower distance.

Re:Not Necasrily? (4, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216940)

The Mediterranean Sea has an average depth of 1500 meters. It is possible that parts of the sea body were shallow enough to have exposed a few islands although it would seem that a great deal of it would still be very very deep and likely rather difficult to traverse without some sort of raft/boat technology.

Humans are pretty damn clever... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31216796)

...and pretty much have always been.

Humans didn't evolve genetically to this modern technological state, the cleverness has always been inherent.

Re:Humans are pretty damn clever... (4, Insightful)

Jeffk67 (78579) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217248)

True. Ancient people were just as intelligent as we are. The only reason this is not more evident is because time has erased the remains of their material culture. It would be more surprising if no one thought of make a raft or boat for tens of thousands of years.

Re:Humans are pretty damn clever... (4, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217662)

It would be more surprising if no one thought of make a raft or boat for tens of thousands of years.

It's more than that. If they had boats, they had to have some way to navigate and something resembling charts or maps. You don't just launch a raft and hope to get somewhere. Aiming for an island, even a big island, if you're off by a couple degrees you could miss by a hundred miles.

If this discovery holds up, it's going to overturn a lot of what we think we know about human history. Getting around by sea is more than a hairy frat party on a raft. The ocean is rather effective at eliminating the unprepared and unwary. It means packing tools to make repairs at sea, carrying food and water and something to bail out the boat. Doesn't sound like much until you try it with the technology they had. Then come the questions about what compelled them to make a dangerous journey like that in the first place?

Re:Humans are pretty damn clever... (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217770)

From practical esperience, a raft can easily be constructed that will sail at 2MPH, but wont quite steer as well as intended.

Given that a sailing boat is powered 24 yours a day, we are talking a 4 days journey, not necessarily to the intended destination. No great achievement.

Lets say some scum are after you and your family, so you got on your fishing raft to sail up the coast a few miles, and accidentally lost your steering contrivance. 4 days later, you are in Crete, with your wife and kids, and possibkly an in-law or two, or the daughter's boyfriend - anyway, enough to start a new family if you are not too fussy about incest. Or manybe Fidel Castro's ancestors were after you and a whole load of you set off over a period of months.

Either way, 4 days at sea is not a very tough journey in the Med, its not like 4 days in the North Atlantic in Winter. I have spent several days at see in a small sailing boat in the North Sea, and not eaten tinned food for the whole trip! Its not that tough! The worst bit was having to have cheap instant coffee instead of the real stuff! (And an incident where I washed my hair with Fairy Liquid and tried to rince it off with sea water!)

Re:Humans are pretty damn clever... (5, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31218222)

Aiming for an island, even a big island, if you're off by a couple degrees you could miss by a hundred miles.

In order to miss by a hundred miles with a couple of degree course error, your trip has to be about 3000 miles long, rather than 200. To miss Crete from North Africa would require a sustained course error of about 30 degrees.

In addition, let's not forget the basic navigational techniques of the Polynesians (another Stone Age people who sailed great distances routinely).

The flights of birds can give you clues to the location of land from dozens to hundreds of miles away - some birds fly over water but sleep only on land - if they're flying in a particular direction late in the day, that's a pretty solid hint of land in that direction.

Wave patterns can also show you hints as to the directions of land too far away to see, but plenty close enough to reach.

Plus there's those mountains. Crete's highest peak is visible from about 100 nm. Makes it a lot easier to find when you can see it after you've completed half your voyage.

And finally, consider that there is a chain of islands from Turkey to Crete (as well as an alternate chain from Greece - and Crete's mountain peaks are barely visible from Greece) - if that chain were followed (as by successive waves of migration), the path would be from one island to the next visible island repeated till you hit Crete.

They're just rocks. (0, Offtopic)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216800)

Those look like rocks to me, not "stone tools".

Re:They're just rocks. (4, Informative)

Zedrick (764028) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216842)

Okay. So you don't have any archaeological training and you haven't studied them under a microscope to verify that they were indeed used as tools (this can be determined by examining the amount and direction of ... uhm, microscopic marks. Don't know what it's called in English).

