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. Jesus

    Heeeeey wait just a darned second now

    humans 100,000 years ago? that's 994,000 years before the earth was created. IMPOSSIBLE! If this were true then that would mean I wasn't real and am just a fairy tale....oh no...

    January 27, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bob

    How can a 100,000 year old piece of stone have such sharp edges? Wear and tear, water, wind, would have made it blunt long-long time ago.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jesus

      this is the most fail comment i've read yet


      January 27, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Also, it is surprisingly clean. No trace of dust, mold or primitive plants or creatures. Look at the pyramids. That is what 6OOO year old stones look like. This is supposed to be 15x older.

      January 27, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Archaeologist

      The article says the rocks were buried in a rockshelte! No water, no wind. That's why they are still sharp. As far as being cleaned, you don't suppose that the archaeologists might have wiped the dirt off them so they could see them better, do you?

      January 28, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  3. Philip's not "thou shalt not kill", it's "thou shall not commit murder". Keep reading the verses after the ten commandments and you will find there are instances when an obedient follower of God is required to kil, under the old law covenant. (Christians are not under this old law covenant like the ancient nation of Israel was. Jesus gave a new law to replace the old laws once they had served their purpose. "Love your God with your whole heart and soul, and love your neighbor." I especially like the law "love your neighbor". This law is probably the most commonly broken one of all.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • JAB

      @Donny - Snow day today?

      I am guessing you are 12, maybe 13, and overheard some grownups talking about things you barely understand after your mommy or daddy took you to the Creation Museum. And now, since school has been cancelled, you are letting us all know how smart you really are.

      A little advice: go back to the Bieber fan site.

      January 28, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  4. Bob

    I am no creationist, but you evolutionists can be just as bigoted and closed minded when it comes to proving your pet theories.

    January 27, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Philip

    "Thou shalt not commit murder"–Exodus 20:13 ."One who strikes a man so that he actually dies is to be put to death without fail"–Exodus 21:12 ."And in case a man becomes heated against his fellow to the point of killing him with craftiness, you are to take die." Exodus 21:14 // Even the old law differentiates between killing, and murdering. It's always easy to tell when someone get's their bible knowledge from movies. Charleton Heston in The Ten Commandments movie say's "thou shalt not kill" and people just think that's what the bible really states. Very peculiar.

    January 27, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Philip

    @Donny... How many years God spent creating the earth isn't specified in the bible The book of genisis states that after God created the earth, he spent six of His days, not ours, preparing it for man to inhabit. Read your bible.

    January 27, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donny

      Genesis reports the average human lifespan dropping quickly from an average of 900 years at the time of Noah to an average of 175 by the time of Abraham. this is due to effects associated with inbreeding that took place after the flood, as only eight people remained.

      January 27, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Donny

    Genesis reports the average human lifespan dropping quickly from an average of 900 years at the time of Noah to an average of 175 by the time of Abraham. this is due to effects associated with inbreeding that took place after the flood, as only eight people remained

    January 27, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ktisis

    Red Sea? 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 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Donny

    Most of you people that have made comments need to be healed and annointed in the fire by the great Benny Hinn.

    January 27, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. banasy

    Hahahahahaha! Benny Hinn would annoint a mushroom if one sent in a big enough donation!!!!! Hahaha! That's the best comment yet! Thanks!!!

    January 27, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donny

      thanks, Have you been to a revival?

      January 27, 2011 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Philip say lifespans went from 900yrs in Adams day, to 175 in Abraham's due to Noah and his family inbreeding? Who did Adam and Eve's son's and daughters breed? Aging isn't due to inbreeding. it's due to inherited imperfections just as the bible states. If Adam and Eve had not disobeyed, they would still be alive today. All of mankind's problems come from our disobeying God's word.

    January 27, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donny

      you seem to be confused. are you saying that Adam and Eve were not the only humans on planet earth?

      January 27, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donny

      I am worried about you Philip, unless you are annointed by Benny Hinn you are in grave danger of going to hell.

      January 28, 2011 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  12. Henk in Colorado

    So no human skeletons were found in that area where the tools were found? Hmmm, how did the tools get there?
    Must have fell from a passing UPS truck.

    January 28, 2011 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Donny

      is is clearly obvious to anyone with a brain that these tools were placed there by the devil. THE DEVIL!!!!!!!

      January 28, 2011 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Archaeologist

      @Henk – do all the tools you use have skeletons next to them also? People throw lots of their tools out without dying themselves. These tools were tossed out by someone who didn't need them anymore. People use hundreds of tools, yet leave behind only 1 skeleton. Thus, we should expect lots and lots more tools than skeletons.

      January 28, 2011 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. Philip

    No, I am saying that our short lifespans are not because of inbreeding. We inherited Adam and Eve's sins. (sin: literally to miss the mark of perfection) God's purpose for Adam, Eve, and all of their children was for them to live forever on a paradise earth, all obedient to God. Adam and Eve disobeyed, but that did not change God's purpose for the earth.

    January 28, 2011 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Donny

      I see, so you agree that dinsosaurs and humans coexisted and that neandrathal/cavemen never did but their bones were planted by the devil. THE DEVIL!!!!!!

      January 28, 2011 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  14. Philip

    @Henk in Coloradi...good point. We have thousands and thousands of examples of ancient animal fossils. Where are all the ancient human fossils? The fact is, that every fossil said to be those of ancient humans presented trying to prove evolution and the idea that man has lived on earth for over 100,000 yrs. can all fit on a coffee table.

    January 28, 2011 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Donny

      Actually every fossil they have found of human cavemen were planted their by the devil. THE DEVIL!!!!!

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

    @Donny...if I need Benny Hinn for salvation, then what do I need Jesus for? And who saved Benny Hinn?

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

      How dare you speak of Benny Hinn this way. Enjoy spending eternity with Hitler.

      January 28, 2011 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
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