Once out of Africa, early human migration was widespread

Once out of Africa, early human migration was widespread

A hippopotamus tooth found at the site was dated to 90,000 years old, as were the sediment layers surrounding the stone tools.

It indicates that early human migrations may have happened more frequently than previously thought, and that our ancestors may have gone to regions scientists hadn't suspected.

A fossilized human middle finger was found in Saudi Arabia that dates back to 88,000 years ago. Among these finds was an all around protected and little fossil, only 3.2 cm long, which was quickly perceived as a human finger bone.

Excavations at the site produced an abundance of animal bones, including those from hippos, as well as many fossilised freshwater snails. This is also the first time Homo sapiens bones of that age have been discovered anywhere outside Africa. "The ability of these early people to widely colonize this region casts doubt on long held views that early dispersals out of Africa were localized and unsuccessful".

For years, many archaeologists have believed that our species only left Africa around 70,000 years ago, and from there spread rapidly into Asia and Europe, and ultimately the Americas.

Early humans are known to have reached the Levant, a region of the Mediterranean adjacent to Africa, perhaps 177,000 years ago.

Questions remain over the fate of the early inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula. It seems humans lived in this area over 100,000 years ago.

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Some of these discoveries relate to genetic analyses that show humans interbred with groups like the Denisovans and Neanderthals. Each discovery is pushing back the date of when humans started leaving Africa.

In fact, the remains of the Nefud Desert's other ancient lakes may sport even more evidence of early Homo sapiens who were likely following big-game animals out of Africa, the researchers said. This is how the researchers dated the fossil and found that the finger bone was approximately 88,000 years old.

The site was first discovered to be archaeologically significant in 2014.

Groucutt and a team used a form of radiometry called uranium series dating to determine the bone's age by measuring tiny traces of radioactive elements. "The shape of Homo sapiens finger bones is just quite distinct compared to other species".

"This discovery of the fossil finger bone is like a dream come true because it supports arguments that our teams have been making for more than 10 years", said Prof Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, a co-author of the research.

"Tracing the evolution and geographic dispersal of the human lineage is rather like connecting pitifully few dots on a vast three-dimensional grid of time and space", Donald O. Henry, an anthropologist from the University of Tulsa, wrote in an article published alongside the new study.

Newer discoveries being made are changing the way scientists are looking at previous ideas of human migration.

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