ABSTRACT: Understanding the timing and character of the expansion of Homo sapiens out of Africa is critical for inferring the colonization and admixture processes that underpin global population history. It has been argued that dispersal out of Africa had an early phase, particularly ~130-90 thousand years ago (ka), that reached only the East Mediterranean Levant, and a later phase, ~60-50?ka, that extended across the diverse environments of Eurasia to Sahul. However, recent findings from East Asia and Sahul challenge this model. Here we show that H. sapiens was in the Arabian Peninsula before 85?ka. We describe the Al Wusta-1 (AW-1) intermediate phalanx from the site of Al Wusta in the Nefud desert, Saudi Arabia. AW-1 is the oldest directly dated fossil of our species outside Africa and the Levant. The palaeoenvironmental context of Al Wusta demonstrates that H. sapiens using Middle Palaeolithic stone tools dispersed into Arabia during a phase of increased precipitation driven by orbital forcing, in association with a primarily African fauna. A Bayesian model incorporating independent chronometric age estimates indicates a chronology for Al Wusta of ~95-86?ka, which we correlate with a humid episode in the later part of Marine Isotope Stage 5 known from various regional records. Al Wusta shows that early dispersals were more spatially and temporally extensive than previously thought. Early H. sapiens dispersals out of Africa were not limited to winter rainfall-fed Levantine Mediterranean woodlands immediately adjacent to Africa, but extended deep into the semi-arid grasslands of Arabia, facilitated by periods of enhanced monsoonal rainfall.
Project description:Anatomically modern humans (<i>Homo sapiens</i>, AMH) began spreading across Eurasia from Africa and adjacent Southwest Asia about 50,000-55,000 years ago (<i>ca</i> 50-55 ka). Some have argued that human genetic, fossil, and archaeological data indicate one or more prior dispersals, possibly as early as 120 ka. A recently reported age estimate of 65 ka for Madjedbebe, an archaeological site in northern Sahul (Pleistocene Australia-New Guinea), if correct, offers what might be the strongest support yet presented for a pre-55-ka African AMH exodus. We review evidence for AMH arrival on an arc spanning South China through Sahul and then evaluate data from Madjedbebe. We find that an age estimate of >50 ka for this site is unlikely to be valid. While AMH may have moved far beyond Africa well before 50-55 ka, data from the region of interest offered in support of this idea are not compelling.
Project description:Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5, ~ 130 to 71 thousand years ago, was a key period for the geographic expansion of Homo sapiens, including engagement with new landscapes within Africa and dispersal into Asia. Occupation of the Levant by Homo sapiens in MIS 5 is well established, while recent research has documented complementary evidence in Arabia. Here, we undertake the first detailed comparison of Levallois core technology from eastern Africa, Arabia, and the Levant during MIS 5, including multiple sites associated with Homo sapiens fossils. We employ quantitative comparisons of individual artefacts that provides a detailed appraisal of Levallois reduction activity in MIS 5, thereby enabling assessment of intra- and inter-assemblage variability for the first time. Our results demonstrate a pattern of geographically structured variability embedded within a shared focus on centripetal Levallois reduction schemes and overlapping core morphologies. We reveal directional changes in core shaping and flake production from eastern Africa to Arabia and the Levant that are independent of differences in geographic or environmental parameters. These results are consistent with a common cultural inheritance between these regions, potentially stemming from a shared late Middle Pleistocene source in eastern Africa.
Project description:India is located at a critical geographic crossroads for understanding the dispersal of Homo sapiens out of Africa and into Asia and Oceania. Here we report evidence for long-term human occupation, spanning the last ~80 thousand years, at the site of Dhaba in the Middle Son River Valley of Central India. An unchanging stone tool industry is found at Dhaba spanning the Toba eruption of ~74?ka (i.e., the Youngest Toba Tuff, YTT) bracketed between ages of 79.6?±?3.2 and 65.2?±?3.1?ka, with the introduction of microlithic technology ~48?ka. The lithic industry from Dhaba strongly resembles stone tool assemblages from the African Middle Stone Age (MSA) and Arabia, and the earliest artefacts from Australia, suggesting that it is likely the product of Homo sapiens as they dispersed eastward out of Africa.
