So this has been in the news lately, too: a discovery of remnants of a wooden structure that is almost half a million years old.
It is truly incredible. These tools, these worked pieces of now petrified wood, predate the emergence of homo sapiens by several hundred thousand years.
Not for the first time I am left wondering just how much of the past will remain forever hidden from us. The earliest human whose name is known to us lived roughly 5000 years ago. Let that sink in for a moment. Modern human behavior began roughly 100,000 years ago, give or take. Presumably, this behavior involved language, social structures and, well, names. These were our ancestors, millions and millions of them, who inhabited the Earth for countless generations. And we don’t even know their names.
And now this, some 476,000 year old logs along with simple stone tools that were used to shape them. That suggests some form of permanence. Which implies a structured society. Skills, transferred from one generation to the next. Language. Culture. About which we know nothing.
Half a million years. That is, 100 times what counts as recorded history. An eyeblink in geologic terms, to be sure, but for us humans? The word that pops into my mind is… humbling.