First Humans Appeared In Europe 1.4 Million Years Ago – Stone Tools Found At Korolevo Reveal


Jan Bartek –  Ancientpages.com – The question of when the genus Homo first migrated from Africa to Europe has been a subject of ongoing research. Previously, it was believed that the earliest human settlements in Europe were in Atapuerca, Spain, and Vallonnet, France, dating back to 1.2–1.1 million years ago.

First Humans Appeared In Europe 1.4 Million Years Ago - Stone Tools Found At Korolevo Reveal

The first hominins came to Europe from Africa via the Middle East. Sites with radiometrically securely dated evidence of the oldest human settlements in Europe include Atapuerca in Spain (1.2–1.1 million years ago) and Vallonnet in southern France (1.2–1.1 million years ago). Now, even older evidence of human presence is provided by the finds at the Korolevo site in Ukraine (1.4 million years ago). Credit: The Czech Academy of Sciences (the CAS)

However, recent discoveries have suggested an earlier human presence on the European continent by approximately 200–300 thousand years. This evidence is based on stone tools unearthed at the archaeological site of Korolevo in present-day western Ukraine, which are believed to signify the earliest hominin settlement.

The Korolevo archaeological site in the Zakarpattia Oblast region of Ukraine is located near the Romanian and Hungarian borders and merely 150 kilometers away from Košice, Slovakia. Historically, this area was a part of former Czechoslovakia. Ukrainian archaeologists have spent decades examining this area and the site’s significance extends beyond national boundaries as it is considered an integral archaeological landmark within Europe.

Recent progress in mathematical modeling and the application of nuclear physics have made it possible to accurately determine Korolevo’s earliest occupation.

“The layer of accumulated loess and palaeosols here reaches a depth of up to 14 meters and contains thousands of stone tools. Korolevo was an important source of raw material for their production,” says Ukrainian archaeologist and co-author of the study Vitaly Usyk.

“Seven periods of human occupation are represented in the stratigraphic layers at the Korolevo site, and at least nine different Palaeolithic cultures have been recorded here: hominins lived here from the earliest times until about 30,000 years ago,” adds the Ukrainian researcher who, due to the war situation in his home country, is currently working at the Institute of Archaeology of the CAS in Brno.

First Humans Appeared In Europe 1.4 Million Years Ago - Stone Tools Found At Korolevo Reveal

The lithic artefacts and a clast of quartzite from the oldest loess and palaeosol sediment layer of the Korolevo site in Transcarpathia, Ukraine. Credit: The Czech Academy of Sciences (the CAS)

The scientists conducted a chemical analysis of the cobble-sized clast specimens obtained from the Korolevo site. Subsequently, these samples were subjected to an in-depth study using accelerator mass spectrometry at the esteemed Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf.

“At the Korolevo site, we specifically measured the concentrations of cosmogenic nuclides beryllium-10 and aluminium-26 which have different half-lives. These nuclides accumulate in the quartz grains when the rock is at the surface due to cosmogenic radiation from space, but they begin to decay when they become buried in the ground. The ratio of the two varies according to how long the clasts were buried beneath the ground surface. This allows us to calculate their age since burial,” Garba explains.

First Humans Appeared In Europe 1.4 Million Years Ago - Stone Tools Found At Korolevo Reveal

Stone tools from the Korolevo site. Credit: Nature, Vitaly Usyk. 

According to the research team, the recent study provides a revised perspective on the migration paths of the first Homo genus populations. It suggests that our earliest ancestor, Homo erectus, was the first hominin to depart Africa approximately two million years ago and migrate towards the Middle East, East Asia, and Europe.

See also: More Archaeology News

The radiometric dating of initial human existence at the Korolevo site serves to bridge a significant geographical gap between the Dmanisi site in Georgia and Atapuerca in Spain. Furthermore, it substantiates the theory that the primary wave of hominin dispersal into Europe originated from either east or southeast regions.

The study was published in the journal Nature

Written by Jan Bartek – AncientPages.com Staff Writer


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