July 12, 2013

A Middle Paleolithic link between North Africa and the Thar desert

One more piece of evidence against the idea that modern humans expanded Out-of-Africa because of the technological/behavioral revolution evidenced during the Upper Paleolithic/Late Stone Age.

And, one more piece of evidence against the idea that early modern humans in Eurasia died out and were replaced wholesale circa 50-60 thousand years ago from a fresh OoA impulse. It would have been possible to suppose such a thing if the evidence for MP African influence was minor or geographically localized, but much more difficult when it extends over a wide region.

Of course, the attribution of the Katoati assemblages to modern humans is done indirectly by linking them to MSA sites of the Sahara, but the proliferation of real archaeological sites (see map) that can be linked to OoA makes it difficult to adopt the idea of an archaeologically invisible late OoA that (somehow) replaced all previous inhabitants.

Quaternary Science Reviews Available online 5 July 2013

Middle Palaeolithic occupation in the Thar Desert during the Upper Pleistocene: the signature of a modern human exit out of Africa?

James Blinkhorn et al.

The Thar Desert marks the transition from the Saharo-Arabian deserts to the Oriental biogeographical zone and is therefore an important location in understanding hominin occupation and dispersal during the Upper Pleistocene. Here, we report the discovery of stratified Middle Palaeolithic assemblages at Katoati in the north-eastern Thar Desert, dating to Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 5 and the MIS 4–3 boundary, during periods of enhanced humidity. Hominins procured cobbles from gravels at the site as evidenced by early stages of stone tool reduction, with a component of more formalised point production. The MIS 5c assemblages at Katoati represent the earliest securely dated Middle Palaeolithic occupation of South Asia. Distinctive artefacts identified in both MIS 5 and MIS 4–3 boundary horizons match technological entities observed in Middle Palaeolithic assemblages in South Asia, Arabia and Middle Stone Age sites in the Sahara. The evidence from Katoati is consistent with arguments for the dispersal of Homo sapiens populations from Africa across southern Asia using Middle Palaeolithic technologies.



Charles said...

I have been convinced of this linkage between the pre drought Sahara and South Asia. L3b1a is found as far as South Asia. My L3b1a grandmother clusters with South Asians on certain cluster grams along with North Africans. People see the Sahara now and can't imagine that. That is because they are not seeing what the Sahara was prior to the movement south of the monsoon.

eurologist said...

Good to see work from the Thar desert. I had previously speculated that this was an important transient region during wet times before MIS 3, and one that would preserve evidence.

With so much evidence proving that there is no correlation between UP technologies and AMHs, I can't fathom how educated researchers would want to hold on to that ill-conceived notion. And once you don't, it's all a card house.

terryt said...

The idea of a 'late' exit from Africa has been totally based on mutation rates as far as I'm aware. This paper leads us to believe we should place less weight on such calculations. I have always failed to see why offspring haplogroups (or any genes for that matter) should replace their parent haplogroups at a steady rate. Replacement would depend on a whole raft of factors.

mm said...


Remarkable blog and comments, just found it. Though I am not specialist, the ideas represented in few comments about Gutians and PIE and the place of homeland on the norhtwest of plains, in Zagros mountains, in areas populated by Kurds rings home for me.

I would not speculate here why as it will probably seem very much unscientific, but recent finds near Gobekli Tepe , especially closeness to mount Judi and the FORM of the temples built there as rings with one longer entrance, also the tradition to bury with sand and rubbish each previous temple is just too symbolic to ignore.

Too good to be true, also timing that coincides with last CO2 peak in the Earth atmosphere ( pre-glacial peak).

Same, Maht ( which in my language is māte, or mother) is both considered in Gutian (supposedly) religious texts to be Death in the form kind of pit that sucks in everything and also being at the same time the Mud of Creation from where creatures appeared..Sequentally, one can think that at first Maht as Death pit sucked in all living beings but then from resulting Mud ( here I suppose the Death pit was swallowing also water) some survivors emerged.

Exceptionally interesting site.

Lemba said...

