Archaeologists in Israel have discovered hundreds of hand-axes likely used by Homo erectus and dating to about 500 kya at Jaljulia northeast of Tel Aviv. The artifacts are made of knapped flint and were unearthed during a dig next to Highway Route 6 which is one of Israel’s busiest routes. They were found about 5 meters (about 16.5 feet) in the ground.
It appears that H. erectus was returning to the site frequently most likely due to a nearby water source. It appears they left behind these hand axes when they moved on. The site would have been a sort of “prehistoric paradise” for hunter-gatherers as it had a stream, lush vegetation, and many game animals.
The lithic (stone) industry in this area was highly developed, apparently, and produced a great number of stone tools including the flint hand axes. They are characteristic of Acheulean stone tools which late H. erectus developed after initially using primitive Oldowan stone tools they inherited from H. habilis (“Tool Man”). The Acheulean Culture existed in the Lower Paleolithic Era from around 1.5 million to 200 kya.
The development of Acheulean stone tools by H. erectus was revolutionary as they were not crude and were purposefully designed. They’ve been found from southern Africa to northern Europe to the Indian sub-continent and elsewhere. Homo erectus is an ancient human ancestor of modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens. The Acheulean stone tool industry was the longest lasting such industry (over 1 million years in use). The oldest Acheulean stone tools have been dated at the following:
Africa 1.6 mya
India 1.3 mya (or possibly the same age as those in Africa)
Europe 800 kya
Israel 500 kya
Many researchers believe H. erectus had a “geographic memory” much like that of modern humans because they kept occupying the site frequently over and over. This indicates that they kept returning as a part of some sort of seasonal cycle.
The site is well preserved and researchers are hoping to find more artifacts at the site in the near future. It enables us to trace the behavior of H. erectus who is our direct ancestor and helps us in reconstructing their lifestyles and routine behavior which, in turn, provides us with a better understanding of our ancient human ancestors.
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