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Representational image of the Out-of-Africa event.

Did Mankind First Exit Africa 100,000 Years Ago?

Recent archaeological evidence indicates that between 130,000 to 100,000 years ago there was an exit of anatomically modern humans out of Africa into the Americas and Eastern Eurasia. This view is supported by the discovery of African artifacts in the Middle East, Brazil, and Crete, and 80,000-100,000-year-old human teeth in China. The findings suggest that humans left Africa much earlier than originally believed.

Archaeologists have now speculated that there was an Out of Africa (OoA) event around 100,000 years (or more) ago, given the presence of anatomically modern human (AMH) populations in the Levant at the Qafzeh-Skhul caves. According to Holiday (2000):

"The Qafzeh-Skhul hominids have sometimes been referred to as "Proto-CroMagnons" (e.g., Howell 1957; Vandermeersch 1996) because of their presumed similarity to the famous Aurignacian-associated hominids from Western Europe....Specifically [Brace], he notes that "in both the details of its dental and craniological size and from Qafzeh is an unlikely proto-Cro-Magnon, but it makes a fine model for the ancestors of modern sub-Saharan Africans"(p.63). 

Left: Es Skhul Cave, Mount Carmel, Israel (CC BY SA 3.0). Right: A skull found in the cave, which represents an archaic and anatomically modern human

Left: Es Skhul Cave, Mount Carmel, Israel ( CC BY SA 3.0 ). Right: A skull found in the cave, which represents an archaic and anatomically modern human ( CC BY SA 3.0 ).

Geographical Barrier Prevents Movement Out of Africa

Alasdair Wilkins (2011) interviewed scientist Adrian Parker, who observed that:

“We need to go back to where modern humans emerged in east Africa. This occurred approximately 200,000 years ago. The period between 200,000 years ago until 130,000 years ago corresponds to a time when there was a global ice age. During ice ages, global sea levels fall as water becomes locked up in the vast ice sheets in the northern and southern hemispheres. When ice ages occur, the world's major desert belts also expand and thus modern humans would have been restricted to east Africa as the deserts of the Sahara and Arabia posed major geographical barriers that prevented movement out of the region. By 130,000 years ago, global climatic conditions changed and we moved into an interglacial, a period of warmer, global temperatures. At this time, the Indian Ocean monsoon system was forced northwards, bringing rainfall into Arabia. The previously arid interior of Arabia would have been transformed into a landscape covered largely in savannah grasses with extensive lakes and river systems.”

Artist’s depiction of an Ice Age on Earth.

Artist’s depiction of an Ice Age on Earth. ( CC BY SA 4.0 )

The warmer global temperatures, beginning around 130,000 years ago, during the interglacial period made it an ideal time for an OoA event. It appears that the first OoA exit was to Arabia, where archaeologists have found tools dating back 125,000 years.

Paleontologist Tony Marks claimed these tools came from Africa in an interview by Wilkins. In the interview Marks noted that:

"A comparison of contemporaneous Paleolithic assemblages from the north showed they totally lacked the bifacial tool production found at assemblage C. Their technique was quite different. Thus, they were unrelated. In east Africa, however, there were contemporaneous Paleolithic assemblages that not only used bifacial techniques to make some of their tools, but also used the other two techniques, blade production and radial (levaloir). An origin in east Africa for assemblage C people therefore was most plausible based on the stone tools and how they were made."

Example of bifacial silcrete point from M1 phase (71,000 BC) layer of Blombos Cave, South Africa; scale bar = 5 cm.

Example of bifacial silcrete point from M1 phase (71,000 BC) layer of Blombos Cave, South Africa; scale bar = 5 cm. (Vincent Mourre / Inrap/ CC BY SA 3.0 )

Early Anatomically Modern Humans in Crete and Brazil

Archaeologists believe that the OoA exit to Arabia may have been overland. The discovery of African artifacts in Crete and Brazil dating to 100 thousand years ago indicate AMH used boats to reach these areas.

Thomas F. Strasser and Eleni Panagopoulou found 2,000 stone artifacts on the southwestern shore of Crete at Plakias dating to around 125 thousand years ago. Dr. Runnels, an archaeologist working in the region said the tool kit included hand axes, cleavers, and scrapers made in the Acheulean style. Acheulean tools were made in Africa by AMH around this time.

Stone tools found on Crete are evidence of early migration by sea.

