Humans left Africa 65 000 years earlier

2011-01-27 22:27

Frankfort - Modern humans may have left Africa for Arabia up to 65 000 years earlier than previously thought and their exodus was enabled by environmental factors rather than technology, scientists said on Thursday.

Their findings suggest the migrants followed a direct route to the Arabian Peninsula from Africa, and did not travel via the Nile Valley or the Near East as suggested in previous studies.

An international team of researchers studied an ancient tool kit containing hand axes, perforators and scrapers which was unearthed at the Jebel Faya archaeological site in the United Arab Emirates.

"Our findings should stimulate a re-evaluation of the means by which we modern humans became a global species," said Simon Armitage, of the University of London, who worked on the study.

Using luminescence dating - a technique used to determine when mineral grains were last exposed to sunlight - they found that the stone tools were between 100 000 and 125 000 years old.

Hans-Peter Uerpmann of Eberhard Karls University in Tuebingen, who led the research, said the craftsmanship ruled out the possibility the tools were made in the Middle East.

He said the tools resembled those made by early humans in east Africa instead, suggesting that "no particular cultural achievements were necessary for people to leave Africa".

Sea level

The research, published in the journal Science, suggests environmental factors such as sea levels were more important than technological innovations in making the migration possible.

The researchers analysed sea-level and climate-change records preserved in the landscape from the last interglacial period - around 130 000 years ago - to determine when humans would have been able to cross Arabia.

They found that the Bab al-Mandab strait between Arabia and the Horn of Africa would have become narrower at this time as sea levels were lower, providing a safe route out of Africa both prior to and at the beginning of the last interglacial period.

Uerpmann said the straits may have been passable at low tide, making it likely that the modern humans walked across or travelled on either rafts or boats.

It was previously thought that the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula would have hindered an exodus from Africa but the new study suggests Arabia became wetter during the last interglacial period, with more lakes, rivers and vegetation, making it easier for humans to survive the passage to Arabia.

Although the timing of modern humans moving out of Africa has been the subject of much debate, previous evidence suggested the exodus took place along the Mediterranean Sea or Arabian coast around 60 000 years ago.

  • ds - 2011-01-27 22:49

    these people give me brain ache - anything they do not understand and have answers for they con cocked into action as fact by saying...Modern humans may have left Africa for Arabia up to 65 000 years (I Love the "may" and if they say it enough people will believe it - yuk science is based on evidence dear boy not theory !!!! hello??????

      Mikemcc - 2011-01-28 00:00

      Theories are at the forefront of scientific discovery. How do you set about proving something if you have not first postulated a theory?

      CTScientist - 2011-01-28 06:31

      You need to learn the difference between scientific and lay discourses, ds. I fear that your lack of comprehension with regards to this matter contributes significantly to your apparent "brain ache".

      Neso - 2011-01-28 07:39

      @ds. Yes, dear boy it IS all based on evidence - strong scientific evidence. The above report (incidentally nothing new but a different angle) ties in with the results of massive mitochondrial and Y-chromosome DNA studies as detailed in Stephen Oppenheimer's excellent book "Out of Africa's Eden", in which it was postulated that modern humans left Africa some 80 000 to 120 000 years ago. As an aside; it's great to have further published evidence that climate change is nothing new and is not anthropogenic!

  • aj - 2011-01-28 07:40

    Bypass speculation & go find out what really happened - humans appeared first in Europe - not in Africa. And - there is no missing-link - but actual creations & changes at certain intervals. Read THE URANTIA BOOK - can also be accessed for free on the web.

      thabiso.marumo - 2011-01-28 08:57

      What language is urantia, they claim is the name of the earth, defferent languages have defferent names for earth. To claim the book was written by angelic biengs is bull, were is the proof, someone wrote this book it didn't just appear out of no were, this is one of those new age cults that always claims we just passing through this life and one day will evolve into this spiritual biengs then live this earth thats bull, it gives no proof on the origins of humans. you are body, mind and pirit or soul to reparate one entity from another the whole seize to exist, even Jesus had to be resurrected back into his body to be whole again, for your spirit to leave your body you leave consiouseness, think of it this way before you were born you are not consious of any existence, but once you are born into your body you become consiouse of existence, for humans to fear death it's a sub-consiouse(mind) instinct we have of lossing our consiouse self(body), this is why we have the concept of resurrection to come back to the body to be whole.

