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Ancient Greece just got tens of thousands of years more ancient

Neanderthals have been cruising the Med for 200,000 years.

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Stelida, a prehistoric quarry on the northwest coast of Naxos, is home to evidence that human activity on the island may have spanned up to 200,000 years, 

McMaster University

Whether by crudely fashioned seafaring boats or foot-trekked Aegean coastal routes, Neanderthals and early humans somehow managed to get to the Greek island of Naxos tens of thousands of years earlier than previously thought. That means humans have been enjoying the exquisite beauty of the Mediterranean for about 200,000 years, according to findings released Thursday by an international research team. 

The research, published in the journal Science Advances after years of excavation by scientists from McMaster University, challenges current theories on Stone Age migration across Europe. 

"Until recently, this part of the world was seen as irrelevant to early human studies, but the results force us to completely rethink the history of the Mediterranean islands," said lead author and associate anthropology professor Tristan Carter in a university release

Until now, scholars largely thought the Aegean Sea impassable to Neanderthals and early hominids, and believed Mediterranean islands to have been settled for only about 9,000 years. Stone Age hunters, meanwhile, are known to have been on mainland Europe for more than 1 million years. But the research team discovered evidence of human activity spanning almost 200,000 years in a prehistoric quarry. 

This research is part of the Stelida Naxos Archeological Project, a larger collaboration involving scholars from all over the world.