The only thing that troubles me about the interpretation of this story is the idea that the Paleolithic settlers of Crete may have come from Africa. Pretty soon we'll be enganging in Heyerdahl-esque hypotheses about ocean-crossing Paleolithic man. A more parsionious hypothesis would have the settlers reach Crete from the Aegean, from either Europe or Asia.
The data would, however, have implications about other prehistoric migrations. It has often been postulated that sea voyages in other parts of the world (e.g., to Australia) would not have been possible at particular periods when the distance was "too large" for the hypothesized cognitive abilities of early man. If true, the Cretan findings would make plausible many other sea voyages.
Cretan Tools Point To 130,000-Year-Old Sea Travel
Archaeologists on the island of Crete have discovered what may be evidence of one of the world's first sea voyages by human ancestors, the Greek Culture Ministry said Monday. A ministry statement said experts from Greece and the U.S. have found rough axes and other tools thought to be between 130,000 and 700,000 years old close to shelters on the island's south coast.
Crete has been separated from the mainland for about five million years, so whoever made the tools must have traveled there by sea (a distance of at least 40 miles). That would upset the current view that human ancestors migrated to Europe from Africa by land alone.
"The results of the survey not only provide evidence of sea voyages in the Mediterranean tens of thousands of years earlier than we were aware of so far, but also change our understanding of early hominids' cognitive abilities," the ministry statement said.
"Up to now we had no proof of Early Stone Age presence on Crete," said senior ministry archaeologist Maria Vlazaki, who was not involved in the survey. She said it was unclear where the hominids had sailed from, or whether the settlements were permanent.
"They may have come from Africa or from the east," she said. "Future study should help."