Calgary Herald

African exodus to Arabia may have been 65,000 years earlier


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 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 that was unearthed at the Jebel Faya archeologi­cal 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 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 “no particular cultural achievemen­ts were necessary for people to leave Africa.”

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

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