Discoveries at Kalambo Falls, Zambia offer insights into ancient human technology.
Recent research has revealed that nearly half a million years ago, ancient human ancestors, predating Homo sapiens, were already engaging in advanced woodworking.
The artifacts found indicate that these humans were building structures, potentially laying the foundation of platforms or parts of dwellings, much earlier than what was once believed.
The Evidence from Kalambo Falls
A team from the University of Liverpool and Aberystwyth University excavated preserved wood at Kalambo Falls, Zambia, dating back to an impressive 476,000 years. Analyzing the stone tool cut marks on the wood, the team deduced that these early humans intentionally shaped and combined two logs, showcasing the deliberate crafting of logs to fit together. Prior to this discovery, humans were believed to only utilize wood for simpler purposes such as creating fire, crafting digging sticks, and making spears.
The preservation of this wood is in itself remarkable. Typically, wood from such ancient times deteriorates and disappears. However, at Kalambo Falls, high water levels have protected and preserved these ancient wooden structures.
Challenging Past Beliefs
These findings cast doubt on the previously held belief that Stone Age humans were strictly nomadic. The abundance of resources in the vicinity of Kalambo Falls suggests that these ancient humans could have settled, tapping into the perennial water source and the surrounding forest for sustenance, allowing them to engage in construction.
Professor Larry Barham from the University of Liverpool articulated the significance of this discovery, stating, “They used their intelligence, imagination, and skills to create something they’d never seen before, something that had never previously existed.”
Advanced Dating Techniques
Dating these ancient artifacts was a challenge. Aberystwyth University utilized luminescence dating techniques, focusing on when the surrounding sand’s minerals were last exposed to sunlight. This method pushes the boundaries of dating techniques, giving insights deeper into human evolution than ever before.
Professor Geoff Duller highlighted the importance of this, mentioning that although Kalambo Falls had been excavated in the 1960s, the lack of advanced dating techniques at that time meant the site’s significance remained veiled.
Given its archaeological significance, Kalambo Falls is being considered for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. This research, as part of the pioneering ‘Deep Roots of Humanity’ project, seeks to understand the development of human technology during the Stone Age.
As Professor Barham concludes, “Kalambo Falls is an extraordinary site and a major heritage asset for Zambia. The Deep Roots team is looking forward to more exciting discoveries emerging from its waterlogged sands.”
Reference: “Evidence for the earliest structural use of wood at least 476,000 years ago” by L. Barham, G. A. T. Duller, I. Candy, C. Scott, C. R. Cartwright, J. R. Peterson, C. Kabukcu, M. S. Chapot, F. Melia, V. Rots, N. George, N. Taipale, P. Gethin and P. Nkombwe, 20 September 2023, Nature.