Fossil finger points to new understanding of earliest human migration

“The climatic shifts that the earliest members of our species must have faced shows just how tough and resilient they were,” Dr Price said

Researchers said on Monday that the middle bone of an adult's middle finger found at a site called Al-Wusta is the oldest Homo sapiens fossil outside of Africa and the immediately adjacent eastern Mediterranean Levant region. For example, for years, we thought Homo sapiens evolved from Homo erectus in Africa 200,000 years ago-but then in 2017, scientists found bone evidence in Morocco suggesting humans may have been around as long as 300,000 years ago. The earliest human fossils in the Levant date to 177,000 years ago from a fossil in Misliya Cave in Israel.

"All of these studies agreed that the fossil belonged to Homo sapiens", Groucutt said at the news conference.

M - New research suggests that modern humans were living in Saudi Arabia about 85,000 years ago, BBC reported. Numerous animal fossils, including those of hippopotamus and tiny fresh water snails were found at Al Wusta, as well as abundant stone tools made by humans.

"And, of course, hunters and gatherers would have been following those animals", Petraglia said.

For more than a decade, a team of archaeologists and anthropologists scoured the Arabian Desert for evidence that some of the earliest members of our species once traversed these formerly green lands.

That all changed with the discovery of the Al Wusta finger bone.


Scientists just gave the middle finger to the idea that early humans migrated out of Africa in a single surge.

That's what Huw Groucutt, a paleoarchaeologist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and his team were looking for when they began excavating sites in the Arabian Desert more than 10 years ago. "That night back at the hotel, we were Googling 'human finger bone" and, yeah, it looked like our species". While the Levant was then a wooded area with winter rainfall, Al Wusta, about 400 miles (650 kilometers) away, was a grassland that received summer rain.

The bone is the oldest fossil of Homo Sapiens species to ever be found outside of Africa and the Levant or the present Middle-East.

"They're coming up against animals that they've never seen before; environments they've never seen before", he said.

"This discovery for the first time conclusively shows that early members of our species colonized an expansive region of southwest Asia and were not just restricted to the Levant", Groucutt said in a statement.

In work published April 9 in Nature Evolution and Ecology, a massive group of global researchers including scientists from the University of Cambridge, the Max Planck Institute, the Australian National University, and the Saudi Geological Survey reported finding an 88,000-year-old middle-finger bone in the Nefud desert in what is now Saudi Arabia. "The ability of these early people to widely colonize this region casts doubt on long held views that early dispersals out of Africa were localized and unsuccessful".

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