First human migration out of Africa more geographically widespread than previously thought

April 9, 2018, Max Planck Society
General view of the excavations at the Al Wusta site, Saudi Arabia. The ancient lake bed (in white) is surrounded by sand dunes of the Nefud Desert. Credit: Michael Petraglia

A project led by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History has discovered a fossilized finger bone of an early modern human in the Nefud Desert of Saudi Arabia, dating to approximately 90,000 years ago. The discovery, described in Nature Ecology and Evolution, is the oldest directly dated Homo sapiens fossil outside of Africa and the Levant and indicates that early dispersals into Eurasia were more expansive than previously thought.

Researchers conducting archaeological fieldwork in the Nefud Desert of Saudi Arabia have discovered a fossilized of an early member of our species, Homo sapiens. The discovery is the oldest directly dated Homo sapiens fossil outside of Africa and the immediately adjacent Levant, and indicates that early dispersals into Eurasia were more expansive than previously thought. Prior to this discovery, it was thought that early dispersals into Eurasia were unsuccessful and remained restricted to the Mediterranean forests of the Levant, on the doorstep of Africa. The finding from the Al Wusta site shows that there were both multiple dispersals out of Africa, and these spread further than previously known.

Oldest directly dated Homo sapiens fossil outside of Africa and the Levant

The results, published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, detail the discovery made at the site of Al Wusta, an ancient fresh-water lake located in what is now the hyper-arid Nefud Desert. Numerous animal fossils, including those of hippopotamus and tiny fresh water snails were found at Al Wusta, as well as abundant stone tools made by humans. Among these finds was a well preserved and small fossil, just 3.2 cm long, which was immediately recognized as a human finger . The bone was scanned in three dimensions and its shape compared to various other finger bones, both of recent Homo sapiens individuals and bones from other species of primates and other forms of early humans, such as Neanderthals. The results conclusively showed that the finger bone, the first ancient human fossil found in Arabia, belonged to our own species. Using a technique called uranium series dating, a laser was used to make microscopic holes in the fossil and measure the ratio between tiny traces of radioactive elements. These ratios revealed that the fossil was 88,000 years old. Other dates obtained from associated animals fossils and sediments converged to a date of approximately 90,000 years ago. Further environmental analyses also revealed the site to have been a freshwater lake in an ancient grassland environment far removed from today's deserts.

Survey and mapping of the Al Wusta site. Credit: Klint Janulis

Lead author Dr. Huw Groucutt, of the University of Oxford and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, states, "This discovery for the first time conclusively shows that early members of our species colonized an expansive region of southwest Asia and were not just restricted to the Levant. The ability of these early people to widely colonize this region casts doubt on long held views that early dispersals out of Africa were localized and unsuccessful."

Modern deserts of the Arabian Peninsula were once lush grasslands that humans were able to colonize

Project Lead, Professor Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History adds, "The Arabian Peninsula has long been considered to be far from the main stage of human evolution. This firmly puts Arabia on the map as a key region for understanding our origins and expansion to the rest of the world. As fieldwork carries on, we continue to make remarkable discoveries in Saudi Arabia."

Fossil finger bone of Homo sapiens from the Al Wusta site, Saudi Arabia. Credit: Ian Cartwright

The international consortium of researchers involved in this project is headed by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, in partnership with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage. Additional partners include the Saudi Geological Survey, King Saud University, the University of Oxford and other key institutions in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Explore further: Stone tools in India suggest earlier human exit from Africa

More information: Homo sapiens in Arabia by 85,000 years ago, Nature Ecology and Evolution, nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/s41559-018-0518-2

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a_whitefree_europe
1.6 / 5 (7) Apr 09, 2018
Great, now grind one of them up and see if dna can be extracted out of it. It's already been proven that modern "Europeans" have absolutely zero relation to the oldest European yet analyzed so there's a nearly 100% chance they'll have zero relation to these people either.

All this of course points to the irrefutable fact that the people in Europe now aren't the first people there. It would be great if someone went and interviewed these anti-settler type people in Europe and confronted them with the many papers that conclusively show the multiple population replacements and assimilations that have taken place there since the arrival of >40,000 BC Europeans. Watching them squirm would be hilarious.
Thorium Boy
1.2 / 5 (5) Apr 10, 2018
Attempting to shore-up the faltering theory of Africa-centric creation of man. There is more and more evidence that man appeared in more places than just Africa. How for example could Africans who had almost no boat technology get to island nations like Australia and New Zealand? These places had no (during the time of man) physical connection to any major land mass, unlike the ice bridge linking Asia to Alaska which would have made migration possible.
ShotmanMaslo
5 / 5 (1) Apr 10, 2018
It would be great if someone went and interviewed these anti-settler type people in Europe and confronted them with the many papers that conclusively show the multiple population replacements and assimilations that have taken place there since the arrival of >40,000 BC Europeans. Watching them squirm would be hilarious.


Because modern Europeans ending up like Neanderthals or native Americans would be such a great outcome, right? If anything, historic migrations teach us the significant importance of well regulated and enforced immigration policy. You have it exactly backwards, as expect from someone with such a deranged username..
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Apr 10, 2018
A mass exodus could have been propelled by a particularly successful aggressive tribe similar to the Zulu or the hun. Tribes evolved in much the same way species do, in this case by group selection.

A Tribe that developed a key weapons system or a tactical advantage could have swept whole regions, driving waves of refugees before them.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) Apr 10, 2018
Attempting to shore-up the faltering theory of Africa-centric creation of man
It's funny how stinking bigots feel empowered to make up the most outrageous of lies in support of their preconceptions, no? It's an obligation.

This indicates just how a tribal identity can warp cognition to the point where tribalists actually believe the lies they concoct.

This is the evil power behind religion. This is why tribalism in all its forms presents the greatest danger to humanity.

And it's why civilization has gone to such extreme efforts to eradicate it over the centuries, for instance by creating the US to act as a great 'melting pot' and a destination for refugees from around the world. They come here in desperation. Their children lose their culture, comingle. Racial and ethnic differences evaporate as a result.

The best way to destroy religion is to create a place where religions are all equal. Lesson learned in Alexandria, tarsus, and elsewhere.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Apr 10, 2018
But in order to create this great melting pot they first had to sweep 2 continents clean of all the virulent tribalists who lived there.

Ironic, no?

Much like Mongol and plague swept Eurasia clean in preparation for the great campaign to conquer the western hemisphere, and eventually the world.

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood..." Daniel Hudson Burnham (4 September 1846 – 1 June 1912) architect, high ranking freemason

-Stir men's blood? Melting pot? Get it?
AllStBob
5 / 5 (3) Apr 10, 2018
[qHow for example could Africans who had almost no boat technology get to island nations like Australia and New Zealand? .

New Zealand Maoris arrived in NZ about 1,000 years ago in boats that their Polynesian ancestors made. They have oral historical records of where and when the boats arrived and the people who have descended from these arrivals identify as a tribal group or Iwi. Australian Aboriginals arrived much earlier, maybe 60,000 years ago and while there is no record they could have travelled when the sea level was much lower and only needed to cross 50km of open water in fishing canoes which could have been deliberate or accidental during a storm.

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