But just because you don't know anything about a subject doesn't mean you have to have opinions about it.

Re:They're just rocks. (3, Insightful)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216922)

But just because you don't know anything about a subject doesn't mean you have to have opinions about it.

I know there's a joke in here somewhere that includes the words "Uh dude," and "Slashdot," but I can't quite make it out.

Re:They're just rocks. (2, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216934)

But just because you don't know anything about a subject doesn't mean you have to have opinions about it.

You can thank sound bites and modern politics for that.

Re:They're just rocks. (3, Informative)

martas (1439879) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217394)

striations?

Re:They're just rocks. (5, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216844)

I knew someone was going to say that.

Many primitive stone tools look like plain rocks at first glance, but there are distinctive chip and wear patterns on tools that just don't occur by chance. An expert will be able to tell you very quickly if you're dealing with an actual tool or just a rock that's assumed a suggestive shape.

Re:They're just rocks. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31216862)

An expert will be able to tell you very quickly if you're dealing with an actual tool

Seriously. You're just asking for a smartass remark.

Re:They're just rocks. (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217402)

i was going to make the same note, only about the "suggestive shape" part...

Re:They're just rocks. (1)

Shin-LaC (1333529) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217704)

What if it is a stone with a suggestive shape, but was actually made that way by someone? People used to make a lot of those [google.com] ...

Re:They're just rocks. (2, Interesting)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217000)

Most of the primitive tools here at Slashdot don't have any marks to indicate they had any kind of function at all. ;-)

Re:They're just rocks. (4, Interesting)

Arker (91948) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216880)

To the untrained eye that is all they would appear, sure. I dont think the troll moderation was entirely fair - I would bet that a lot of readers looked at the photo at the top of that page and thought the same thing.

But, look for instance at the second piece from the right at the top of the story. Look at the top-left edge. See those repeated scallops that define the edge? That is not a naturally occuring stone, that is a hand-axe or "chopper" which has been intelligently worked and shaped for a purpose.

The article is pretty crappy though (as is expected with "science reporting" unfortunately.) The commentary regarding early human sea-crossing capabilities is a bit... well... warped. Even though there is a throwaway mention of non-modern humans it is given no context and the rest of the text appears quite ignorant of it. The fourth paragraph is one big facepalm. It implies several times that this find somehow indicates a 200-mile crossing from Africa, when it does nothing of the sort. Given the loose dating (prior to 130kya by geological strata) it would seem quite likely that the ancient population who made these tools crossed at or near a glacial maximum, when sea levels were much lower than today, making for much less open sea even if they did come directly from the African coast. And, at least from what I can see, there is no reason whatsoever to think they came from that direction anyway. More likely they came in over much shorter distances from the north, at a time when sea levels were low and the voyage would have been very short. If the dating comes in as early as some of the quotes indicate, this could even have been at the same time that the hippopotamus made the same journey.

Re:They're just rocks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31216952)

To the untrained eye that is all they would appear, sure. I dont think the troll moderation was entirely fair - I would bet that a lot of readers looked at the photo at the top of that page and thought the same thing.

The poster would have known better had he made even the slighest effort to investigate the subject before speaking about it. That is not sincere inquiry or useful discussion, so it's a troll even if unintended. You could say that the trolling effect is manifested in all of the follow-up posts that were made to correct him.

Sometimes the mods are trigger-happy but this isn't one of those times.

Re:They're just rocks. (1)

germ!nation (764234) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217018)

See those repeated scallops that define the edge? That is not a naturally occuring stone.

I always take issue with statements like this. Given enough time and situations there is a probability of 1 of stones with that shape occurring and human brains (and cognitive bias) are fantastic at reading into things that aren't there. I grant you it may well just be shorthand by specialists in the field when talking in general public though.

Which is not to say these aren't the real deal.