@Charles L3b1a in south asia would be from the slave trade as well, unless they find it in ancietn dna, there is even southeast african y-dna in pakistan from pygmies suchas B2a1a, so L3b1a mtdna is not from ancient links. The conquest of the middle east and south asia by islam would have spread alot of non-native haplorgoups.

Umi said...


I sincerely doubt that the minor L presence in South Asia (as in the Indian subcontinent) can be dated the paleolithic.

Practically all L markers in the Indian subcontinent fall into recent Southeast African sub-clades, which were spread outside of Africa due to the medieval Swahili slave trade and/or recent mercantile travelers.

terryt said...

"And once you don't, it's all a card house".

And the 'Great Southern Coastal Migration Theory' also collapses.

Umi said...


B2a is not a pygmy associated marker, but a Nilotic or Nilo-Bantu (Upper Nile area near Uganda) marker.

B2b is the one associated with pygmies.

Grognard said...

@MM - it's always hard to know conclusively but it's a lot less shaky than many of the language inferences. Very specific stuff like the burial, or like the malting ritual shared between finns and iranians, is hard to ignore.

mm said...


Yes, I have noticed that post WWII Russians on our country does not really have the feel of midsummer fest Līgo though they have been present here for 70 years and getting used to it especially in last 23 years when we have a lot of holidays around that time.

Such habits can only be copied if a very small group of other people lives dispersed among local population, but then most likely they will not be able to carry these habits across continents and through influences of cultures.

andrew said...

For reference purposes, per Wikipedia, the MIS 3-4 boundary is 60kya, and MIS 5 is 130kya to 71-74kya. In the MIS system, even numbered periods "represent cold glacial periods, while the odd-numbered stages . . . [represent] warm interglacial intervals. . . . Some stages, in particular MIS 5, are divided into sub-stages, such as 'MIS 5a', with 5 a, c, and e being warm and b and d cold."

Put another way, since the start of MIS 5 (about 130 kya): the time periods from 71-74 kya to 60 kya (MIS 4) and 24 kya to 11 kya (MIS 2) would have been a major glacial eras, and there would have been less intense cool periods (MIS 5b and MIS 5d) from 84,740 to 92,840 years ago, and from 115,105 to 105,920 years ago. The current Holocene era is an interglacial era.

Both of these time frames predate the Upper Paleolithic revolution ca. 50kya and always suspect molecular clock estimates have pointed to 60kya OoA dates. One possible way to reconcile the archaeology to the molecular clock estimates is to assume that these dates actually reflect the bottom of an MIS 4 glacial period bottleneck, rather than a true Out of Africa event.

The oldest skeletal anatomically modern human remains (although the hypothesis that these AMH people were not behaviorally or intellectually modern as well is crumbling) outside Africa date to about 100 kya in the Levant (shortly after MIS 5d), but the Lithic remains similar to those of other AMHs seem to date to MIS 5e.

Also, in terms of context, while the Thar desert is currently aptly named, as recently as the Harappan era (i.e. until sometime in the 3rd millenium BCE, give or take a few centuries), it was a fertile river valley at the heart of the Indus Valley River Civilization with the principal river in the region being the Rig Vedic Sarasvati River. During the humid periods where the lithic tools were found, the Sarasvati would have presumably been a vibrant river valley (and tributary of the Indus River) that was on a par with the Nile river in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates river system of Mesopotamia, the Arkansas River of North America, the Ganges of Northern India, the Niger River of West Africa, the Rhine River of Europe, or the Yangtze River of China - a source of fresh water, of fish, and a natural attraction for game to hunt that would also support plants suitable for gathering.

Nathan Paul said...


"With so much evidence proving that there is no correlation between UP technologies and AMHs".

Like to know more details for this theory.

eurologist said...

"Like to know more details for this theory."

It's not so much a "theory" but a huge amount of collected, established empirical evidence. By literally many, many tens of studies, many of them rather recent with well-established timing methodologies, AMHs are between 200,000 and ~130,000 years old. Conversely, UP technologies don't appear until around ~50,000 ya, but then suddenly and swiftly from South Asia to the Levant, W Urals, Europe, and not all that much later in moderate NE Asia, and then the Altai, Central to E Siberia, and Beringia.

