Out of Africa.
Excavations at Al Wusta in Saudi Arabia’s Nefud Desert uncovered this human phalanx. According to lead archaeologists Huw Groucutt and Michael Petraglia, it is the oldest known Homo sapien fossil found outside Africa or the narrow strip of the Middle East that joins Africa to Asia. The discovery strengthens the notion that early humans left Africa well before the traditional estimate of 60,000 years ago, according to a report in Nature Ecology & Evolution.
“Although long considered to be far from the main stage of human evolution, Arabia was a stepping stone from Africa into Asia,” said Petraglia, of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
Although today the Al Wusta region is a vast desert, geologic evidence shows that 86,000 years ago, it stood within a fertile, human-friendly area.
According to Science News, “How humans moved into Arabia is uncertain. Along with the finger, Al Wusta yielded 380 stone tools and 860 nonhuman animal fossils from the same time. Some of those animals… originated in Africa and no longer inhabit the Arabian Peninsula. Ancient groups of hunter-gatherers followed these grazing animals from North Africa into Arabia as climate fluctuations periodically turned deserts into grasslands with lakes and rivers, Petraglia proposes.”
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