Re:They're just rocks. (5, Informative)

Arker (91948) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217182)

Sure, if you can smuggle the mathematical concept of infinity in you can always get absurd results. :)

But in reality these are indeed as you say 'the real deal' - stones dont knapp themselves. If you ever get a chance to see how things things were made up close you will understand why. It's quite a fascinating - and painstaking - craft.

I'm still thinking the article is melodramatic fluff though. It's not at all surprising to see these things on Crete with such a date. We know archaic homonids made them, we know they spread out all along the coastlines 'beachcombing' just as our own ancestors did a little later. And island-hopping to Crete during a glacial maximum should have been well within their capabilities - other large mammals were doing it too, the hippos I already mentioned, elephants, even deer made that crossing at various points.

Re:They're just rocks. (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217410)

Sure, if you can smuggle the mathematical concept of infinity in you can always get absurd results. :)

      There's no need. I always carry a zero with me. (Eyes glaze over) "Stay away! I have a zero and I'm not afraid to use it!"

Re:They're just rocks. (1)

Demonoid-Penguin (1669014) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217422)

See those repeated scallops that define the edge? That is not a naturally occuring stone.

I always take issue with statements like this. Given enough time and situations there is a probability of 1 of stones with that shape occurring and human brains (and cognitive bias) are fantastic at reading into things that aren't there. I grant you it may well just be shorthand by specialists in the field when talking in general public though.

Which is not to say these aren't the real deal.

Gee thanks for the meta-dialetic FUD. So enlightening. Follow that logic and the (impossible) infinite number of monkeys will, eventually, produce the entire works of Shakespeare...

Now I need another beer ;-p

Re:They're just rocks. (1)

Eskarel (565631) | more than 4 years ago | (#31218184)

According to TFA(or at least one of the many I've read on this subject so far), the tools are of a style used by pre-humans 700,000 years or so ago. They're not saying that these tools are necessarily that old, or that they're made by pre-humans, just that the tools are of that style. It's a bit like finding a katana in a rubbish tip in New Jersey. You can't say that it was made by someone who was Japanese, but you can say that it might have been. The discovery is very new, and they'll find out more in due time.

As to the rest of it, what does it matter whether they came from Greece or from Africa. They think based on the evidence(the style of the tools, the known populations at that time) that it's more likely Africa, but it doesn't really matter.

Two thousand tools is a hell of a lot, you're talking about a large number of individuals even if they weren't all there simultaneously. That means at the very least a community of some description, and likely a fairly large one for that kind of time period. To get a population that large you'd have to get there, likely on purpose. Yes 20 miles is a lot less impressive than 200, but it's still sea travel. It's still taking enough people to build a population 20 miles over the sea. To get from mainland Greece they'd have to do it several times. Even under those circumstances it's a hell of a lot more than we thought people at that time were capable of.

Phil Wiper (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31216822)

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Interesting Article But... (4, Informative)

carp3_noct3m (1185697) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216832)

Although they state that the tools have been dated to be around 230-190k years ago, but that tools could have been made far prior to that, giving a possible estimate of the tools being up to 700k years old. Despite this, they never really say why this changes their view on sea-faring of ancient times. Currently the north shore of Africa is about 200 miles from crete, but what they seem to have failed to take into account (or at least mention in the article) is that in ancient times sea levels were much much lower. This is estimated to be due to deglacification around 7k years ago. The National Institute of Oceanography states that in studies the sea level of India's coast were about 100m lower about 14k years ago, so extrapolating (a dangerous game I know =) we could say it may be possible that at some point the voyage to Crete was either walkable, or a very short sea voyage. It should also be noted that the technology is of the Acheulean type. Regardless it is still a fascinating discovery, and it never ceases to amaze me at how much we underestimate our ancestors, until we slowly find things that we never thought possible before, for example the Antikythera mechanism. Who knows what we'll find out tomorrow.

Re:Interesting Article But... (0, Redundant)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216892)

The only post I see mentioning a change in sea levels was posted AFTER the parent... why is this redundant?

