(ORDO NEWS) — A new study of the Paleolithic site has shown that our ancestors settled it much earlier than expected.
An international team of scientists led by Knut Bretzke from the University of Tübingen (Germany) conducted an additional study of the Jebel Faya site in the UAE.
Excavations on a rock ledge of Jebel Faya in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula began in 2003. In 2009, scientists determined that humans inhabited the site some 125,000 years ago, making Jebel Faya the oldest known human habitat in Arabia.
In other places, earlier evidence was found that our ancestors came out of Africa: for example, fragments of a skull from an Israelite cave were dated at 170,000 years old.
But on the Arabian Peninsula, the finds in Jebel Faye were considered the most ancient. Such ignorance of the seemingly most obvious migration route from Africa seemed strange, but scientists explained this by the fact that people did not want to go to Arabia because of its dry climate.
And only when, as a result of interglacial warming, the climate changed to a more humid one, people began to develop these lands.
Considering the archaeological and paleoecological data, the relationship between the increase in humidity levels and the increase in the number of people on the peninsula, such a hypothesis seemed plausible.
Due to the lack of information, the question of how increased aridity affected the human population in Arabia during the Stone Age has remained largely speculative.
Some researchers argue that the lack of archaeological evidence for the settlement of Arabia by people during dry periods is due to the common Arabian extinctions and the abandonment of settlements. Other scientists noted that the desiccation led to a reduction in human populations even in the Persian Gulf basin on the Red Sea coast.
But it was all based on untested ecological hypotheses. Fossil evidence is difficult to record because much of the Paleolithic coastal zone is now under water, and existing paleoclimatic records cannot adequately reflect the complexity and heterogeneity of the contemporary Arabian landscape.
The new work refutes this view and shows that people were much more adaptable than previously thought, and not so rigidly dependent on long periods of favorable climatic conditions.
Using archaeological and paleoclimatological methods, the authors of the work identified four different stages of human settlement of the territory of Jebel Faya between 210 and 120 thousand years ago.
Paleolithic man left traces in layers that date back to 210 thousand years ago, 170 thousand years ago, and also in two layers between 135 and 125 thousand years ago.
The most interesting of these dates is not 210,000 years ago at all. Yes, today this is the earliest date for the presence of a person in Arabia. But it is much more curious that people inhabited the parking lot 170 thousand years ago. And here’s the thing.
This period is traditionally considered to be characterized by extremely dry conditions, which should have prevented human presence in Arabia.
The authors of the study suggest that a unique interplay of human behavioral flexibility, the mosaic landscapes of the Arabian Peninsula, and brief periods of high humidity allowed these early human groups to survive.
They note that Jebel Faya is a key area for studying the details of this interaction and the evolution of human-environment interdependence.
In other words, people occupied the parking lot during both dry and wetter climates. All this refutes previous ideas about when people could and could not populate the territory of Arabia in the Paleolithic era, and, accordingly, makes it possible to assume that new evidence of human travel from Africa to drier periods can still be found on the peninsula.
Professor Adrian Parker of Oxford Brookes University, who led the paleoenvironment reconstruction, said: “Our data refute previous assumptions that human migration to the Arabian Peninsula was limited to well-defined phases of a wetter climate.
Understanding the ecological context is of paramount importance in assessing human travel routes. The complex interrelationships between people, climate and the environment require careful reassessment, especially in light of our findings.”
Today it is believed that in the genes of living people there are almost no traces of those people who left Africa earlier than 70 thousand years ago. The earlier waves that left the Black Continent 210-70 thousand years ago, apparently, mostly died, although the reasons for these events are still not entirely clear.
One of the most popular hypotheses is the extinction of modern non-African people due to the eruption of the Toba volcano just over 70 thousand years ago.
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