In DepthArchaeology

Searching for a Stone Age Odysseus

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Science  27 Apr 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6387, pp. 362-363
DOI: 10.1126/science.360.6387.362

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Archaeologists assumed until a decade ago that humans skirted the shores of the Mediterranean Sea before the dawn of agriculture some 10,000 years ago. Only then did they set out across its wine-dark seas on voyages reflected in Homer's story of the adventurous sailor Odysseus. So when excavators in 2010 claimed to have found stone tools on the Greek island of Crete dating back at least 130,000 years, they made a big splash. Their colleagues were astonished—but also skeptical. Since then, by exploring that site and others, researchers have quietly built up a convincing case for early seafaring in the Mediterranean, and, even more surprisingly, that at least some of these adventurers were Neandertal. The finds strongly suggest that the urge to go to sea—and the cognitive and technological means to do so—predates modern humans.