The discovery of the oldest wooden structure in Zambia is shaking up our knowledge of early humans

The work is at least 476,000 years old. This requires advanced technical skills, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal “Nature.”

This discovery changes our view of the first humans. Archaeologists have discovered the oldest wooden structure ever made by humans. This complex design requires advanced engineering skills, according to a study published Wednesday, Sept. 20, in the journal Nature . The exceptionally well-preserved piece was discovered at the prehistoric site of Kalambo Falls in present-day Zambia and dates back at least 476,000 years. This is long before the supposed appearance of our own species, Homo sapiens. In fact, modern man appeared about 300,000 years ago.

The discovered piece of wood consists of two interlocking trunks, connected by a transverse, deliberately created notch. It must have been used to build a structure, probably the foundation of a raised platform, passage, or habitat. A collection of wooden tools, including a digging stick, was also discovered at the site. Photos of the various elements are visible on the website. Nature.

The use of wood by man in such ancient times has already been proven, but for limited uses: making fire or sharpening sticks for hunting or gathering.

The previous oldest wooden structure is 9000 years old

The oldest known wooden structure is only 9,000 years old, said Larry Barham, a professor at Britain’s University of Liverpool and first author of the study. The archaeologist did not expect such a treasure during the excavations of the prehistoric site of Kalambo, located on the banks of the river of the same name, above the 235-meter high waterfalls. “It’s rare to find wood in such ancient places because it usually rots and disappears. But at Kalambo Falls, the consistently high water level has preserved it.”the authors explain in a press release.

The new pieces, discovered in 2019, revealed their age using luminescent dating of the deposits surrounding the objects. This method makes it possible to determine when they were last exposed to sunlight before burial, says co-author Professor Geoff Duller of the University of Aberystwyth in Wales.

Absorption capacity

Larry Barham confidesdiscovered “changed his vision” our first ancestors. “They used their intelligence to change their environment and make their lives easier, if only by creating a platform to sit on by the river.”the archaeologist deciphers.

The authors of this design succeeded in production “something they’ve never seen before” : unlike the size of the rod, easily observed and imitated, the creation of two pieces with respect to their assembly shows, according to him, the powers of abstraction. ” The fact that they were able to work with wood on a large scale implies cognitive abilities such as planning, visualizing the finished product before designing it, mentally moving objects in space.observes prehistorian Sophie Archambault de Beaune, professor of Jean Moulin Lyon 3 University, who did not participate in the work.

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