April 10, 2018

The slow death of Out of Africa

The significance of the discovery of modern humans in Arabia >85kya is that it provides a second spot (other than Israel) were modern humans existed outside Africa long before the alleged 60kya blitz out of the continent. We now have modern humans outside Africa in roughly two locations (Israel and Arabia), and three time slices (~175-85kya) in Misliya, Shkul/Qafzeh, and Al Wusta-1. It is no longer tenable to claim that these modern humans "died out" to make way for the alleged 60kya OoA event.

An important implication of pre-60kya Eurasians not dying out is that in all likelihood mtDNA haplogroup L3 and Y-chromosome haplogroup E originated in Eurasia, not Africa, and represent major Eurasian admixture into Africa.

Out of Africa theory is not dead (yet), but it resembles Rocky Balboa taking punch after punch round after round over the last 10 years or so. Will it make a cinematic last round comeback and prove itself, or will it be dealt a knockout punch in the near future? 

Nature Ecology and Evolution (2018) doi:10.1038/s41559-018-0518-2

Homo sapiens in Arabia by 85,000 years ago

Understanding the timing and character of the expansion of Homo sapiens out of Africa is critical for inferring the colonization and admixture processes that underpin global population history. It has been argued that dispersal out of Africa had an early phase, particularly ~130–90 thousand years ago (ka), that reached only the East Mediterranean Levant, and a later phase, ~60–50 ka, that extended across the diverse environments of Eurasia to Sahul. However, recent findings from East Asia and Sahul challenge this model. Here we show that H. sapiens was in the Arabian Peninsula before 85 ka. We describe the Al Wusta-1 (AW-1) intermediate phalanx from the site of Al Wusta in the Nefud desert, Saudi Arabia. AW-1 is the oldest directly dated fossil of our species outside Africa and the Levant. The palaeoenvironmental context of Al Wusta demonstrates that H. sapiens using Middle Palaeolithic stone tools dispersed into Arabia during a phase of increased precipitation driven by orbital forcing, in association with a primarily African fauna. A Bayesian model incorporating independent chronometric age estimates indicates a chronology for Al Wusta of ~95–86 ka, which we correlate with a humid episode in the later part of Marine Isotope Stage 5 known from various regional records. Al Wusta shows that early dispersals were more spatially and temporally extensive than previously thought. Early H. sapiens dispersals out of Africa were not limited to winter rainfall-fed Levantine Mediterranean woodlands immediately adjacent to Africa, but extended deep into the semi-arid grasslands of Arabia, facilitated by periods of enhanced monsoonal rainfall.


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