Project description:The nature of human dispersals out of Africa has remained elusive because of the poor resolution of paleoecological data in direct association with remains of the earliest non-African people. Here, we report hominin and non-hominin mammalian tracks from an ancient lake deposit in the Arabian Peninsula, dated within the last interglacial. The findings, it is argued, likely represent the oldest securely dated evidence for Homo sapiens in Arabia. The paleoecological evidence indicates a well-watered semi-arid grassland setting during human movements into the Nefud Desert of Saudi Arabia. We conclude that visitation to the lake was transient, likely serving as a place to drink and to forage, and that late Pleistocene human and mammalian migrations and landscape use patterns in Arabia were inexorably linked.
Project description:Rare mitochondrial lineages with relict distributions can sometimes be disproportionately informative about deep events in human prehistory. We have studied one such lineage, haplogroup R0a, which uniquely is most frequent in Arabia and the Horn of Africa, but is distributed much more widely, from Europe to India. We conclude that: (1) the lineage ancestral to R0a is more ancient than previously thought, with a relict distribution across the Mediterranean/Southwest Asia; (2) R0a has a much deeper presence in Arabia than previously thought, highlighting the role of at least one Pleistocene glacial refugium, perhaps on the Red Sea plains; (3) the main episode of dispersal into Eastern Africa, at least concerning maternal lineages, was at the end of the Late Glacial, due to major expansions from one or more refugia in Arabia; (4) there was likely a minor Late Glacial/early postglacial dispersal from Arabia through the Levant and into Europe, possibly alongside other lineages from a Levantine refugium; and (5) the presence of R0a in Southwest Arabia in the Holocene at the nexus of a trading network that developed after ~3?ka between Africa and the Indian Ocean led to some gene flow even further afield, into Iran, Pakistan and India.
Project description:Interpreting human behavioral patterns during the Middle Paleolithic in the Levant is crucial for better understanding the dispersals and evolution of Homo sapiens and their possible interactions with other hominin groups. Here, we reconstruct the technological behavior, focusing on the centripetal Levallois method at Nesher Ramla karst sinkhole, Israel. Nesher Ramla karst sinkhole is dated to the Marine Isotope stages (MIS) 6 and 5 and represents one of the oldest occurrences of the centripetal Levallois reduction strategy in the Near East. The Levallois centripetal technology is often seen as a marker of human dispersals and adaptations in the Middle Paleolithic/Middle Stone Age of Africa and the Near East. This technology is documented in East African sites as early as 300 kya and in the Levant as early as 130 kya. However, the degree of similarity between African and Levantine centripetal technology and whether it originates from the same source remain under debate. In this paper, we focus on describing the lithic organization at Unit III of Nesher Ramla (dated to MIS 5), which is dominated by the centripetal Levallois method in association with other reduction sequences. Both preferential and recurrent centripetal Levallois modes were used at the site to produce oval and rectangular flakes. Other minor reduction sequences include unidirectional convergent method for Levallois points production and a specific method for the manufacture of naturally backed knives. The lithic data from Unit III of Nesher Ramla is further used in inter-site comparisons suggesting that the mid-Middle Paleolithic sites in the Near East possess common technological characteristics, especially the use of the centripetal Levallois method as predominant reduction strategy. This trend differs from what is usually observed in Africa and Europe, where the centripetal Levallois method is modestly represented during MIS 5 and is accompanied by other, more dominant, reduction strategies.
Project description:The Out-of-Africa model holds that anatomically modern humans (AMH) evolved and dispersed from Africa into Asia, and later Europe. Palaeoanthropological evidence from the Near East assumes great importance, but AMH remains from the region are extremely scarce. 'Egbert', a now-lost AMH fossil from the key site of Ksar Akil (Lebanon) and 'Ethelruda', a recently re-discovered fragmentary maxilla from the same site, are two rare examples where human fossils are directly linked with early Upper Palaeolithic archaeological assemblages. Here we radiocarbon date the contexts from which Egbert and Ethelruda were recovered, as well as the levels above and below the findspots. In the absence of well-preserved organic materials, we primarily used marine shell beads, often regarded as indicative of behavioural modernity. Bayesian modelling allows for the construction of a chronostratigraphic framework for Ksar Akil, which supports several conclusions. The model-generated age estimates place Egbert between 40.8-39.2 ka cal BP (68.2% prob.) and Ethelruda between 42.4-41.7 ka cal BP (68.2% prob.). This indicates that Egbert is of an age comparable to that of the oldest directly-dated European AMH (Pe?tera cu Oase). Ethelruda is older, but on current estimates not older than the modern human teeth from Cavallo in Italy. The dating of the so-called "transitional" or Initial Upper Palaeolithic layers of the site may indicate that the passage from the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic at Ksar Akil, and possibly in the wider northern Levant, occurred later than previously estimated, casting some doubts on the assumed singular role of the region as a locus for human dispersals into Europe. Finally, tentative interpretations of the fossil's taxonomy, combined with the chronometric dating of Ethelruda's context, provides evidence that the transitional/IUP industries of Europe and the Levant, or at least some of them, may be the result of early modern human migration(s).
