Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SOUTHERN FRANCE FIND PUTS HUMANS IN EUROPE 200,000 YEARS EARLIER

Experts on prehistoric man are rethinking their dates after a find in a southern French valley that suggests our ancestors may have reached Europe 1.57 million years ago: 200,000 earlier than we thought.

What provoked the recount was a pile of fossilized bones and teeth uncovered 15 years ago by local man Jean Rouvier in a basalt quarry at Lezignan la Cebe, in the Herault valley, Languedoc.

In the summer of 2008, Rouvier mentioned his find to Jerome Ivorra, an archaeological researcher at France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).

The subsequent dig uncovered not just a large variety of ancient animal bones but, about 10 meters (yards) down and under the basalt layer, 20 or so tools, most of which bore traces of use.

The surprise came when argon dating showed the site went back 1.57 million years -- substantially older than many other prehistoric sites -- according to a paper published in the specialist journal, Comptes Rendus Palevol.

It is older, for example, than the Spanish site at Atapuerca, which dates back a mere 1.2 to 1.1 million years.

More digs were planned for 2010 to discover more about the site, the statement added.

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