Washington (AFP) Jan 27, 2011
An ancient toolkit unearthed in the United Arab Emirates suggests modern humans may have left Africa over 100,000 years ago, much earlier than typically thought, researchers said Thursday.
The findings by a team of British and German archeologists have sparked debate among scientists over whether they provide sufficient evidence that homo sapiens could have traveled directly from Africa to Arabia.
The stone tools found in the archaeological site at Jebel Faya include basic hand axes, blades and scrapers, indicating that the user likely had a primitive level of skill, said the study published in the journal Science.
That would "imply that technological innovation was not necessary for early humans to migrate onto the Arabian Peninsula," it said.
The team also examined climate and sea-level records for the region dating back 130,000 years and found that low sea levels meant the Bab al-Mandab strait that separates the Horn of Africa from the Arabian Peninsula would have been narrower and easier to cross.
Unlike the harsh desert conditions of today, the land would have been wetter and filled with more vegetation, lakes and rivers, making a journey by foot more feasible for early humans.
Using a technique called luminescence dating to determine the age of the toolkit, scientists believe it is between 100,000 and 125,000 years old, according to lead author Simon Armitage from Royal Holloway college, University of London.
Most other evidence has suggested modern humans left Africa around 60,000 years ago and made the trek along the Mediterranean Sea or the Arabian Coast, but some finds in recent years have suggested otherwise.
The journal Science noted that some early homo sapien skulls and tools have also been found in Israel and scientists have been able to estimate their age at 100,000 to 130,000 years old.
"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," said Armitage.
The site, located about an hour's drive from the city of Sharjah, is marked by a rock shelter at the edge of a mountain.
Previous artifacts uncovered in the area have been dated to the Iron, Bronze, and Neolithic periods as well as the Middle Paleolithic era, some 300,000 to 30,000 years ago.
But not all experts are convinced that the toolkit is what the authors believe it is.
"I'm totally unpersuaded," said archaeologist Paul Mellars of the University of Cambridge.
"There's not a scrap of evidence here that these were made by modern humans, nor that they came from Africa," he said. "Everything hinges on whether that material is explicitly African and I don't see that."
Study co-author Anthony Marks of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, said the tools were not the kind used by Neanderthals, who were not believed to have been in Arabia at the time.
"That makes the African origin likely by process of elimination," he said.
The tools do not resemble artifacts found in Israel or tools from the same era in North Africa, suggesting there may have been multiple waves of migration from Africa and that these could have been made by homo sapiens who left East Africa, Marks said.
Archaeologist Mark Beech, a visiting fellow at the University of York, praised the paper but added: "One site does not confirm the out of Africa-via-Arabia hypothesis."
The international team of researchers was headed by Hans-Peter Uerpmann from Eberhard Karls University in Tubingen, Germany.
Uerpmann agreed that more evidence, such as fossil bones, would be necessary "before we can be absolutely sure" the tools were made by homo sapiens.
Share This Article With Planet Earth
All About Human Beings and How We Got To Be Here
Australia: three charged in asylum deaths
Perth, Australia (UPI) Jan 26, 2011
An Australian court charged three Indonesians with people smuggling after their vessel smashed against rocks in December, killing around 50 of the 90 passengers. The men, aged 60, 32 and 22, were denied bail after the hearing in Perth, Western Australia. Another alleged people smuggler is believed to have left the vessel before it entered Australian waters. If found guilty, each ... read more
UN says Pakistan still in emergency after floods|
Australia flags taxpayer levy for floods
Quake tipped half million Chileans into poverty: govt
Robotic Glider To Map Moreton Bay Impacts
Kindle Singles debuts pithy digital works
China's Lenovo, NEC form PC joint venture in Japan
Portable devices linked to US pedestrian death spike
NEC, Lenovo in talks on joint venture: report
No hydropower from Iraq's Mosul dam: official
Blue Crab Research May Help Chesapeake Bay Watermen Improve Soft Shell Harvest
Immersive Data Collection And Peer Networks Key To Effective Watershed Councils
First-Ever Global Map Of Surface Permeability Informs Water Supply
Study alters Greenland glacier melt view
Scientists Find That Debris On Certain Himalayan Glaciers May Prevent Melting
VIMS Team Glides Into Polar Research
Canadians prepared to fight for Arctic: survey
Bulgaria sets first annual bear hunting quota
Call for halt to pesticides in bee deaths
Wheat Resistance Genes Failing, New Approach Needed To Stop Flies
Philippines rice 2010 farm output hit by weather
Over 1,300 feared dead in Rio flooding
Airlines cancel Bali flights to avoid volcano ash
Australians face flood recovery tax
Saudi scrambles rescue teams for Jeddah floods
French defence minister spells out Ivory Coast position
Commentary: Explosive kaleidoscope
Wildlife rangers among eight killed in Congo attack
South Sudan eyes landslide to secede
Ancient toolkit offers new clues to humans' journey
Human Ability To Throw Long Distances Aided By An Illusion
Out Of Mind In A Matter Of Seconds
Australia: three charged in asylum deaths
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement|