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Europe’s oldest stone hand axes emerge in Spain

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Trina Demario
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« on: September 03, 2009, 01:40:14 am »

Scott and Gibert’s “surprisingly old ages” for the Spanish hand axes bring the chronology of ancient Europe’s settlement in line with that of Asia, remarks archaeologist Wil Roebroeks of Leiden University in the Netherlands. Europe contains relatively few stone-tool sites from around 1 million years ago, making it difficult to reconstruct the timing of ancient population pulses into the continent, Roebroeks says.

Although new estimated ages for soil layers at the Spanish sites appear credible, the suggestion that hand axes there are by far the oldest in Europe “is extremely daring, to put it mildly,” comments archaeologist Robin Dennell of the University of Sheffield in England. In his view, the precise depth of the hand axes when they were unearthed several decades ago remains unclear. It’s possible that these finds actually came from soil layers that Scott and Gibert place at no more than 600,000 years old, Dennell says.

Scott and Gibert first identified the geological position of specific magnetic reversals in sediment at an ancient lakeshore near the Spanish sites. Dates for these reversals have already been established in previous studies. The researchers compared these magnetic shifts to those at the hand ax sites to date the tools.

These data provide minimum ages for the Spanish finds. “Older ages are possible but would be odd,” Gibert says.

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/46964/title/Europe%E2%80%99s_oldest_stone_hand_axes_emerge_in_Spain
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