Humans may have left Africa for Eurasia earlier than believed
These small hand axes are at least 100,000 years old. A team of scientists found these tools in the United Arab Emirates.
January 27th, 2011
03:45 PM ET

Humans may have left Africa for Eurasia earlier than believed

Scientists have discovered new evidence suggesting that modern humans first left Africa to explore Eurasia much earlier than previously thought.

An international team of scientists has uncovered a tool kit that indicates that modern humans, who looked and perhaps behaved much like us, must have lived in eastern Arabia about 100,000 to 125,000 years ago. The collection of small hand axes, scrapers and other tools was found in Jebel Faya, United Arab Emirates. A report about the discovery appears in the journal Science.

The people who made these tools "are our ancestors, I have no doubt about that," said Hans-Peter Uerpmann, of the University of Tubingen in Germany, who collaborated on the project, at a press teleconference Wednesday.

But the findings still do not prove definitively that modern humans made these tools, as the researchers did not find human remains near them, said Ted Goebel, anthropologist at Texas A&M University, who was not involved in the study. They potentially could have been made by Neanderthals or Neanderthal-like hominids, who were already in Eurasia at that time, Goebel said.

Previous research suggested that modern humans first left Africa along the coast by way of the Indian Ocean rim about 60,000 years ago, based on genetic evidence.

But the tool kit suggests that humans arrived on the Arabian Peninsula much earlier. Scientists say the tool shapes, indicative of what would have been made in Africa, indicate that humans did not need technological innovation to get there.

Stanley Ambrose, an anthropologist at the University of Illinois who was not involved in the research, agreed that the structure of the axes found at the site are indicative of human-made objects from East Africa.

But, as Goebel said, human skeletons are needed to prove the connection.

"It's in Africa they produce hand axes, but also what are called foliates, leaf-shaped bifacial pieces. These simply do not occur in the rest of southwest Asia," Anthony Marks, study co-author and retired professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas said at the teleconference.

Instead, the researchers say, environmental factors aided the humans' departure. There was a global ice age between 200,000 and 130,000 years ago, during which global sea levels fell and desert belts expanded, Marks said. During that time, modern humans would have had to stay in East Africa, as it would have been hard to cross the deserts.

But then, warmer temperatures came in about 130,000 years ago in the "interglacial" period, giving way to savanna grasses with lakes and rivers. Around that time, Marks said, the southern Red Sea had water levels about 328 feet (100 meters) lower than what's found there today, and was also much narrower. This would have facilitated an easier crossing into Arabia.

The humans could have walked, or used rafts or boats, which they were capable of making, Uerpmann said. Their descendants may have moved toward the Persian Gulf, which was smaller then, and into Mesopotamia, or eastward along the Iranian coast to the Indian subcontinent, he said.

Although there has been extensive genetic study pointing to humans' departure 60,000 years ago, there is no archaeological evidence for this, Marks said. Genetics give a sequence of happenings, but cannot say how and when the events occurred, Uerpmann said. The archaeological record is better than genetics for this reason, he said.

Still, Goebel says he is cautious because the method for dating in the study, called luminescence dating, is not much more precise than extrapolating dates from genetics, and gives a large range of possible dates of origin for objects.

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Filed under: History • Science
soundoff (215 Responses)
  1. Cesar

    It makes sense. Many years later God sent Moses. The article plainly says the Red Sea. The Bible says that Moses parted the Red Sea in half. Just put the puzzle together.

    January 27, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Advanced Bi-pedal Hominid

      Troller skates. If you are serious, sorry, no invisible space man is required for a primate to migrate.

      January 27, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chad

      lol good one...

      January 27, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • FreedomBaby

      If science is so accurate why do they have to keep changing their theories?

      January 27, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • FreedomBaby

      what if they are actually just rocks. A statue of a woman on mars is a naturally occurring phenomenon. But triangular rocks on earth are tools made by early man.

      January 27, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nofoldems

      Bible starts 5000 years ago. All this happened before god was invented. So no, you piece belongs to a different puzzle.

      January 27, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • NIck

      @Freedom

      Because if you look at the rocks, they have been worked using tools. They are not saying they are man made because they look like a scrapper but because they actually show the marks and techniques of being worked. But I am sure you don't care.

      January 27, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • FreedomBaby

      way to be a jerk Nick, I was just joking. But since you went there, I can find rocks all day long that look like that.

