une extraordinaire découverte qui vient changer profondément l'idée qu'on se fait des connaissances technologiques des premiers habitants préhistoriques de l'Europe:
Two years ago a team of U.S. and Greek archaeologists were combing a gorge on the island of Crete in Greece, hoping to find tiny stone tools employed by seafaring people who had plied nearby waters some 11,000 years ago. Instead, in the midst of the search, Providence College archaeologist Thomas Strasser and his team came across a whopping surprise—a sturdy 5-inch-long (13-centimeter-long) hand ax. Knapped from a cobble of local quartz stone, the rough-looking tool resembled hand axes discovered in Africa and mainland Europe and used by human ancestors until about 175,000 years ago. This stone tool technology, which could have been useful for smashing bones and cutting flesh, had been relatively static for over a million years.
Crete has been surrounded by vast stretches of sea for some five million years. The discovery of the hand ax suggests that people besides technologically modern humans—possibly Homo heidelbergensis—island-hopped across the Mediterranean tens of thousands of millennia earlier than expected. Many researchers have hypothesized that the early humans of this time period were not capable of devising boats or navigating across open water. But the new discoveries hint that these human ancestors were capable of much more sophisticated behavior than their relatively simple stone tools would suggest.
"I was flabbergasted," said Boston University archaeologist and stone-tool expert Curtis Runnels. "The idea of finding tools from this very early time period on Crete was about as believable as finding an iPod in King Tut's tomb."
Even so, as researchers from the Directorate of Paleoanthropology and Speleology of South Greece and four U.S. universities combed the island, evidence of this unlikely journey kept mounting. The team found more than 30 hand axes, as well as other stone tools of similar vintage, embedded into geological deposits at nine different locations on the southwestern coast of Crete near the town of Plakias.