A group of researchers from the universities of Rome, Florence, Turin and Ferrara claim to have found evidence that the first human inhabitants of the continent that is now known as Europe lived in southern Italy. The researchers have discovered a collection of flint tools, some probably used for working on animal carcasses, at Apricena, near Foggia in Puglia, dating back some 1.7 million years.

The oldest traces of human habitation had previously been found in Spain, and the new discovery reopens the debate about whether humans first arrived on the continent from north-west Africa (as the Spanish findings seemed to support) or from the near East across the so-called Levantine Corridor. The researchers claim the fossilized flint tools found at Apricena predate those unearthed in Spain by nearly one million years.