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Wednesday, December 16, 1998 Published at 16:31 GMT


Secrets of the Stone Age

Stone tools made by another kind of human

By BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse

New insights into the lives of an extinct species of human may be gleaned from startling new finds in Albania.

The researchers, from the University of Cincinnati, intended to learn more about a Greek colony that flourished in present day Albania at the end of the second century BC.

But instead, the team found an unexpected abundance of artefacts left from a much earlier era: the Stone Age, the period associated with the earliest known chipped stone tools.

They may have also found a possible site where Neanderthal men may have lived.

[ image: Jack Davis: Startling new find]
Jack Davis: Startling new find
Archaeologist Jack L. Davis said: "We had no idea we would be walking into all this prehistoric evidence.

"Such a widespread distribution of artefacts from the Stone Age era, in particular, indicates that this area of central Albania has the potential to rank among the larger open-air Stone Age sites in Europe. Most Neanderthal and Stone Age sites are inside caves."

The team's findings represent the only documented discovery in Albania in the past 50 years of pre-Neolithic artefacts found lying out in the open rather than inside caves.

Two of the sites discovered are Palaeolithic (Stone Age), one of which may have served as a Neanderthal home base.

Scattered through the region, the team discovered 409 or remnants of prehistoric tools, including 14 associated with the mid- Palaeolithic period (between approximately 200,000 and 35,000 years ago).

Most of these 14 stone tools are made using a technique usually associated with Neanderthal man.

Neanderthal man became extinct about 30,000 years ago. It was a species of man more muscular than ourselves, so-called modern man. They had large faces with long ridges on thick-boned skulls.

They were adept at working stone tools, were capable hunters and there are indications that they had a complex society with death rituals.

They probably became extinct because the arrival of modern man in Europe, forced them to compete for the same resources.

The abundance of Neanderthal stone tool remnants from the Palaeolithic period may help answer questions about the introduction of farming into Europe, Davis said.

The Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods, spanning from 750,000 to 11,000 years ago, represent a time before agriculture began. It was about 8,000 years ago that modern man's relatives in the Neolithic Age are known to have grown crops and domesticate animals.

A portion of the tool remnants Davis and Korkuti's team found are Mesolithic, a transitional phase prior to the advent of farming.

Further trips are planned to this new site are planned to find out more about the lives of another species of human that recently walked our planet.

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