Researchers from the University of Liverpool and Aberystwyth University have discovered the oldest wooden structure created by human ancestors.
Their groundbreaking find, published in the journal Nature, stems from excavations at the Kalambo Falls archaeological site in Zambia. It dates back at least 476,000 years, predating the emergence of our own species, Homo sapiens.
Expert examination of stone tool cut-marks on the wood indicates that these early hominids skillfully shaped and joined two substantial logs, likely laying the foundation for a platform or a segment of a dwelling.
Prior to this discovery, evidence of wood use by early humans was primarily associated with its role in fire-making, crafting digging sticks, and fashioning spears. Wood is rarely encountered at such ancient archaeological sites due to its susceptibility to rot and decay.
However, at Kalambo Falls, consistently high water levels have preserved the wood. This revelation challenges the conventional belief that Stone Age humans led nomadic lives.
Professor Larry Barham, leading the 'Deep Roots of Humanity' research project at the University of Liverpool, says: "This find has changed how I think about our early ancestors. Forget the label 'Stone Age,' look at what these people were doing: they made something new, and large, from wood. They used their intelligence, imagination, and skills to create something they'd never seen before, something that had never previously existed."
Situated on the Kalambo River, overlooking a 235-metre (772-foot) waterfall on the Zambia-Tanzania border, near Lake Tanganyika, the Kalambo Falls site is presently on UNESCO's 'tentative' list for World Heritage status due to its archaeological importance.
The team now hope their research will convince officials to confirm it on the prestigious list of World Heritage sites.