"This find has changed how I think about our early ancestors."

Wood Deeds

Archaeologists from Europe and Africa have uncovered the oldest wood structure ever discovered, dating back almost half a million years — meaning an unknown species of hominins, predating us homo sapiens, was presumably responsible for its creation.

The researchers laid out their findings in a recent paper in the science journal Nature, where they reported that they had found the wood structure of "two interlocking logs joined transversely by an intentionally cut notch" at a site in Kalambo Falls, Zambia, and dated it to a distant 476,000 years ago. At the same location, which the scientists say was likely the foundation for a dwelling or platform, they also found four tools fashioned from wood: a digging stick, a cut log, a wedge, and notched branch, each also dating to before the time of modern humans.

"This find has changed how I think about our early ancestors," said University of Liverpool archaeology professor and the paper's lead author Larry Barham in a statement. "Forget the label ‘Stone Age,’ look at what these people were doing: they made something new, and large, from wood. They used their intelligence, imagination, and skills to create something they’d never seen before, something that had never previously existed."

Handy Man

The wood was preserved because Kalambo Falls kept the pieces permanently waterlogged, hence sealing them away from oxygen and oxygen-dependant bacteria that would degrade them. The finding is particularly significantbecause wood has rarely been preserved from the Early Stone Age  offering an ultra-rare peek into the lives of our distant ancestors.

Besides the exciting discovery of the wooden objects themselves, the researcher said that the finding paints a more complex picture of their lives; that these hominins were perhaps not nomadic and instead spent a sustained period of time living in the area, long enough to make a structure from the surrounding forests and draw fresh water from the falls.

These early hominins weren't the only ones attracted to the locale. Kalambo Falls later became a site for homo sapien occupation, and a rich treasure trove of archaeological findings from the Stone Age and onward. Its significance is so great that it's even being considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Surely the discovery the oldest wooden man-made structure should vault it to the official list, cementing its importance to our understanding of human evolution.

More on early man: Pre-Human Species Carved Symbols More Than 200,000 Years Ago

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