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. Luke

    Wow. Came here to discuss evolutionary theory and immediately saw the thread was hijacked by god-folk. Leaving highly disappointed. Attention smart people: DON'T FEED THE TROLLS.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richie

      Don't give up luke.

      January 27, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • standingwave

      Well,Luke. That's because they feel threatened by anyone who has differing beliefs.

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

      standingwave – Careful with those words. Studying evolutionary history is not a belief. It is an examination of data and facts. Arguing for the existence of the supernatural and refuting the Theory of Evolution is a belief because there is evidence in support of the thesis.

      January 28, 2011 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
  2. melanie

    this is hysterical.

    January 27, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  3. J. D

    Looks like rocks to me.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jacob

    So, where was the Garden of Eden now?

    January 27, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. 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 when white people took them away from their homeland of Africa they stopped worshiping false gods and idols.. The Chinese people are all going to hell.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • donimus

      You can't be serious, you just can't be.

      January 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. The two witnesses

    Yes but the two witnesses can tell you exactly what has taken place. The two witnesses spoken of in your holy scriptures are here now and doing an awesome work. Please call 800 613 9494 or log onto http://www.Yahweh.com today meet the last days witness

    January 27, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donny

      I agree, the 2 witnesses were white and the creation museum is correct. The two witnesses saw the rise and fall of the dinosaurs and Noah and his family repopulate the earth after the great flood. Amen!

      January 27, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. IceT

    These tools were the work of another intellegent species that evolved slightly earlier than we did. We call them the Greys and think of them as "aliens". They evolved faster than us and left the planet, they're just coming back to check on the our development.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rod Venger

    Hey Orgo, hand me that ax would ya?

    No dummy, not the phillips, the torx. Right bud, thanks!

    January 27, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Lebanese

    Hey I have a question: how is it easier to believe that life suddenly started from an explosion when there was nothing so we keep asking ourselves how an explosion can start out of nothing, and that earth, life and everything else formed randomly and our farthest ancestors were some tiny molecules that evolved into very complex beings like humans then to believe that it was a supreme being who was behind the creation of a perfect world?

    January 27, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donny

      Good point, Noah was a part of this perfect world and he was pure. when god destroyed everything with a flood Noah and his family repopulated. We owe a great deal of thanks and praise for Noah. All of these athiest on here making comments are being possesed by demons and they are buying into the Devils scientific lies.

      January 27, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just a KId w/ an opinion

      YAY! Lebanese i love you and iim part Lebanese, thank you for telling all these atheists off bc what you said is extremely true

      January 27, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ruby

      I've wondered about that also. Keep in mind though, that the Big Bang did not come from nothing, what not the beginning at all since there was something that went bang.
      I believe that the no god crowd is really just expressing their rejection of a certain consept of God, one created and promoted by the churches. It is evident from postings here that they have no comrehension at all, like many Christians, of what the ancient Hebrew legends were attempting to say.

      January 27, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • grist

      Lebanese,
      How is it that we think that the Big Bang started it all? Because that is where the Science takes us. It is the best explanation for how things started. You really should read some Science instead of just a book written by primitive men. Hawking's recent book is very readable and it is a good one to read if you want to try to understand something about the world. And (I am sure you have heard this before), you postulate the existence of a supernatural god but somehow don't expect to have to explain where s/h/it (she, he or it) came from.

      January 27, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sebastian Garcia

    I do see a correlation between Creationism and Evolution. Modern us have been around for over 100,000 years, but stayed pretty dumb pretty much until we ate from the forbidden apple about 6000 years ago.

    January 27, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jesus

      ummm so that's why the sumerians which were actually the 1st organized civilization known were around over 8,000 years ago...

      knowledge fail

      January 27, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ruby

      I congratulate you on your insight. The time frame is a bit iffy of course, but probably not far off. In modern language that eating of apples is called the onset of self-consciousness. Once this occurred people left their primitive animal like existence, and began to build towns and develop farming. Of course they also began to wonder where they came from, and wonder about their own nature.

      January 27, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Just a KId w/ an opinion

    fair enough and you are right, from what the non God crowd said about the bible, they only acknowledge the fundamentals of the some of the parables which are not always meant literally; but as Parables which are just stories to be able to learn from. i dont deeply believe two people picked fruit from a tree that a voice in the sky told them not to. but i do believe that that God gave us commandments for us to live and love by.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donny

      You are going to hell if you dont believe in Adam and Eve also if you do not believe that Noah and his family repopulated the earth. Repent now or burn.

      January 27, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jesus

      come oooon we all know it was POSEIDON who made the flood, afterall zeus and poseidon were written about nearly 300 years before the old testament.

      "thou shalt not kill" ha, that's why my big ol dad told moses in the book of numbers to kill the women and children of his enemies but save the virgins for himself.

      shows what u know

      January 27, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ruby

      Nicely done, Kid.

      January 27, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kurtis Kirby

    Rock tools? You people are haveing a "your stupid/your possessed" arguement over old rocks? I know one thing for sure, they sure dont make tools like they used to. These tools outlast the ones we have today. I want to see a blackanddecker or a drimel last a hundred thousand years.

    January 27, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Shandra

    Has anyone thought of the possibility that the tools were made in Africa and when humans migrated – they took them with them....duh

    January 27, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Philip

    It is very difficult to believe man has been around for over 100,000 years when written history only goes back a few thousand. It took man 100,000 years to learn how to record his own history? Hard to believe.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donny

      I agree Philip, it is just a trick by the Devil...he plants the fossils, bones and artifacts in different layers of the earths surface in order to gain followers and to turn people evil....its the damned devil...THE DEVIL!!!!!!!!

      January 27, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      They could very easily be just splitters of cliffs that fell off a mountainside. I bet I could find similar ones right where I live if I looked long enough.

      January 27, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Archaeologist

      But they were NOT found at the base of a cliff. They are in a rockshelter. And there's more than one. Archaeologists study patterns, not random rocks. Sure, you might find 1 rock like that, out of millions, if you looked a long time. But you won't find several near each other shaped the same way, with very few other rocks.

      January 28, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  15. Philip

    @Donny...what loving father would allow his own children to be burned alive for misbehaving? The idea that God would allow this is rediculous, and portrays God as if He were some sort of freak. This "hellfire" idea is even more rediculous than the idea that God created everything in 6 literal days. So rediculous are these ideas that those who do not believe in God, use these stupid ideas as proof there is no God. And even if there were this "hellfire" God, who in their right mind would find Him attractive?

    January 27, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donny

      You should go to the Creation Museum in Kentucky. There you will find out that in fact everything was created in 6 days.

      January 27, 2011 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
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