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: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: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.
Project description:A climate/vegetation model simulates episodic wetter and drier periods at the 21,000-y precession period in eastern North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Levant over the past 140,000 y. Large orbitally forced wet/dry extremes occur during interglacial time, ?130 to 80 ka, and conditions between these two extremes prevail during glacial time, ?70 to 15 ka. Orbital precession causes high seasonality in Northern Hemisphere (NH) insolation at ?125, 105, and 83 ka, with stronger and northward extended summer monsoon rains in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and increased winter rains in the Mediterranean Basin. The combined effects of these two seasonally distinct rainfall regimes increase vegetation and narrow the width of the Saharan-Arabian desert and semidesert zones. During the opposite phase of the precession cycle (?115, 95, and 73 ka), NH seasonality is low, and decreased summer insolation and increased winter insolation cause monsoon and storm track rains to decrease and the width of the desert zone to increase. During glacial time (?70 to 15 ka), forcing from large ice sheets and lowered greenhouse gas concentrations combine to increase winter Mediterranean storm track precipitation; the southward retreat of the northern limit of summer monsoon rains is relatively small, thereby limiting the expansion of deserts. The lowered greenhouse gas concentrations cause the near-equatorial zone to cool and reduce convection, causing drier climate with reduced forest cover. At most locations and times, the simulations agree with environmental observations. These changing regional patterns of climate/vegetation could have influenced the dispersal of early humans through expansions and contractions of well-watered corridors.
Project description:The emergence of more refined chronologies for climate change and archaeology in prehistoric Africa, and for the evolution of human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), now make it feasible to test more sophisticated models of early modern human dispersals suggested by mtDNA distributions. Here we have generated 42 novel whole-mtDNA genomes belonging to haplogroup L0, the most divergent clade in the maternal line of descent, and analysed them alongside the growing database of African lineages belonging to L0's sister clade, L1'6. We propose that the last common ancestor of modern human mtDNAs (carried by "mitochondrial Eve") possibly arose in central Africa ~180 ka, at a time of low population size. By ~130 ka two distinct groups of anatomically modern humans co-existed in Africa: broadly, the ancestors of many modern-day Khoe and San populations in the south and a second central/eastern African group that includes the ancestors of most extant worldwide populations. Early modern human dispersals correlate with climate changes, particularly the tropical African "megadroughts" of MIS 5 (marine isotope stage 5, 135-75 ka) which paradoxically may have facilitated expansions in central and eastern Africa, ultimately triggering the dispersal out of Africa of people carrying haplogroup L3 ~60 ka. Two south to east migrations are discernible within haplogroup LO. One, between 120 and 75 ka, represents the first unambiguous long-range modern human dispersal detected by mtDNA and might have allowed the dispersal of several markers of modernity. A second one, within the last 20 ka signalled by L0d, may have been responsible for the spread of southern click-consonant languages to eastern Africa, contrary to the view that these eastern examples constitute relicts of an ancient, much wider distribution.
Project description:We present the first speleothem-derived central North Africa rainfall record for the last glacial period. The record reveals three main wet periods at 65-61?ka, 52.5-50.5?ka and 37.5-33?ka that lead obliquity maxima and precession minima. We find additional minor wet episodes that are synchronous with Greenland interstadials. Our results demonstrate that sub-tropical hydrology is forced by both orbital cyclicity and North Atlantic moisture sources. The record shows that after the end of a Saharan wet phase around 70?ka ago, North Africa continued to intermittently receive substantially more rainfall than today, resulting in favourable environmental conditions for modern human expansion. The encounter and subsequent mixture of Neanderthals and modern humans - which, on genetic evidence, is considered to have occurred between 60 and 50?ka - occurred synchronously with the wet phase between 52.5 and 50.5?ka. Based on genetic evidence the dispersal of modern humans into Eurasia started less than 55?ka ago. This may have been initiated by dry conditions that prevailed in North Africa after 50.5?ka. The timing of a migration reversal of modern humans from Eurasia into North Africa is suggested to be coincident with the wet period between 37.5 and 33?ka.