Project description:Biotic interactions between Africa and Eurasia across the Levant have invoked particular attention among scientists aiming to unravel early human dispersals. However, it remains unclear whether behavioral capacities enabled early modern humans to surpass the Saharo-Arabian deserts or if climatic changes triggered punctuated dispersals out of Africa. Here, we report an unusual subfossil assemblage discovered in a Judean Desert's cliff cave near the Dead Sea and dated to between ∼42,000 and at least 103,000 y ago. Paleogenomic and morphological comparisons indicate that the specimens belong to an extinct subspecies of the eastern African crested rat, <i>Lophiomys imhausi maremortum</i> subspecies nova, which diverged from the modern eastern African populations in the late Middle Pleistocene ∼226,000 to 165,000 y ago. The reported paleomitogenome is the oldest so far in the Levant, opening the door for future paleoDNA analyses in the region. Species distribution modeling points to the presence of continuous habitat corridors connecting eastern Africa with the Levant during the Last Interglacial ∼129,000 to 116,000 y ago, providing further evidence of the northern ingression of African biomes into Eurasia and reinforcing previous suggestions of the critical role of climate change in Late Pleistocene intercontinental biogeography. Furthermore, our study complements other paleoenvironmental proxies with local-instead of interregional-paleoenvironmental data, opening an unprecedented window into the Dead Sea rift paleolandscape.
Project description:Neanderthals occurred widely across north Eurasian landscapes, but between ~ 70 and 50 thousand years ago (ka) they expanded southwards into the Levant, which had previously been inhabited by Homo sapiens. Palaeoanthropological research in the first half of the twentieth century demonstrated alternate occupations of the Levant by Neanderthal and Homo sapiens populations, yet key early findings have largely been overlooked in later studies. Here, we present the results of new examinations of both the fossil and archaeological collections from Shukbah Cave, located in the Palestinian West Bank, presenting new quantitative analyses of a hominin lower first molar and associated stone tool assemblage. The hominin tooth shows clear Neanderthal affinities, making it the southernmost known fossil specimen of this population/species. The associated Middle Palaeolithic stone tool assemblage is dominated by Levallois reduction methods, including the presence of Nubian Levallois points and cores. This is the first direct association between Neanderthals and Nubian Levallois technology, demonstrating that this stone tool technology should not be considered an exclusive marker of Homo sapiens.
Project description:The late Middle Palaeolithic (MP) settlement patterns in the Levant included the repeated use of caves and open landscape sites. The fossil record shows that two types of hominins occupied the region during this period-Neandertals and Homo sapiens. Until recently, diagnostic fossil remains were found only at cave sites. Because the two populations in this region left similar material cultural remains, it was impossible to attribute any open-air site to either species. In this study, we present newly discovered fossil remains from intact archaeological layers of the open-air site 'Ein Qashish, in northern Israel. The hominin remains represent three individuals: EQH1, a nondiagnostic skull fragment; EQH2, an upper right third molar (RM<sup>3</sup>); and EQH3, lower limb bones of a young Neandertal male. EQH2 and EQH3 constitute the first diagnostic anatomical remains of Neandertals at an open-air site in the Levant. The optically stimulated luminescence ages suggest that Neandertals repeatedly visited 'Ein Qashish between 70 and 60?ka. The discovery of Neandertals at open-air sites during the late MP reinforces the view that Neandertals were a resilient population in the Levant shortly before Upper Palaeolithic Homo sapiens populated the region.