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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Separate bedrooms older than we thought

Researchers from Hebrew University have uncovered evidence of modern human cultural traits dated to 750,000 years ago.  That’s three times older than previously estimated.

Under the direction of Naama Goren-Inbar, the Gesher Benot Ya'aqov site in northern Israel was excavated.  Archeologists found not only extensive evidence of hearth and tool use, but also a division of living space into separate usage areas. That sort of compartmentalization is a hallmark of modern humans.

The two distinct areas that were uncovered include one that was primarily used for flint knapping and for processing fish, and a second that appears to have been put to more general usage.  A variety of stone tools were found in the second area, including hand axes, awls, scrapers and chopping tools, some of which had clearly been used for processing nuts. Wood fuel was also found in the second area.

The level of organization and communication required for this division of labor and space had previously only been dated to 250,000 years ago. The 750,000 year old layer excavated at Gesher Benot Ya'aqov pushes back the origin of that complex behavior by half a million years.