LA Times: Ancestors may have left Africa earlier than thought

Major news outlets around the world covered the announcement Jan. 27 of important new research findings that significantly shift the date for migration of human ancestors out of Africa. The announcement was made by a team of archaeologists that included Anthony Marks, SMU professor emeritus in the Department of Anthropology, who analyzed the evidence for the finding, Paleolithic stone tools.

In a story by the Los Angeles Times, Marks is quoted as saying the tools are the “first material evidence” that people ventured out of Africa 60,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Read the LA Times story.

EXCERPT:

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By Amina Khan /
Los Angeles Times
Some unlikely tools unearthed near the Persian Gulf show that our ancestors may have migrated far out of Africa as early as 125,000 years ago — about 60,000 years earlier than was previously believed.

The finding, published online Thursday in the journal Science, also provides evidence that early humans took a different route during their migration than scientists had assumed: crossing eastward, directly into southern Arabia from East Africa, rather than following the Nile northward to the northwestern edge of Arabia.

It is the “first material evidence” that people ventured well out of Africa so long ago, during the Pleistocene, said study coauthor Anthony Marks, a professor emeritus of anthropology with Southern Methodist University who is based in Santa Fe, N.M. Though evidence had earlier been found of humans in Israel dating to about 100,000 years ago, he added, those people did not appear to travel more than “three days walk” out of Africa and probably did not venture farther.

The newly discovered tools, by contrast, were found on the eastern coast of Arabia just miles from the northwestern tip of the Indian Ocean — indicating that humans traveled across the Arabian peninsula.

Anatomically modern humans — humans who looked like they do today — evolved in Africa sometime around 200,000 years ago but didn’t leave that continent until much later, research suggests.

In the new paper, an international team of researchers reported finding artifacts — hand axes, leaf-shaped blades and other stone tools — during excavation at a rock shelter on the northeastern end of Jebel Faya, a 6-mile-long limestone mountain in the United Arab Emirates.

They dated the artifacts pulled from the lowest, and thus the oldest, of three layers of dirt to about 125,000 years ago.

Read the full story.

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