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Discovery of Ancient Tools on Island Indicates Much Earlier Date of Sea Travel

March 12, 1998

Stone woodworking tools on an Indonesian island show that human ancestors crossed large stretches of water more than 800,000 years ago--much earlier than scientists had been able to show before, Australian researchers report today in the journal Nature. The age of the tools indicates that Homo erectus reached the island of Flores 800,000 to 900,000 years ago, they said. To reach Flores, they would have had to cross at least 12 miles of water, probably on bamboo rafts, archeologist Mike Morwood said.

The work suggests that Homo erectus had better mental, technological and linguistic abilities than generally realized, said Morwood, of the University of New England in Armidale, Australia. Previously, the earliest widely accepted evidence of major water crossing was the colonization of Australia from eastern Indonesia 40,000 to 60,000 years ago.

Compiled by Times medical writer Thomas H. Maugh II

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