      January 27, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • FreedomBaby

      Hey D1ck...uh Nick, go visit a rock slide and pick up one of the little ones...looks just like the rocks in the picture.

      January 27, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      The puzzle is on your head, you are contradicting your own religion.

      January 27, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • aaron

      Bam-Bam is in so much trouble, Betty told him to clean up befor he went out with Pebbles, Kids didn't listen then either it would seem.

      January 27, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • goprthugs

      "Genetics give a sequence of happenings, but cannot say how and when the events occurred." Any religion can!

      BTW, Buddhism is not a religion. 🙂

      January 27, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      When they say that people moved from Africa to Eurasia they do NOT mean that any one person walked that distance. Likely no one moved more then 20 miles from where he was born. But over the many generations movement occurred. No need to invoke supernatural beings. It's simple that the kids build their house a few miles from their parents and so on and so on.

      January 27, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • LATIN LOVER

      This proves that "Moses"(If existed) was Egyptian and the Arabs are Natives to the Middle East and NOT the "Jews".

      January 27, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • jimmy the freak

      FreedomBaby
      If science is so accurate why do they have to keep changing their theories?
      ****************************************************
      Because scientists begin with evidence, then formulate a theory based on the evidence. As opposed to religi-tards who make up a story, then cherry-pick evidence to bolster their agenda. In science, evidence changes, and science evolves. Oooooops. did I say "evolve"?

      January 27, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • mccccccccc

      It's kind of ironic that one of the earliest places man evolved is one of the least evolved places on the planet now.

      January 27, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • konadian

      YOU are trying to relate the ancient tools to the Bible, right? Moses parted the Red Sea with that sharp stone, didn't he?
      Now, you got an answer.

      January 27, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • EffChinaLol

      It's only 122,000 years older than China, but Chinese think they are the world's oldest civilization. LOL!

      January 27, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • ktisis

      Hebrew name for the body of water can also be rendered Reed Sea. Regardless, the depth of the water was enough to drown the Egyptian army that pursued the Jews, obviously more than can be parted with a natural storm only. And, it would actually be even MORE of a miracle that this "natural" parting would occur at the exact moment that the Jews were about to be killed by an advancing army. For those who study science, the complexity of DNA (which took us over 20 years with super computers to crack) is enough to convince any unbiased skeptic of the reality of an intelligence so far beyond us that any term less than God or Creator is inconceivable. Plus, when add Chirality, mitosis, protein synthesis, and the specific resonance of carbon 12, the hyper-accurate rates of universal expansion during inflation, it all points to a super intellect.

      January 27, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      FreedomBaby, that's why they are called "theories". It's a possible idea of what may be. Not concrete evidence. When a theory can be conclusively proved, than it is no longer a theory, but a fact.

      January 28, 2011 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Donny

      The damned DEVIL plants these tools and all fossils and artifacts.....THE DEVIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      January 28, 2011 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
    • eldono

      Many years later? Oh, that's good. Over 100,000 years later? Bring on the myth mongers.

      January 28, 2011 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
    • MichaelChatt

      The big problems with Science are related to Mans ability to interpret and understand the evidence and his or her ability to really be open minded and scientificly inquisitive. More often than not scientist don't seem to be willing to rock the boat because Peer review is the path to success.

      When evidence shows up that challenges beliefs it has to fall into the right lap or it appears to me that it gets covered up or discarded.

      January 28, 2011 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Skeptic

      If I remember correctly, it wasnt even the "Red Sea" in the first place. Wasnt it a miss translation of "Reeds" along the Nile River that history recorded as "Red Sea". I remember seeing a show on TV years ago (Science vs Religion) showing events of the day which may have explained how and what happened using science. eg: volcano in Crete or Sicilia erupting which caused the Med.. to drop which in turn drained the water out of the Nile. eg: Parting it.

      January 28, 2011 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Michael, research that simply confirms something we already know is not about to get the grant. Research that confirms something we've confirmed over and over again is not going to get someone their doctorate, or get published in decent journals, or get many grants.... it'd simply be skimmed over as further confirmation of something remarkably obvious.

