The oldest wooden building in the world has allegedly been discovered by archaeologists digging close to Zambia’s Kalambo Falls.
Scientists estimate that the structure, fashioned from the logs of a large-fruited willow tree, was purposely constructed some 476,000 years ago since it is embedded in clay and is further preserved by a high water table.
The well-preserved specimen was created before Homo sapiens appeared, which, according to scientists, indicates a much better level of cognitive ability than has hitherto been given to such early forebears.
Prior to the discovery in Zambia, the oldest wooden building that was known to exist was only 9,000 years old. A sliver of plank dating to 780,000 years ago was found in Israel and is the oldest wooden building ever found.
Find also proposes breaks in the wandering way of life.
An archaeologist from the University of Liverpool in the UK named Larry Barham told the AFP news agency that the structure had been stumbled upon in 2019 and was situated above a 235-meter-high (770-foot) waterfall on the banks of Zambia’s Kalambo River.
The discovery was described in a study by Barham that was published in the academic journal Nature.
“The structure could have supported a platform or walkway elevated above the often soggy surroundings. A platform might serve a variety of functions, such as serving as a foundation for a hut or as a place to store food, tools, and fuel, according to Barham.
Although we have generally thought of Stone Age people as being nomadic, Barham continued, “working with trees required great skill, the correct tools, and preparation. Additionally, the effort involved implies that the makers were remaining in the place for extended periods of time.
According to Barham, the use of wood in this manner “suggests the cognitive ability of these early humans was greater than we have believed based solely on stone tools.”
Even though they claim no skeletal remains have been found, scientists say they have found numerous wooden artefacts from the same period at the site.
Smarter than he appeared: Homo heidelbergensis
The Homo heidelbergensis species, which lived between 700,000 and 200,000 years ago, is thought to have built the construction, which “involves the intentional shaping of two trees to create a framework of two interlocking supports,” according to scientist Barham.
In comparison to earlier human species, this species had a broader brow, a larger braincase, and a flatter face.
Fossils of Homo heidelbergensis have been discovered in the area, according to Barham, who spoke to AFP.
The oldest fossilised remains of Homo sapiens, estimated to be about 300,000 years old, were discovered in Morocco.
Sunlight last penetrated wood half a million years ago.
Although wooden items were first discovered at the site in the 1950s and 1960s, scientists were unable to determine their exact age at the time.
In order to determine the age of the contemporary specimens, archaeologists utilised luminescence dating, a brand-new method that counts the number of times minerals have been exposed to sunshine.
According to Barham, the discovery “changed how I thought about these folks. Even if it was just by building a platform to sit on by the river to complete their daily tasks, they altered their environment to make life easier, he added.
“They created something they had never seen before, something that had never existed, using their intelligence, imagination, and skills.”