Research NewsPaleoanthropology

Ancient Island Tools Suggest Homo erectus Was a Seafarer

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Science  13 Mar 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5357, pp. 1635-1637
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5357.1635

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Most researchers have believed that Homo erectus lacked the social and linguistic skills to pilot the deep, fast-moving waters that separate most Asian and Australian faunas, but in this week's issue of Nature, an international team presents new dates for stone tools from the Indonesian island of Flores that confirm H. erectus's presence there 800,000 years ago. Although most researchers accept the new dates for the artifacts, questions linger about whether they are really tools, and researchers are sharply divided over the team's proposition that H. erectus used rafts and may have had language. But if H. erectus did indeed arrive on Flores by boat, it would mean that their cognitive abilities would be up for reappraisal and that the species was more adaptable than is commonly believed.