World’s Oldest Wooden Structure Discovered in Zambia, Dating Back 476,000 Years

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In a groundbreaking archaeological discovery, researchers from the University of Liverpool and Aberystwyth University have unearthed the world’s oldest wooden structure, dating back at least 476,000 years. This remarkable find challenges previous assumptions about the capabilities of early humans and sheds new light on their ability to build settlements. The ancient wooden structure was discovered at the Kalambo Falls archaeological site on the Kalombo River in Zambia.

The artifact consists of two interlocking logs with a carefully crafted notch in the upper piece, allowing them to fit together at right angles. Expert analysis of the wood revealed distinct stone tool cut marks, indicating that it was intentionally shaped and assembled, possibly forming the foundation of a platform or part of a dwelling.

The discovery, published in the journal Nature, has garnered widespread attention due to its unprecedented age and the insights it offers into early human ingenuity and technological prowess. Geoff Duller, a professor of geography and Earth sciences at the University of Aberystwyth and part of the excavation team, expressed his astonishment, saying, “That the wood has remained in place and intact for half a million years is extraordinary. It’s completely changed my view of what people were capable of at that time.”World's oldest known wooden structure found in Zambia | Popular Science

Wooden artifacts from such ancient times are exceedingly rare in the archaeological record because organic materials typically decay over time. However, the exceptional preservation of the wooden structure at Kalambo Falls is attributed to high water levels and fine sediment that encased the wood, protecting it from decay.

The find challenges the prevailing belief that Stone Age humans led nomadic lifestyles, suggesting that Kalambo Falls may have been home to a more settled community due to its reliable water source and abundant forest resources. Professor Duller commented, “At the very least, they’re putting a huge amount of effort into this place.”

The wooden structure’s construction method is unique and has no parallel in the archaeological record. It closely resembles the concept of Lincoln Logs, a children’s building toy made of miniature logs that interlock using square notches. This similarity has led researchers to conclude that the logs were intentionally connected using stone tools, ruling out the possibility that they drifted and linked together naturally.

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To determine the age of the wooden structure, the team employed luminescence dating techniques, measuring the natural radioactivity in minerals within the fine sediment that encased the wood. This advanced dating method estimated the structure’s age at 476,000 years, making it the oldest known wooden structure in the world.

Furthermore, the research revealed that four wooden tools, including a wedge, digging stick, cut log, and notched branch, found at the same site, date back approximately 324,000 years, providing further evidence of early human craftsmanship.

The significance of this discovery extends beyond its age; it challenges preconceptions about human development during the Stone Age and offers a compelling glimpse into the resourcefulness and creativity of our distant ancestors. As this remarkable find continues to captivate the world, it reaffirms that the story of human history is far more complex and intriguing than previously imagined.

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