Re:Interesting Article But... (0, Offtopic)

carp3_noct3m (1185697) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216906)

Totally offtopic note: I have been to crete and it is one of my favorite places in the world. There is something about visiting the place where Zeus supposedly came into being is quite cool.

Re:Interesting Article But... (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217040)

Totally offtopic note: I have been to crete and it is one of my favorite places in the world.

I used to feel the same, but a lot of it has been sadly MacDonaldised to the point of trashiness. I first visited the place in '79, before the tourist industry had had a chance to tighten its grip, and it was sublime in its authenticity. I can't really say the same now...

Re:Interesting Article But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31217212)

Yes, I went there in '78 before It became completely despoilt. I trashed it for later visitors, I left it covered in Lime.

Re:Interesting Article But... (5, Insightful)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217462)

McDonald's signs are how Man in four thousand years will discover that the whole world was once globally connected.

There will be debates as the signs are uncovered about whether they could have been formed naturally, but - in the end - it will demonstrate the global society we have today.

Re:Interesting Article But... (4, Funny)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216976)

The National Institute of Oceanography states that in studies the sea level of India's coast were about 100m lower about 14k years ago, so extrapolating (a dangerous game I know =) we could say it may be possible that at some point the voyage to Crete was either walkable, or a very short sea voyage.

So you're saying that the oceans didn't even exist 1,529,360 years ago!? I know, snarky, but I couldn't resist. Hey, you said it was a dangerous game!

Re:Interesting Article But... (2, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217138)

Will Durant said, "Civilization is always older than we think. Beneath our feet were also people who lived and loved." Indeed, it never is a good idea to think that we've found everything. Not even close (which is what still gives me hope for FTL travel lol).

Re:Interesting Article But... (3, Informative)

Sique (173459) | more than 4 years ago | (#31218210)

Currently the north shore of Africa is about 200 miles from crete, but what they seem to have failed to take into account (or at least mention in the article) is that in ancient times sea levels were much much lower.

They did. Because the Mediterrean is very deep (average ~1500 metres), especially in the southern part, lowering the shore line doesn't do very much to the distance.

Maybe they walked to Crete (2, Interesting)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216850)

From TFA:

Crete has been an island for more than five million years, meaning that the toolmakers must have arrived by boat. So this seems to push the history of Mediterranean voyaging back more than 100,000 years, specialists in Stone Age archaeology say.

There have been some pretty severe ice ages within the last million years when the sea levels were very low. For instance Japan used to be connected to Korea (and the Sea of Japan was a lake) only 18,000 years ago. Crete was probably really close to Greece back then too, maybe even connected.

Re:Maybe they walked to Crete (4, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216916)

You highlight the quote - "Crete has been an island for more than five million years"

What part of the quote are you and the GP failing to understand? Why do you both seem to be under the delusion that archeoligists have never heard of ice age migration when archeology was the discipline that discovered it?

Re:Maybe they walked to Crete (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216956)

Getting to an island that is now ~500 km off shore is understandably hard for the GP to imagine being anything other than daunting if not nearly impossible for hominids living at that time. The GP and GGP are just looking for an explanation that makes it easier for such an ancient journey(s) to have taken place. TFA doesn't explicitly cover this but considering that the average depth of the Mediterranean Sea is ~1500 meters I would imagine that islands would be rather rare even during periods of glaciation.

Re:Maybe they walked to Crete (3, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217180)

Getting to an island that is now ~500 km off shore

Where do you get that number from? Other people are mentioning 200 miles which is also wrong. According to Wikipedia, Crete is only 100 miles (160km) from mainland Greece and looking at the map there are several small islands in between so each single journey by sea might only involve 30 miles or so. If the sea level was lower it is quite likely that there would be more islands sticking out, and if the surface was frozen in the winter, then there is your problem solved without any seafaring technology.

