A blade just over one-inch long is considered the oldest piece of evidence that hominids lived in northwestern Spain 1.4 million years ago.
The small stone fragment, which archaeologists concluded was a flint knife created by hominids, was discovered this year in a cave called Elephant Chasm near the city of Burgos, EFE news reports.
The blade’s discovery is considered “of great value,” Eduald Carbonell, one of the directors of the excavation said. The fact that stone tools were found proves that humans continually existed in the area as opposed to the belief that populations existed in small waves and became extinct from their inability to adapt to their surroundings, Agence France-Press reports.
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“Even though they are very archaic tools, they reflect complex activities such as recovering animals that fell into the caves,” archaeologists wrote in a statement.
The small knife was found in the Sima del Elefante cave infill – a site that has been under exaction since 1978. In 2007, researchers found a 1.2 million-year-old human finger and jawbone that was considered the “oldest European” remains ever found. The small blade was excavated six and a half feet below the spot where the human remains were found, The Local reports.
The small knife wasn’t the only thing uncovered in the dig. Archaeologists say they found a fossilized shoulder blade of a child that was between four to six years-old about 800,000 years ago. Scientists also uncovered the remains of a large brown bear that still exists today. There were also fossils of rhinos, a giant deer, bison and wild donkeys.
The Atapuerca archaeological site where all of these remains were found is rife with ancient human history. In 2000, UNESCO deemed the location a historic site noting, that the area provides “unique testimony of the origin and evolution both of the existing human civilization and of other cultures that have disappeared.” The site also documents the “evolutionary line or lines from the African ancestors of modern humankind.”
"It is the site that has yielded the most human remains in the world," Juan Luis Arsuaga, one of the dig’s directors told AFP.