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Scientists found out when the first people inhabited the territory of Ukraine: it may change the history of Europe

Dmytro IvancheskulNews
Ancient people most likely began colonizing Europe from Ukraine

The first humans appeared on the territory of modern Europe about 1.4 million years ago when they settled in what is now Ukraine during the interglacial period. The site of ancient hominins was discovered in the 1970s by Ukrainian archaeologist Vladyslav Hladylin, but it was only now that the tools found there have been reliably dated.

This is stated in a study conducted by a group of experts from the Czech Academy of Sciences and Aarhus University. The work was published in the journal Nature.

According to John Jensen, a senior researcher at the Institute of Geophysics at the Czech Academy of Sciences, the researchers studied a layer of stone tools that remained at the bottom of the Tisza River after the ancient people had been there.

These tools were first discovered by workers of a stone quarry near the village of Korolevo in the Zakarpattia region, and later traces of prehistoric people's presence at this site were discovered in 1974 by Hladylin.

At that time, scientists tried to determine the age of the found tools. However, it proved to be a difficult task. It could be said for sure that the deepest tools found preceded the last change in the Earth's magnetic field, which occurred 800 thousand years ago. It was impossible to establish it more precisely since the radiocarbon method is suitable for things that are 50 thousand years old, and the luminescent method is limited to 300 thousand years.

In the new work, the scientists used an innovative dating method using cosmogenic nuclides that can be as old as 5 million years. This method has previously allowed scientists to date the age of finds such as the 3.4 million-year-old Australopithecus in Sterkfontein in southern Africa and the 0.77 million-year-old Zhoukoudian Homo erectus, also known as "Peking Man."

The method involves measuring radioactive nuclides that are formed in rock minerals and soils as a result of secondary cosmic rays falling to Earth, which are formed when primary cosmic rays from exploding stars pass through the planet's atmosphere.

"By applying this approach to the sediment layer containing the stone tools at Korolevo, we were able to calculate a burial age of 1.5 to 1.3 million years (1 sigma uncertainty range), making it the oldest reliably dated human site in Europe," Jensen said.

Unfortunately, apart from the tools, the scientists were unable to find any fossils of the people who lived there. However, they have theories about who they might have been.

According to Jensen, the tools found are too old and primitive to be the work of Homo sapiens or Neanderthals. Scientists speculate that it was probably a species of Homo erectus that appeared about 2 million years ago and spread to different habitats in Africa, Asia and Europe.

On its way from Africa to Eurasia, this species passed through the Levant region (the territory of modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus). Traces of their presence were found there as early as 2.5 million years ago. Then they crossed the Caucasus Mountains (1.8 million years ago) and moved eastward to the territory of modern Ukraine and Europe.

Earlier, there was a clear gap between the presence of humans 1.8 million years ago in the Caucasus and their appearance in southwestern Europe between 1.2-1.1 million years ago in the history of European colonization. Thus, the site of ancient people in Korolevo closes this gap.

According to scientists, Korolevo is also the northernmost known site of Homo erectus. The burial site is about 1.4 million years old and corresponds to three interglacial periods, "which were among the warmest in the last few million years."

"We assume that humans took advantage of these warm periods to move to higher latitudes," Jensen explained.

According to him, this discovery in Ukraine adds "a new and unexpected layer to the history of Europe".

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