Re:Maybe they walked to Crete (2, Insightful)

gujo-odori (473191) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217282)

I'll leave it someone less lazy than I to check if there was an ice age around the time they think the tools were made.

If we assume for the moment that there wasn't, and further assume that there are no islands in between Crete and Greece, I still could be convinced that ancient humans might have made such a voyage. After all, Pacific islanders have been known to make long sea journeys in outrigger canoes without navigational tools. Plus, as TFA states, the human migration to Australia started about 60K years ago, and you can bet nobody walked there.

Re:Maybe they walked to Crete (3, Informative)

TempeTerra (83076) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217438)

The original humans reached Australia when the sea levels were significantly lower, and while you're right that you couldn't just walk it, there may have only been a single crossing of ~90km between southeast asia and the Australia-ish landmass. Wiki [wikipedia.org]

Re:Maybe they walked to Crete (1)

Demonoid-Penguin (1669014) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217454)

I'll leave it someone less lazy than I to check if there was an ice age around the time they think the tools were made.

If we assume for the moment that there wasn't, and further assume that there are no islands in between Crete and Greece, I still could be convinced that ancient humans might have made such a voyage. After all, Pacific islanders have been known to make long sea journeys in outrigger canoes without navigational tools. Plus, as TFA states, the human migration to Australia started about 60K years ago,

and you can bet nobody walked there.

I'll take that bet - on not being able to walk into Gondwanna land >40000 years ago.

Re:Maybe they walked to Crete (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217306)

and if the surface was frozen in the winter, then there is your problem solved without any seafaring technology.

Even during an ice age I doubt the Mediterranean ever came anywhere near freezing. But I agree with your other points.

Re:Maybe they walked to Crete (1)

rhook (943951) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217736)

What does Crete being ~100 miles from mainland Greece have to do with it being 200 miles from Africa?

Bah. (2, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216868)

"Don't talk to me about humans' maritime history. It's nothing but primitive stone tools, sodomy, and the lash."

Re:Bah. (1)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217124)

... primitive stone tools, sodomy, and the lash.

But, how do the stone tools fit into the, um, picture? (No no, please don't imagine it.)

Re:Bah. (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217926)

But, how do the stone tools fit into the, um, picture? (No no, please don't imagine it.)

No imagination required [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Bah. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217722)

So it's true. Whatever human ever did, he did it for the one big reason...

The article assumes too much. (2, Insightful)

voodoo cheesecake (1071228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216884)

I'm not so sure the find is suggestive of "maritime capabilities". To prove such a statement, you would have to prove evidence of navigation. Even if it were only celestial navigation, stronger evidence would be to find more than one such remote site with similar styles of survival technology. From the article: More than 2,000 stone artifacts, including the hand axes, were collected on the southwestern shore of Crete, near the town of Plakias. The question, at least for now, should be whether or not they went back.

Re:The article assumes too much. (3, Insightful)

Demonoid-Penguin (1669014) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217444)

I'm not so sure the find is suggestive of "maritime capabilities". To prove such a statement, you would have to prove evidence of navigation. Even if it were only celestial navigation, stronger evidence would be to find more than one such remote site with similar styles of survival technology. From the article: More than 2,000 stone artifacts, including the hand axes, were collected on the southwestern shore of Crete, near the town of Plakias. The question, at least for now, should be whether or not they went back.

Try looking up Kon Tiki, and Maori chants as navigation.

Re:The article assumes too much. (1)

voodoo cheesecake (1071228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217474)

Thanks for the suggestions. I haven't bumped into the Maori chants yet, but I love the movie Whale Rider! Anyway, here's a book I read last year when I was putting around in Bristol Bay with a lunatic for a skipper. http://www.stevethomashome.com/navigator.html [stevethomashome.com] Enjoy!

Re:The article assumes too much. (1)

Demonoid-Penguin (1669014) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217754)

Thanks for the suggestions.

No problem - Kon-Tiki [wikipedia.org] was a journey of more than 4000km on a raft, the journey has been duplicated since.

