The Japan Times, April 13, 1997
Earlier date set for human entry into S. Europe
MADRID (AP) The first Europeans crossed into southern Spain from Africa 1 million years ago, about 200,000 years earlier than previously thought, according to a team of archaeologists quoted in a Madrid newspaper Friday.
Their conclusion is based on paleomagnetic testing of about 100 small flint tools found at Fuente Nueva in the southern province of Granada, the daily El Mundo said.
The team also found the remains of a saber-toothed tiger that the hominids possibly followed because the animal left substantial amounts of prey behind.
Stone tools and fossilised hominid bones found in caves near Atapuerca in northern Spain in 1995 were reported to be 780,000 years old, at least 200,000 years older than any other humanlike fossils then found in Western Europe.
Million-year-old fossils of hominids—extinct creatures of the extended ancestral family of modern humans— have been found in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Georgia in the former Soviet Union.
The key to both Spanish discoveries was an age-dating technique based on the Earth's geomagnetic polarity. Although the magnetic pole is in the north, in earlier times it was to the south. This polarity shifts regularly in a change called geomagnetic reversal.
When ferrous metals cool after melting, they record the magnetic dominance at that moment. Since the dates of magnetic reversals are known from other studies, researchers can date a rock by determining its magnetic dominance.