Calgary Herald

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

- MICHELLE MARTIN

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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