I haven't bumped into the Maori chants yet,

Try for a start... [wikipedia.org]

but I love the movie Whale Rider!

Haven't seen it, or Lord of the Rings ;-p

They are both fantasy movies

Anyway, here's a book I read last year when I was putting around in Bristol Bay with a lunatic for a skipper. http://www.stevethomashome.com/navigator.html [stevethomashome.com] Enjoy!

(Was) an interesting read - though a little, um, simplistic. From memory he only covered celestial navigation - which is used to determine which songs/chants are required to go to a certain destination by a path largely determined by the prevailing winds and currents.

Re:The article assumes too much. (1)

s_p_oneil (795792) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217724)

Ever watch a documentary on how the Hawaiian islands were found by Polynesians with no instruments, and before they learned how to write and do any kind of math? The could find islands that were hundreds of miles away by watching for certain cloud patterns in the sky. Compared to that, even sailors who were completely brain dead could find land sailing around in the Mediterranean. I mean, any direction you go from any point, and you'll find land.

it's my beach party (1, Interesting)

networkzombie (921324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216894)

These are quartzite. The three types of stone that can be cleaved to make tools are quartzite, obsidian and flint. Quartzite is the worst of the three because it doesn't cleave well. If these hominids were "going to sea" you would think they could trade up for flint or obsidian. I'd guess that stone-age teenagers used the area for beach barbeques (the stoned-age). A few thousand tools simply mean a well used party spot. Turning a few old tools into a theory that humans were sea travelers a hundred thousand years before previously thought is a stretch.

Re:it's my beach party (1)

thelonious (233200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216986)

Possibly. You may be weighing in relatively short distance sea travel as being more complex than the actuality.

Re:it's my beach party (4, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217022)

"Turning a few old tools into a theory that humans were sea travelers a hundred thousand years before previously thought is a stretch."

The article states Crete has been an island for five millions years. It also states that previously the earliest known sea crossings were 60Kya.

How did the tools get there without some species of hominoid crossing the water? 200 miles is a long way to swim, so how did the hominoids cross the water? What makes you think they brought the tools with them? How do you know that quartz is not the only suitable tool making rock found on Crete?

Nobody is suggesting they deliberately navigated to Crete but it's not a streach to think they were "going to sea" in some sort of raft/boat that was used for near shore spear fishing. Nor is it a streach to think a some of them were swept away to sea by currents/storms and ended up accidently colonising Crete.

Science is about the best available explaination that fits the evidence, do you have a better explaination of how hominoids got to Crete other than the one that says they arrived by some sort of prehistoric boat/raft?

Re:it's my beach party (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217134)

Nobody is suggesting they deliberately navigated to Crete

Maybe not but islands make their presence known by affecting the atmosphere (clouds form above them) and by providing a home to sea birds (where did that bird come from? There must be land that way). Also Crete has tall mountains (about 2100 metres high) so it could be seen from fifty kilometres away or so, assuming good atmospheric conditions.

Another thing is that while we don't know what species left these tools, there were many modern humans around. These people were as smart as us and may have known a lot more about the world than we give them credit for.

Re:it's my beach party (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217498)

"These people were as smart as us and may have known a lot more about the world than we give them credit for."

Agreed, finding evidence they had boats/rafts is giving them more credit than they were previously afforded. The problem with the diliberate navigation idea is there is currently no evidence to support it. Until such evidence is found the idea can only be considered speculation at best.

Ignorance of technologoy does not imply they were stupid. Modern humans are much less ignorant about technology but most would starve to death if they had to track and kill an antelope [youtube.com] with nothing more than carefull observation and a sharp stick.

Re:it's my beach party (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217594)

If these hominids were "going to sea" you would think they could trade up for flint or obsidian

Actually, I'd expect the opposite. You don't embark on a potentially fatal sea crossing if you're one of the successful hunter gatherers back home. I'd imagine that the ones building the raft were the outcasts from the tribe, who were lucky to have any tools at all.

