Magazine article Science News

Tools Make Early Arabia-Africa Link: Artifacts Suggest Red Sea Crossings 106,000 Years Ago

Magazine article Science News

Tools Make Early Arabia-Africa Link: Artifacts Suggest Red Sea Crossings 106,000 Years Ago

Article excerpt

Culturally speaking, ancient East Africans were a stone's throw away from southern Arabia.

Stone tools collected at several sites along a plateau in Oman and dated to roughly 106,000 years ago match elongated cutting implements previously found at East African sites from around the same time, say archaeologist Jeffrey Rose of the University of Birmingham, England, and his colleagues. New finds also include cores--or rocks from which tools were pounded off with a hammer stone--that correspond to East African specimens, the researchers report online November 30 in PLoS ONE.

East African sites that have yielded these distinctive stone artifacts extend southward along the Nile River to the Horn of Africa.

"In the mountain of papers speculating about human dispersal out of Africa, a link between southern Arabia and the Nile Valley has never been considered," Rose says.

Either Africans crossed the Red Sea and trekked into southern Arabia well before an African exodus around 60,000 years ago, or ancient people from Arabia influenced African toolmaking, the scientists suggest.

"The finds in Oman are rather spectacular," comments archaeologist Michael Petraglia of the University of Oxford in England. "They have a date that is earlier than similar African artifacts, which could imply a migration back to Africa or at least a flow between African and Arabian populations."

Although human fossils haven't turned up at the Arabian location or at related African tool sites, Homo sapiens bones date to as early as 195,000 years ago in East Africa. …

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