According to a New Study, the First Human Settlements in Eastern Europe Emerged 1.4 Million Years Ago

The first human settlements in Eastern Europe emerged approximately 1.4 million years ago, according to a new article published in Nature.1

A new study conducted jointly by the Institute of Nuclear Physics and the Institute of Archeology, two respected scientific organizations affiliated with the Czech Academy of Sciences, suggests that the first human settlements in Eastern Europe emerged around 1.4 million years ago. This claim, based on analysis of stone tools found near the town of Korolevo in Zakarpattia Oblast in western Ukraine, places the first traces of the genus Homo in Eastern Europe approximately 200,000 years earlier than previously known.

Although no biological remains have been found in the region, researchers believe that the stone tools examined were made by the archaic human species Homo erectus.

Scholars applied a new dating technique using cosmogenic nuclides to determine the age of the tools. This technique allows measuring the traces of cosmic radiation accumulated on objects and determining how long they remain on the surface.

First Human Settlements in Ukraine
Image Credit: Institute of Archaeology of the Czech Academy of Sciences

The results obtained from the examinations showed that the tools found near Korolevo date back to the middle of the Lower Paleolithic period, that is, approximately 1.4 million years ago. In late 2022, a Homo erectus jawbone (maxilla) was found at the Atapuerca archaeological site in Spain was also dated to 1.4 million years ago.2

Roman Garba, leader of the research team, states that Homo erectus was the first hominin to leave Africa approximately two million years ago and spread to the Middle East, East Asia and Europe. According to Roman Garba, the dating of stone tools found in the Korolevo site not only fills the large geographical gap between the Dmanisi site in Georgia and Atapuerca in Spain, but also supports the hypothesis that Europe was colonized from the east.

Dmanisi fossils
The fossils discovered in Dmanisi belong to the species Homo erectus and date back to approximately 1.8 million years ago.3 These fossils are among the oldest hominin remains containing important clues about human evolution and early human migrations in the Lower Paleolithic period. Skulls, jawbones and other skeletal fragments unearthed during excavations that started in the early 1990s show that Homo erectus migrated from Africa to Europe via Anatolia or the Caucasus.
Image Credit: Jonathan Cardy (Wikimedia) ©️CC BY-SA 3.0

John Jansen from the Institute of Geophysics of the Czech Academy of Sciences underlines that this new dating technique is used for the first time in archaeology and can have significant effects. Because, unlike traditional dating techniques, the new method can also be applied to fragmented sedimentary deposits, allowing a more complete analysis of the archaeological record. This innovation could be revolutionary, especially in determining the exact age of small and scattered finds encountered at archaeological sites that are often difficult to date. According to scientists, such technological advances will greatly increase the future research and discovery potential of archeology and allow more precise information about prehistoric periods.

  1. Garba, R., Usyk, V., Ylä-Mella, L. et al. East-to-west human dispersal into Europe 1.4 million years agoNature 627, 805–810 (2024).[]
  2. Atapuerca completa el puzle con el “Homo erectus”: “Es seguro, no hay dudas”. 2023-01-29.[]
  3. Ferring, Reid, Oriol Oms, Jordi Agustí, Francesco Berna, Medea Nioradze, Teona Shelia, Martha Tappen, Abesalom Vekua, David Zhvania, and David Lordkipanidze. “Earliest human occupations at Dmanisi (Georgian Caucasus) dated to 1.85–1.78 Ma.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108, no. 26 (2011): 10432-10436.[]