Researchers from the Hebrew University (HU) of Jerusalem have discovered evidence of sophisticated, human behavior from as early as 750,000 years ago – some half a million years earlier than has previously been estimated by archaeologists.
The discovery was made in the course of excavations at the prehistoric Gesher Benot Ya‘aqov site, located along the Dead Sea rift in the southern Hula Valley of northern Israel.
Analysis of the spatial distribution of the findings there reveals a pattern of specific areas in which various activities were carried out. This kind of designation indicates a formalized conceptualization of living space, requiring social organization and communication between group members. Such organizational skills are thought to be unique to modern humans.
Attempts until now to trace the origins of such behavior have concentrated on spatial analyses of Middle Paleolithic sites, where activity areas, particularly those associated with hearths, have been found dating back only to some 250,000 years ago.
The new HU study, a report on which is published in Science magazine, describes an Acheulian (early stone tools culture) layer at Gesher Benot Ya‘aqov that has been dated to about 750,000 years ago. The evidence found there consists of numerous stone tools, animal bones and a rich collection of botanical remains.