In other words, while trying to establish the migrations of AMHs, narrowly concentrating on UP stone technologies is an utterly outdated, European-centric viewpoint that is actually very, very close to blatant racism.

mm said...

Thar desert as mentioned above, is related to Sarasvati river that dried up.

I have visited Dwarka ( Krishna's home place when visiting continent) and Lothal hisotic site, and its obvious that the e.g. Saurashtra peninsula has been lifted up quite recently by about 6-10 meters - with the axis being its neck - the shore facing the Arabian sea.

In Lothal, they have clear harbour and docks- but the sea level is now much below the level of these docks.

In Dwarka, especially when visiting Bet Dwarka, where the home of Krishna resides now, the steep coast is also about 6-10 meters above current sea level.

I do not think the monsoon theory is proper one for Indus Valley civilization disappearance- rather, it seems, happenings where more abrupt caused by rather fast uplift of a shore-as if something heavy had been broken of it ( e.g. shelf of West Coast of India might have been above water level in that place before Indus Valley civilization extinction) . That would also explain drying up of Sarasvati river and trapping of salt water in Rann of Kush-and forming of Thar desert itself which should have been earlier a rich valley of Sarasvati gently sloping into the sea.

It could have been caused by some seismic event, but not by any Mega Tsunami level event. However, the zone seems prone to such events that change geography in rather abrupt manner ( e.g. speculated 16th century uplift of Diu harbor by 0,5 meter).

"Fish tank as evidence for modern coastal uplift at Diu, Saurashtra Peninsula, India"
" We suggest that the tank, the tidal platform and the whole Diu coast have been uplifted by ~0.5 m shortly after the tank was constructed by early Portuguese colonists in the 16-17th century. Coastal karst dissolution - active in the spray zone above sea level - left deep marks on carved surfaces since uplift. We suggest that uplift of Diu Island occurred in the 16-17th century, during a major seismic event, connected to active faulting offshore along the Narmada Fault"

I think the uplift of Saurahstra peninsula coast and coast North of it by 6-10 meters and perhaps wider region along West Indian shore which caused Indus valley Civilization to cease abruptly as Sarasvati river dried out, and continuation of similar events into 16th century might be seen as approximately exponentially or power law smaller aftershocks of similar larger scale events further in the past.

Given the 6-10 meter to 0,5 (12- 20 times) meter reduction in amplitude of event over last 3300 years ( from 1800 BCE to 16th century)one can extrapolate an event of scale of in the potential previous event around 10000 BCE -time distance between events being now 8200 years instead of 3300 - 2,4 times longer and so the amplitude of event reaching approx 2,4*12-2,4*20 -> 30 to 48 times bigger then 1800 BCE event- meaning an uplift of Indian continent ( and not only as such event would have been seismically quite significant) by as much as 30-48 times 6-10 meters-> on a scale of 200-500 meters - as and may be bigger events log-periodically further into past until the original event.

Using the same 2,4 as log periodic distance between events period increase rate, the event before that would land around 2,4*8200 = 19 400 years before 10 000 BCE, that is 29 kY BCE, and event before that - 2,4 * 19,4 kY +29 kY BCE= around 77 kY BCE etc. Next one- 2,4*48 + 77kY BCE = around 190 kY BCE.

Of course the exact moments of earlier events would be more smoothed out in time due to longer log-periodic, periods but eventually their accumulated effect would be to lift e.g. the Indian subcontinent out of Ocean.

terryt said...

"For reference purposes, per Wikipedia, the MIS 3-4 boundary is 60kya, and MIS 5 is 130kya to 71-74kya. In the MIS system, even numbered periods 'represent cold glacial periods, while the odd-numbered stages . . . [represent] warm interglacial intervals'".

Thanks for that very useful information.

"In other words, while trying to establish the migrations of AMHs, narrowly concentrating on UP stone technologies is an utterly outdated, European-centric viewpoint that is actually very, very close to blatant racism".

I argued that point with Maju for many years although I see he now accepts it to be the case.