chance discovery of stone tool turkey


Chance discovery of stone tool proves that people lived in Turkey earlier than assumed

Published on
January 7, 2015

The discovery of a stone tool in West-Turkey proves that people were living in the area much earlier than had previously been assumed. The instrument dates back to the Stone Age and is between 1.17 and 1.24 million years old. An international team of researchers, including Wouter van Gorp and Jeroen Schoorl from the Soil Geography and Landscape Group at Wageningen University, recently published news of the discovery in the scientific journal Quaternary Science Reviews.

The hand axe was formed some 1.17 to 1.24 million years ago.
The hand axe was formed some 1.17 to 1.24 million years ago.
Scientists found the tool in the sediment of an old bed of the Gediz River. The team of researchers from the United Kingdom, Turkey and the Universities of Twente, Wageningen, Utrecht and Amsterdam (VU), was headed by Prof. Darrel Maddy from Newcastle University. They used radioisotopes and paleomagnetic dating techniques on lava that had been discharged shortly before and after the river sediment was formed. Jeroen Schoorl and Wouter van Gorp contributed in various ways, including by helping to classify old sediment and taking basalt samples. Wouter van Gorp also dated the basalt in the laboratory of Jan Wijbrans at VU University Amsterdam.

The researchers were working on a long-term project to reconstruct the courses of former rivers. The aim of the project was to gather data about climate and tectonic activity in bygone eras. The stone instrument proved an exciting find, as it turned out to be the oldest, properly dated human artefact ever found in Turkey. Although tools and instruments have been found in the past, their exact age has always been difficult to determine. But this one was different, claim the researchers: “We were able to date this instrument very accurately using the streams of lava that dammed up the river at the time. They show that the sediment in which the hand axe was found was formed some 1.17 to 1.24 million years ago. This dating forms the first piece of incontrovertible evidence that people lived in West-Turkey much earlier than had previously been assumed.”


The discovery of the tool will enable researchers to make more accurate reconstructions of early human migrations, and give them a better understanding of the distribution of our ancestors and the origins of the first Europeans. It seems likely that our forefathers crossed from Asia to Europe via the Anatolian peninsula. The tool (photo) was discovered less than 200 km from the Bosporus, the strait that humans probably crossed to reach the European continent.