Humans May Have Left Africa Earlier Than Thought

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Modern humans may have left Africa thousands of years earlier than previously thought, turning right and heading across the Red Sea into Arabia rather than following the Nile to a northern exit, an international team of researchers says.Stone tools discovered in the United Arab Emirates indicate the presence of modern humans between 100,000 and 125,000 years ago, the researchers report in Friday's edition of the journal Science.While science has generally accepted an African origin for humans, anthropologists have long sought to understand the route taken as these populations spread into Asia, the Far East and Europe. Previously, most evidence has suggested humans spread along the Nile River valley and into the Middle East about 60,000 years ago."There are not many exits from Africa. You can either exit" through Sinai north of the Red Sea or across the straits at the south end of the Red Sea, explained Hans-Peter Uerpmann of the Center for Scientific Archaeology of Eberhard-Karls University in Tuebingen, Germany."Our findings open a second way which, in my opinion, is more plausible for a massive movement than the northern route," he said in a telephone briefing.Because of the different climate at the time, Arabia was moister and would have been a grassland with plenty of animals for prey, he added.And the lower sea levels at that time meant that the narrow point at the southern end of the Red Sea would have separated Africa and Arabia by between one-half and 2 1/2 miles, said Adrian G. Parker of Oxford Brookes University in England.That should not have been a difficult crossing for people used to dealing with east African lakes and rivers where they used rafts or boats, Uerpmann said. …