Did Neanderthals take to the seas first?

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PATRAS, Greece, Feb. 29 (UPI) — Neanderthals may have taken to the seas to become ancient mariners centuries before modern humans managed the same trick, researchers in Greece say.

Archaeological evidence suggests our extinct cousins may have made voyages in the Mediterranean in boats at least 100,000 years ago.

Neanderthals lived around the Mediterranean beginning 300,000 years ago, and now their distinctive “Mousterian” stone tools have been found on both the Greek mainland and, intriguingly, on the Greek islands of Lefkada, Kefalonia and Zakynthos, NewScientist.com reported Wednesday.

That could be explained if the islands weren’t islands at the time, but researcher George Ferentinos of the University of Patras in Greece says the islands have been cut off from the mainland for as long as the tools have been on them.

Ferentinos said he believes Neanderthals had a seafaring culture for tens of thousands of years, while modern humans are thought to have taken to the seas just 50,000 years ago.

Even if he is right, other researchers said, Neanderthals were probably not the first hominin seafarers.

One million-year-old stone tools have been found on the Indonesian island of Flores, suggesting something, perhaps primitive Homo erectus, crossed the sea to Flores before Neanderthals even evolved.

Spencer Cameron

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