Half a million years ago, humans were building structures made of wood, according to new research by the University of Liverpool and Aberystwyth University. The research, published in the journal Nature, reports on the excavation of well-preserved wood at the archaeological site of Kalambo Falls, Zambia. The wood is at least 476,000 years old and predates the evolution of Homo sapiens. Analysis of stone tool cut-marks on the wood shows that these early humans shaped and joined two large logs to make a structure, possibly a platform or part of a dwelling. This discovery challenges the belief that Stone Age humans were nomadic. At Kalambo Falls, these humans not only had a perennial source of water but also had enough food from the surrounding forest to settle and build structures.

The specialist dating of the finds at Kalambo Falls was carried out by experts at Aberystwyth University using new luminescence dating techniques. These techniques revealed the age of the finds by determining the last time minerals in the surrounding sand were exposed to sunlight. The site of Kalambo Falls is on a UNESCO tentative list to become a World Heritage site due to its archaeological significance. The research is part of the ‘Deep Roots of Humanity’ project, which investigates how human technology developed in the Stone Age and is funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council. The project involves teams from Zambia’s National Heritage Conservation Commission, Livingstone Museum, Moto Moto Museum, and the National Museum, Lusaka.

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