      Lanfear - 2011-01-28 11:39

      @ thabiso.marumo - I think you're my hero! So well put.

      CTScientist - 2011-01-28 12:05

      @ aj You need to revisit the Archaeological record if you're going to honestly say that humans first appear in Europe. The first Homo genus (Homo habalis) appears in Africa before anywhere else. Homo erectus (by around 1.6 Ma) appears in the African record significantly earlier than anywhere else in the world. The Acheulean techno-complex is found in Africa much earlier than Europe. So is the Oldowan industry. If we're going to discuss the first appearance of modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) you're argument would have to be that the Out of Africa model of human dispersal is in fact incorrect. Please provide an actual argument why the archaeological records of Blombos Cave, Diepkloof and Pinnacle Point are not sufficiently earlier than ANY and ALL European Cro-Magnon deposits. Because Europe has absolutely no human (non-Homo Neanderthalensis) deposits before 60 ka. On another note.. the human genome project effectively crippled your argument a while back. All genetic diversity essentially boils back to African populations. These eurocentric views are constantly being challenged. And for good reason. Even behavioural modernity can be effectively traced back to Africa much earlier than the European record. You could, of course, provide details about why any of the above is wrong. Please do. @ Thabiso Well said, mate.

  • Nibiru - 2011-01-28 07:46

    Some of you earthlings originated from Antarctica

  • smiphillip - 2011-01-28 09:01

    I am just amazed that everybody has their own theory. Many cases they knock heads. There is no unity. All based on assumptions, and calculated guesses.... That's my 5c.

  • Zion - 2011-01-28 09:09

    Another source states: Nigeria is the origin of the Bantu people. Migration was mainly north but that was curbed by the south-ward creeping desertification of what is today the Sahara desert. The Southward trek reached Zimbobwe and hence the building of the "ruins". Those people, the Mashona, were engaged in Agriculture. Not much was done in the line of trekking further South due to the dry conditions in what is today South Africa. The implication is climatic changes definitly affected the migratory patterns in ancient africa. The migration mentioned above is much later than that mentioned in the article above.

      thabiso.marumo - 2011-01-28 09:21

      Zion read Temple of the African God by Michael Tellinger and Johan Heine also read Slave Race of God by the same author, it looks at an early civilisation that lived in Southern African 200 000 years ago.

      CTScientist - 2011-01-28 12:23

      @ Thabiso I am not clear on what you mean by "civilisation" here. Firstly, Sub-saharan Africa at circa 200 ka would have had to be home to anatomically (and behaviourally) modern Homo sapiens for this to be true. Secondly, civilisation implies a Eurocentric model of social and/or political structure. Are distinct groups of hunter-gatherers a civilisation? That isn't an easy question to answer. I would argue that you would not see an early "civilisation" in Southern Africa at around 200 ka. At least, I would say that this isn't likely. Especially when you look at the evidence that is being presented in the scientific community. The oldest anatomically modern human ever presented only has a date of 195 ka. Significant material culture which signifies what Richard Klein calls behavioural modernity (as drawn from European contexts) only start cropping up circa 75 - 100 ka in Southern Africa. If there was a civilisation circa 200 ka, there certain is no evidence for it. Not that early. Half that age estimate, and I'm inclined to agree.

  • cromagnon - 2011-03-25 10:39

    How you interpret the data also depends on whether you support the out of africa hypothesis, or the regional continuity hypothesis. All in all very fascinating.

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