Modern Humans Reached Arabia Earlier Than Thought

Ohhhh … interesting … an international team of researchers have dug up human artifacts in the United Arab Emirates that date back 100,000 years. The implication is that modern humans left Africa a lot earlier than previously thought. There has of course never been a well-established date, just guesses, so this now suggests that humans reached there perhaps as long ago as 125,000 years

The paper published today in Science here, has the details of all this. There is of course lots about this trickling into the media, however, its always wise to go back to the alpha source and sup from there, so here is the abstract from that paper written by the folks who made the actual discovery …

The timing of the dispersal of anatomically modern humans (AMH) out of Africa is a fundamental question in human evolutionary studies. Existing data suggest a rapid coastal exodus via the Indian Ocean rim around 60,000 years ago. We present evidence from Jebel Faya, United Arab Emirates, demonstrating human presence in eastern Arabia during the last interglacial. The tool kit found at Jebel Faya has affinities to the late Middle Stone Age in northeast Africa, indicating that technological innovation was not necessary to facilitate migration into Arabia. Instead, we propose that low eustatic sea level and increased rainfall during the transition between marine isotope stages 6 and 5 allowed humans to populate Arabia. This evidence implies that AMH may have been present in South Asia before the Toba eruption

I’m afraid that if you want to read the paper itself, then its the usual story, pay the journal $15 for the article, or subscribe. However, the abstract itself is in itself fascinating news, and I suspect the content is perhaps a wee bit too much detail for all except subject matter experts (and yet … I am still curious, and would have liked to take a peek at least)

All is not lost, there are more details out there, for example, ScienceDaily has details here, and reports …

“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.”

Uerpmann and his team also analyzed sea-level and climate-change records for the region during the last interglacial period, approximately 130,000 years ago. They determined that the Bab al-Mandab Strait, which separates Arabia from the Horn of Africa, would have narrowed due to lower sea-levels, allowing safe passage prior to and at the beginning of that last interglacial period. At that time, the Arabian Peninsula was much wetter than today with greater vegetation cover and a network of lakes and rivers. Such a landscape would have allowed early humans access into Arabia and then into the Fertile Crescent and India, according to the researchers.

“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.”

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