Re:it's my beach party (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217798)

I'd imagine that the ones building the raft were the outcasts from the tribe, who were lucky to have any tools at all.

Posting on /. and you have not realised its the nerds that are the outcasts?

You must be new here.

Re:it's my beach party (1)

Eskarel (565631) | more than 4 years ago | (#31218202)

That's only actually a fairly recent phenomena. Even the ancient Greeks who were more about the physical body and manliness than most respected their blacksmiths. They sure as hell didn't like them, they stank for one, but the guy who can make your shiny new weapon which is better than your old weapon is someone you have to pay attention to.

Not so far from Greece (3, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216926)

Its pretty easy to island hop from mainland Greece to Crete. You would be looking at 20km at a stretch. Thats very easy in a modern sea kayak. Even if proper hulls were beyond them they could build a sailing raft. There was more wood around in those days.

Re:Not so far from Greece (1)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217296)

Its pretty easy to island hop from mainland Greece to Crete. You would be looking at 20km at a stretch.

A fair point, which deserves an answer. The reason they're not thinking that is, probably, that there has as yet been no evidence that there were humans in mainland Greece anything like that early. The earliest known sign of human habitation in Europe is only ca. 40k years old [wikipedia.org] .

Humans in Africa, however ...

Re:Not so far from Greece (2, Interesting)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217388)

The reason they're not thinking that is, probably, that there has as yet been no evidence that there were humans in mainland Greece anything like that early. The earliest known sign of human habitation in Europe is only ca. 40k years old.

      There's too much speculation. "No evidence of human habitation" doesn't mean there absolutely were no humans, only that we haven't found settlements. I for one would be much more comfortable with an undiscovered Greek sea-faring civilization engaging in island-hopping trade among islands within sight of each other than a mysterious African tribe that suddenly invented the boat to colonize the island they had somehow heard about "over the horizon". Occam's razor, and all that. Obviously if a single discovery can completely "revolutionize" archaeological thought like this, then the "facts" and "evidence" are fairly shaky at best and I wouldn't back a claim that "Greece was uninhabited" is set in stone.

Re:Not so far from Greece (5, Insightful)

whatajoke (1625715) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217434)

an undiscovered Greek sea-faring civilization engaging in island-hopping trade among islands within sight of each other than a mysterious African tribe that suddenly invented the boat to colonize the island
Still not comfortable with our African ancestry I see.

Re:Not so far from Greece (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31217542)

no. he's just really fond of boats

Re:Not so far from Greece (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31217882)

Then there's the saying, The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.

I just wanted to use that saying because I like it, and this post seemed the closet to where it would apply.

Re:Not so far from Greece (1)

Eskarel (565631) | more than 4 years ago | (#31218216)

And to the best of my knowledge, a modern sea kayak would have been substantially beyond what it was believed humans were capable of over 100 thousand years ago. I can drive from one side of the country to the other in a car in just a few days. Even a few hundred years ago, that trip would have been considered almost impossible.

Could ancient humans do the backstroke? (1, Funny)

HouseOfMisterE (659953) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216946)

Maybe they were just very good swimmers?

Oh Those Crazy Cretans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31216948)

Just when you think you've figured them out.

it's a riddle (0, Offtopic)

thelonious (233200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31216978)

What's long, hard and full of seamen? Stone tools, of course!

Whaddaya know? It's true. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31217026)

It's so easy, a seaman could do it.

Atlantis (0, Offtopic)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217106)

Did any of them discover a moonstone [wikipedia.org] ?

Nur-Ab-Sal! Nur-Ab-Sal!

I read a lot (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31217252)

You know I read a lot. Especially things that have to do with history. I find that shit fascinating. In fact, I don't know if you know this or not, Greeks were spawned by niggers.

