Early humans reached the Greek islands tens of thousands of years earlier than expected, as evidenced by evidence from an archaeological excavation on Naxos.
Archaeologists digging in a quarry on the island have discovered in tune with about 12,000 stone tools and weapons used by Neanderthals.
The findings topple existing theories about early hominin migrations – with the Greek islands originally considered uninhabited until about 9,000 years ago.
Instead, the researchers suggest that either Neanderthals were so sophisticated that they built boats – or that they walked on the island when the sea level was lower in the Ice Age.
Either way, the findings show that Neanderthals are adapting to new environmental challenges and may have taken hitherto unknown routes in their migrations.
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Early humans reached tens of thousands of Greek islands Evidence from an archeological excavation on Naxos, pictured, suspected years ago
Archaeologists Digging in a Quarry On the island, about 12,000 stone tools and weapons were discovered, which, according to an artistic impression, were presented in harmony with the tools used by Neanderthals.
Archaeologists believed that the Aegean Sea would have been an insurmountable obstacle to Neanderthals and other early hominins. However, the discovery of Mode III stone tools on the island of Naxos suggests that these assumptions may need revising. Pictured, hypothetical hominin pathways in the light of new discoveries
The archaeologist Tristan Carter of McMaster University, Canada, and his colleagues have been working on Naxos since 2013, digging in a quarry called Stelida on the island's northwest coast.
The team has discovered thousands of tools and hunting weapons made from the local rockfall, dating back to between 13,000 and 200,000 years ago.
Among the tools are so-called Mode III or Mouseterian technologies Which small and sharp stone tools are beaten from prepared cores and then retouched.
Mode III technologies are often associated with Neanderthals, suggesting that they were active around Naxos at that time.
"Until recently, this part of the world was irrelevant to early human studies," said Professor Carter.
"But the results force us to rethink the history of the Mediterranean islands." The European mainland was already occupied a million years ago by Stone Age hunters. Experts were of the opinion that the islands of the Mediterranean were settled by peasants only about 9,000 years ago.
The results topple existing theories of early hominin migrations – the Greek Islands were originally thought to have been uninhabited until about 9,000 years ago
The team has discovered thousands of tools and hunting weapons made from local stonechert The reason for this assumption had been the notion that only modern humans – or Homo sapiens – would have been highly developed enough to build seagoing ships and reach the isolated land masses.
In light of this, archaeologists believed that the Aegean, which separates modern Turkey from mainland Greece, would have been an insurmountable obstacle to Neanderthals and other early hominines.
This would have made the only obvious way to and from Europe to the country Bridge of Thrace, in today's Southeastern Balkans.
However, the discovery of Mode III stone tools on the island of Naxos suggests that these assumptions may need revising.
McMaster University archaeologists have been working on Naxos has been excavated since 2013 in a quarry called Stelida on the island's northwest coast.
Among the tools depicted in the excavation sites are so-called Mode III or Mouseter technologies where small stone tools are punched from prepared cores and then retouched  One possible explanation could be that Neanderthals were able to build rough seafaring boats capable of traversing short water spans.
Alternatively, the researchers suggest that the Aegean might have been more accessible at that time – and the Neanderthals simply walked there.
This may have been possible at various times during the last Ice Age, when the ice was blocked. The poles had lowered sea level and possibly uncovered a land bridge between Africa and Europe – a bridge that included Naxos.
According to the team, the area would have been attractive to early humans due to its freshwater supply and abundance of raw materials, which would be ideal for building tools. However, according to Professor Carter, "the pre-Neanderthal population on entering this region would have been confronted with a new and challenging environment with various animals, plants and diseases all requiring new adaptation strategies.
The full results of the study have been published in the journal Science Advances.
According to the team, the Aegean region would have been attractive to early humans portrayed in this artist's impression, thanks to its fresh water supply and abundance of raw materials that would be ideal for building tools
Canadian McMaster University have been working on Naxos since 2013 digging in a quarry called Stelida on the northwest coast of the island  WHO WAS THE NEANDER VALLEY?
The Neanderthals were a close human ancestor, mysteriously extinct around 50,000 years ago.
They were later joined by people who traveled the same way in the last 100,000 years.
The Neanderthals were a cousin species of humans, but not a direct ancestor – the two species separated by a common ancestor – that perished about 50,000 years ago. Pictured is an exhibition of the Neanderthal Museum.
These were the original "cavemen" historically considered stupid and brutal in comparison to modern humans.
In recent years and especially in the last decade, however, it has increased Apparently, we sold Neanderthals.
An increasing body of evidence points to a more sophisticated and versatile type of "caveman" than anyone would have thought possible.
It now seems probable that Neanderthals buried their dead with the concept of a beyond in mind.
In addition, their diet and behavior were surprisingly flexible.
They used body art such as pigments and pearls and were the first artists to study Neanderthal cave art (and symbolism). Spain is apparently 20,000 years ahead of the earliest modern human art.