Oldest stone tools in Europe found at a site in western Ukraine suggest that archaic humans had entered Europe’s eastern gate by 1.4 million years ago

Stone tools found at Korolevo, western Ukraine, have been studied since the discovery of the site in the 1970s, however so far their age was not determined conclusively. New research, published in Nature, using two different methods of burial dating, reports ages of 1.42 ± 0.10 million years and 1.42 ± 0.28 million years for the sediments containing the stone tools. Thus, the authors conclude, Korolevo, Ukraine, represents the earliest securely dated hominin presence in Europe. It bridges the gap between the Caucasus (around 1.85–1.78 million years ago) and southwestern Europe (around 1.2–1.1 million years ago), about 200-300 thousand years earlier than previously thought. These findings advance the hypothesis that Europe was colonized from the east, and this analysis of habitat suitability suggests that early hominins exploited warm interglacial periods to move into higher latitudes and relatively continental sites—such as Korolevo—well before the Middle Pleistocene Transition.

This is result of the cooperation involving Czech, Ukrainian (Institute of Archaeology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv, and Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv), German, Australian, South African and Danish researchers. At Korolevo, research is currently on hold because of russia’s brutal illegal invasion of Ukraine, but the lead author Roman Garba, an archaeologist with the Nuclear Physics Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, remains hopeful for the future, planning more excavations, working to build a local museum, and applying for UNESCO heritage protection for the site, according to Bridget Alex (Science).

Original article: Garba, R., Usyk, V., Ylä-Mella, L. et al. East-to-west human dispersal into Europe 1.4 million years ago. Nature (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-024-07151-3