      Scientists get famous and make money by overturning previously established science. I wouldn't mind you citing examples of big science cover-ups, where ideas are thrown out because people don't want to go against the consensus. No one hid from the fact that experiments like Michelson Morley didn't fit with the Eather theory. No one tried to cover it up. No one tried to cover up Mercury's orbit not fitting with Newtonian physics. Go to a college campus, talk to a science prof, any field, doesn't really matter, and ask them what experiments and observations they're aware of that make them doubt various beliefs held in the field and I promise you that you'll get a far more comprehensive list than anyone who parades as being a "skeptic of the scientific consensus". Climate scientists are the best people to tell you what to be skeptical about with various climate models. Biologists are the best people to tell you what biological evolutionary beliefs seem circ-mspect. Physicists are the best people to tell you what the MAJOR theoretical challenges are that need to be overcome for us to have an even semi-coherent complete model of the universe.

      Scientists in my experience have never really tried to just always go with what's said... there's no interest in rediscovering what we already know.

      For example, I am currently working with a professor on analyzing some Hubble data. I'm trying to isolate a white dwarf cooling sequence and identify if the spectrum is wider than we'd expect, meaning that we could have two different m-ss populations which *could* have a profound impact on our ideas of the m-sses of helium rich red giants. The most interesting result we could hope for, the one I'm hoping for, is where we challenge what we knew about red giants and stellar evolution, the boring result would be finding everything within expected errors.

      That's not because I'm working with some cutting edge renegade professor who is out to overthrow the scientific consensus on red giants... it's because the most interesting answers are those that show what we previously held to be true is false, and those are also the papers that get published. You seem to have it backwards.

      January 28, 2011 at 5:37 am | Report abuse |
    • goat

      Right. Moses makes sense. Cause not only was he able to find 2 of every animal on earth, but apparently, the offspring of these animals found others to mate with.

      If the only two of, say cows, had several offspring, who did they mate with?
      Same question for adam and eve...

      Bible endorses incest!

      January 28, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  2. Yikes

    They've explained the parting of the Red Sea. A strong wind will separate the waters and provide passage, this is a common occurrence. Sorry, no God there, just ignorant people commenting on a natural phenomenon they did not understand. Oh, is that Occam's Razor ...

    January 27, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • FreedomBaby

      it's a common occurrence. hahaha good one! yeah I think I saw a video of it on youtube. common occurrence?!? lol. monkey people are so doggone amusing. keep up the good work.

      January 27, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kivu

      No one thinks the Red Sea was parted by winds – it's huge. People think the biblical word which is usually translated as "Red Sea" refers to some other body of water which could have been parted by winds or other natural events.

      January 27, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      People who push "NO GOD FOUND" is as bad as the Hare Krishna in airport's... Keep pushing and they will make fun of you sooner or later... (Yes I believe in God)

      January 27, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • dwb1957

      Actually, since there's no historical/scientific proof that anything in Exodus actually happened, there's absolutely no reason to go looking for an explanation of how the Red Sea was parted.

      January 27, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Redpete

      Are you kindding me, do you really believe what you just said?????? If Gods says it is must not be true, but if a man says it then you believe him. Wouldn't it be reasonable to say the God woul;d have control of the physics and have the abitlity to control nature. Well when everything is melted with fervent heat produced by man explain that as your melting.

      January 27, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ruby

      Yikes, where in the world do you get your information, the corner tavern? If this is a common occurence, could you direct me to some photographs of this parting of the sea happening? Cover yourself boy, we can see your ignorance.

      January 27, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chinaman

      what the h are you talking about??? a common occurence get real! most things in the bible are metaphors for explaining the unexplainable...if it was a natural occurence, the fact that it happend at the time someone needed to part it, is GOD...he may not be theyre when you want him. but he'll be there right ontime! I saiddd that he's an ontime GOD! OH YES HE IS!

      January 28, 2011 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  3. jackal&jester

    Perhaps the tools belonged to an early explorer that was killed and dragged away by animals.

    January 27, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Yes I. Would

    Looks like primitive crack rock to me, thus explaining much of the primitive behavior in the U.S. today.

    January 27, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beth

      It at least explains the reactions of people commenting on this article – I've never seen so much God nonsense over a rock in all my life.

      January 28, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
  5. ItsDaPoleece

    Recent studies conclude that scientists' "evidence" is often inaccurate or imprecise /- dozens of millenia.

