Finger find adds weight to earlier out-of-Africa timing

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"A more intriguing question", says Weinstein-Evron, is whether the early humans of the Levant and of Arabia all belong to the same population, or whether they represent multiple migrations out of Africa.

Our species first appeared in Africa roughly 300,000 years ago.

The outcomes definitively demonstrated that the finger bone, the principal antiquated human fossil found in Arabia, had a place with our own particular species.

Playing a vital role in the excavation of the finger bone, Griffith University palynologist Dr Julien Louys helped locate and identify the fossil at the dig site, while ARCHE's head of research Professor Rainer Grün, was the one responsible for calculating the age of the mysterious find at his Australian laboratory.

Researchers at Cambridge University concluded that the 3.2-centimeter finger belonged to Homo sapiens.

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In order to confirm that the fossil was human and not Neanderthal or another relative species, the researchers scanned the fossil in three dimensions. "There were abundant animals and a lot of people living there", Groucutt said.

A recently discovered finger bone believed to be Homo sapiens was dated using radio isotope techniques.

The bone, from an adult and most likely a middle finger, was found in 2016 about 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of the Sinai Peninsula.

The site of Al Wusta where the researchers set camp used to house a freshwater lake, which attracted all sorts of creatures from hippopotamuses to tiny freshwater snails. Hundreds of animal fossils were found at the site, including those belonging to hippopotamus, as well as plenty of stone tools made by humans.

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

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"This supports a model not of a single rapid dispersal out of Africa 60,000 years ago, but a much more complicated scenario of migration".

"This discovery firmly puts Arabia on the map as a key region for understanding our origins and expansion to the rest of the world", said Petraglia, who led the project.

Survey and mapping of the Al Wusta site.

A lone finger bone unearthed in the desert suggests modern humans had penetrated deep into Arabia 85,000 years ago.

"Humans repeatedly expanded into the Levant, into the doorstep of Africa, but we don't know what happened beyond that area", Groucutt said. Instead, monsoon rains had transformed the area into a grassland with freshwater lakes and rivers.

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An worldwide research team, including Oxford University scientists and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, has been scouring the region's ancient lake beds for signs of what life was like tens of thousands of years ago. The discovery, described in Nature Ecology and Evolution, is the oldest directly dated Homo sapiens fossil outside of Africa and the Levant and indicates that early dispersals into Eurasia were more expansive than previously thought. "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", said lead author Dr. Huw Groucutt, of the University of Oxford and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.