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Humans Exited Africa Earlier Than Thought

Artefacts that have recently been unearthed in the United Arab Emirates have cast doubt on the timeframe with which early humans exited Africa into the Arabian Peninsula, suggesting that humans could have arrived as early as 125,000 years ago, over two times that which had previously been supposed.

The research has been published in the latest edition of the journal Science and sheds new light on a hotly debated topic.

Lead author of the report, Simon Armitage, of Royal Holloway, University of London, discovered an ancient human toolkit at the Jebel Faya archaeological site, located in rocky terrain within the Persian Gulf basin in the United Arab Emirates.

The authors note that the toolkit resembles technology used by early humans in East Africa, but not the craftsmanship that emerged from the Middle East, suggesting that technological innovation was not necessary for early humans to migrate onto the Arabian Peninsula.

“These ‘anatomically modern’ humans—like you and me—had evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago and subsequently populated the rest of the world,” said Armitage. “Our findings should stimulate a re-evaluation of the means by which we modern humans became a global species.”

The researchers were led by Hans-Peter Uerpmann from Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen, Germany, who also analysed sea-level and climate-change records for the region during the last interglacial period which took place some 130,000 years ago. They found that the Bab al-Mandab Strait, which separates Arabia from the Horn of Africa, would have receded enough to allow safe passage across.

“Archaeology without ages is like a jigsaw with the interlocking edges removed—you have lots of individual pieces of information but you can’t fit them together to produce the big picture,” said Armitage. “At Jebel Faya, the ages reveal a fascinating picture in which modern humans migrated out of Africa much earlier than previously thought, helped by global fluctuations in sea-level and climate change in the Arabian Peninsula.”

Source: AAAS
Image Source: Science/AAAS




2 comments
  1. Jeremy Bloom

    I”m not so sure about this one…

    This is just across the Red Sea from the Horn of Africa, and as noted in the article, there have been scattered early modern human remains found from about this time.

    Isolated bands may have made it this far, but I don’t think it’s enough to set the clock back on the genetic evidence, which is pretty conclusive that whatever else may have happened, the modern humans that live in the rest of the world today are all descendants of a group that left Africa 60,000 years ago.

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