    While I largely respect findings of professionals in the field of archeology, and hold even more respect for the great advances in today's dating and forensic technology, it's still not perfect. Not even close. It's still nice to hear their educated guesses about when parts of history occurred.

    January 27, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • dwb1957

      Cite those recent studies, please.

      January 27, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Davidson

      Discoveries of the human genome sequence and DNA project are that humans evolved in Eurasia by merging with the Neanderthals.Africans were found to have migrated into near the Biblical regions over 60,000 years ago ,calling the find Rhodesia man Geneticists theory is a link to the original tribe of Moses. Politicians have denied much of this proven science as socially unacceptable.

      January 27, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • PhinHead

      "Dating Technology" –> how did match or eharmony get into this discussion.

      January 27, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Donny

    This is kinda crazy. 125,000 years? I have been ti the Creation Museum and saw with my own eyes dinosaurs and humans living together. The earth is only 6000 years old. It says so in the bible and The Duggars on 19 kids abd counting have studied this as well.

    January 27, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nofoldems

      All of this predates the invention of bible and creation of god.

      January 27, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donny

      It was all planted there by the Devil.

      January 27, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • aaron

      Dumb, dumb, dumb a$$!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      January 27, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Whoa! Calm down. I think Donny is being satirical here. Either way, what good does name calling do?

      January 27, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • aaron

      Sorry.

      January 27, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      I mean, it has to be satirical if you mention the Bible and the Duggars in the same sentence, right?

      January 27, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donny

      Adam and eve were white. I saw them at The Creation Museum. Noah and his family repopulated the earth, they were white too. Where did chinese and africans come from? The Devil, thats who, just like the bones and fake fosslis, all planted by Satan. Black people became Christians and were saved in the 1700's. The Chinese people are all going to hell.

      January 27, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      What about the theory that earth rests on 3 whales that swim in the ocean?

      January 27, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nursehope

      C'mon. You are truly trollish.

      January 27, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dystopiax

    These people were just scraping by.

    January 27, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda

      Finally – someone with humor! Too bad so many use this forum to insult. Thanks for the laugh!

      January 27, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ruby

      Too funny! I just rocked with laughter.

      January 27, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • jimmy the freak

      Ooooma gooooma, BWA HAAA HAAA

      January 27, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. NewRome

    When asked for the cause of death by early humans in the region, Archaeologists said "suicide stabbing".

    January 27, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tim

    People who push "NO GOD FOUND" is as bad as the Hare Krishna in airport's... Keep pushing and they will make fun of you sooner or later... (Yes I believe in God)

    January 27, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      What? Go peddle crazy somewhere else.

      January 27, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • joe

      Funny you mention the Krishnas, when Christianity stole from it. Look it up.

      January 27, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nursehope

      Citing verifiable facts is not the same as "pushing" kookaboo mythology. nice try. Please play again

      January 27, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cesar

    Oh.

    January 27, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Romulan

    Mixing religion with science is what made Americans inferior than the rest of the universe.

    January 27, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Perhaps, but unless you are familiar with the entire universe yourself this is just a non-empirical claim. Mixing religion with science sure doesn't make the U.S. look good in other nations on Earth, however.

      January 27, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Gg

    Yes before God there were Nenderthals and Home Sapiens lived on this planet, then God came from Saturn moon Neo and reprogrammed them into Consumers hence the modern civilization began.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ed

    FreedomBaby – That's why you're not a scientist.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mechatronics

    Maybe the whole out of Africa theory is wrong. I personally don't buy it. I believe life began in different parts of the world simultaneously.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • donimus

      I believe you would be wrong – the thing is lots of people today just can't accept they descended from Africans. Accept it its true.

      January 27, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donna

      The Out of Africa Theory doesn't assert that life began in Africa, but that that is where primates evolved into hominid species that then migrated out to the rest of the world. The Out of Africa theory then asserts that archaic humans evolved in Africa only, then moved out and replaced other hominids like neaderthals and erectus. However that second part is looking far less likely and the single species hypothesis is getting more support. That contends that archaic humans, erectus and neaderthals were subgroups of the same species that evolved in various parts of the world.

      January 27, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nursehope

      Kindly list your credentials, scientific research data and other verifiable facts. Urban legend is the same as religious mythology...pure fiction and heresay.

      January 27, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lulu

    'Why do they keep changing theories;...because they are theories.

    January 27, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
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