It's a fact. Greeks have nigger blood pumpin' through their hearts. If you don't believe me, look it up. You see, hundreds and hundreds of years ago the Turks conquered Greece. And Turks are niggers. Way back then, Greeks were like the wops in Bulgaria. Blond hair, blue eyes. But, once the Turks moved in there, they changed the whole country. They did so much fuckin' with the Greek women, they changed the blood-line for ever, from blond hair and blue eyes to black hair and dark skin. I find it absolutely amazing to think that to this day, hundreds of years later, Greeks still carry that nigger gene. I'm just quotin' history. It's a fact. It's written. Your ancestors were niggers. Your great, great, great, great, great- grandmother was fucked by a nigger, and had a half-nigger kid. That is a fact. Now tell me, am I lyin'?

Re:I read a lot (3, Funny)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217606)

In fact, I don't know if you know this or not, Greeks were spawned by niggers

Really? That's absolutely fascinating. I had previously assumed that, unlike all of the other humans on the Earth whose ancestors came from Africa, the Greek civilisation had sprung full-formed from the head of Zeus. Thank you for correcting my belief.

they WALKED (not on water) (-1)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217358)

130,000 years ago the Mediterranean basin was dry.

It only refilled after the sea levels rose as the last Ice Age maximum melted off and restored some water to the oceans. Best evidence is that was within the last 20000 years.

Re:they WALKED (not on water) (2, Informative)

voidphoenix (710468) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217440)

Try 5.33Mya [wikipedia.org] .

Re:they WALKED (not on water) (3, Informative)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217472)

No, you are thinking of the black sea. The mediteranean is 5 million years old.

Re:they WALKED (not on water) (4, Informative)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217486)

The Med has not been a dry basin for millions of years. You could have learned that if you'd RTFA or just did a little basic homework before spouting off a totally false statement like that.

Re:they WALKED (not on water) (1)

wish bot (265150) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217492)

You need to read less science fiction.

Africanswallows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31217572)

299 miles is not far for a swallow to fly, even if its not migrating.

Were there coconuts too?

How about a simpler explanation? (0)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217758)

So we found stone tools. Can we actually carbon date stone or how did we end up with the explanation that these things have to be 120k years old? By the logic that human created stone tools back then?

Well, I can make stone tools. Sure, it might take a while to get it right, but there's plenty of material lying around. So gimme a few weeks/months and presto, 120k year old stone tools.

Now why would I do such a thing? Well, what would I do if there was nothing else around that I could make tools out of? Imagine this: A group of sailors stranding on a far away island after a horrible storm that pushed them away from their usual routes. They have no idea where they are and have no idea where they could go, and the island is able to supply them, so... why bother going into the perils of the sea again? Only problem: No copper, no iron, no nothing to make tools out of.

I guess you can imagine the rest.

Re:How about a simpler explanation? (2, Informative)

joelsanda (619660) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217866)

In addition to carbon data there are other strata around things dug up that give an indication to its relative age. Another indication of a tool's age is mentioned in the article's fourth paragraph: style of manufacturer.

Since those folks didn't leave readme files or cookbooks around, everything was taught by learning how the person a little older than you did things. For that reason there's a remarkable amount of consistency in materials and manufacturer, given how difficult making stone tools with stone tools can be. The tools they used were fashioned to provide enough direct force at an angle of impact to provide the right fracture on the right material so a chip would flake off. For example, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clovis_culture [wikipedia.org] .

It was so difficult to make those tools stone age peoples in Colorado, USA would carry them over the Continental Divide west of the Denver area to the present day Denver area when hunting. A cache of them were found recently in a private yard where some landscaping work was done. Their protected condition and careful placement suggested the original people may have stashed a set here for a return hunting trip or similar.

These tools are very hard to make. Given a few months of time people today would do nothing but learn how to live with two fingers instead of ten. When I was an anthropology student I not only the chance to see these tools up close but watch a demonstration of someone making them. And that was rock on obsidian for arrow heads and knives.

Sorry .... those were mine ... (1)

joelsanda (619660) | more than 4 years ago | (#31217822)

left behind when some friends and I were camping. You can keep them.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31218180)

I'm pretty sure some of the Galactica people landed around there.

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