Stone tools found on Crete are evidence of early migration by sea. ( Nicholas Thompson and Chad DiGregorio )

The Island of Crete is 200 miles (321.87 km) away from the Libyan coast. The only way these artifacts could have reached the island is by sea.

The New York Times reported that humans were in Brazil 100,000 years ago. Dr. Niede Guidon claims that Africans were in Brazil 100,000 years ago. The evidence that fire existed in Brazil 65 thousand years ago is an indication that man was at the site at least 65,000 years ago, since researchers found charcoal, which is the result of fire making.

In a New York Times video, it was noted that Dr. Niede Guidon supports her dating of a human population in Brazil 100,000 years ago to ancient fire and tool making. Dr. Guidon, who conducted excavations at the site, notes at 2:09 the site is 100,000 years old. At 3:17 in the video scientists proved that the tools are the result of human craftsmanship.

Migration Evidence in China

In addition to African artifacts indicating an OoA migration 100,000 years ago we also have teeth found in China supporting this event. Michael Petraglia, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford, UK, claims that 47 human teeth were found in a limestone cave system in Daoxian, China.

47 teeth found in Fuyan cave in Daoxian province in Southern-China.

47 teeth found in Fuyan cave in Daoxian province in Southern-China. ( S.Xing / XJ.Wu/ Universiteit Leiden )

María Martinón-Torres, a palaeoanthropologist at University College London, and colleagues Wu Liu and Xiu-jie Wu at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing found the teeth. These palaeoanthropologists proved the teeth were human teeth. This means that AMH were in China by 100 thousand years ago, like the people at Qafzeh caves found in Israel and in southern Crete.

In summary, the new evidence of anatomically modern humans (AMH) in Arabia, on Crete, and now in Brazil around 100,000 years ago suggests that AMH left Africa before 60 thousand years ago. The archaeological evidence from the Americas and Eurasia make it clear that people left Africa 100 thousand years ago to settle other parts of the world. This indicates that although there is firm archaeological evidence man began to settle Western Eurasia and other parts of the world 60 thousand years ago, during the interglacial period between 130-100 thousand years ago mankind probably made its first OoA exit.

Top image: Representational image of the Out-of-Africa event. Source: Alizul

By Clyde Winters

References:

Ewen Callaway, (2015) Teeth from China reveal early human trek out of Africa "Stunning" find shows that Homo sapiens reached Asia around 100,000 years ago. http://www.nature.com/news/teeth-from-china-reveal-early-human-trek-out-of-africa-1.18566?WT.mc_id=FBK_NatureNews

Charles Q. Choi, (2011) Ancient Arabian Artifacts May Rewrite 'Out of Africa' Story,   http://www.livescience.com/11651-ancient-arabian-artifacts-rewrite-oout-africao-story.html

Holiday, T. (2000). Evolution at the Crossroads: Modern Human Emergence in Western Asia, American Anthropologist,102(1).

New York Times video: Human’s First Appearance in the Americas @: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/28/world/americas/discoveries-challenge-beliefs-on-humans-arrival-in-the-americas.html?hp&_r=4

JOHN NOBLE WILFORD, (2010) On Crete, New Evidence of Very Ancient Mariners,  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/science/16archeo.htm

Alasdair Wilkins , (2011) 100,000-year-old human settlement in U.A.E. overturns what we know of our evolution , http://io9.gizmodo.com/5745328/ancient-humans-may-have-left-africa-far-earlier-than-we-thought

Comments

No reader should assume that Dr. Guidon is correct with her 100,000 year-old human occupation of Brazil. Be very skeptical until substantive scientific data confirms that: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/28/world/americas/discoveries-challenge-...

Clyde Winters's picture

Charcoal is recognized as a reliable indicator of human habitation. For example, Prof. Peter Veth of the University of western Australia, in a recent article published in the Quaternary Science Reviews, used charcoal, dated by ANSTO's Centre for Accelerator Science for Aboriginal settlement at Barrow island between 46.2ky and 51.1kya. This illustrates that charcoal can be a reliable artifact to denote ancient settlements. As a result, Dr. Guidon findings can not be so easily dismissed.
Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-05-evidence-earliest-occupation-coasts-austra...

To put it bluntly, charcoal is simply cooked wood. It is formed when wood is heated under low oxygen conditions like when a forest fire drops burning wood into a cave. The simple presence of charcoal in and of itself is NOT proof of human activity. Without proper archaeological context like a hearth, wind break or evidence of butchered bone, it is just charcoal. Nothing I have read to date regarding this site puts humans there before 25,000 years BP at the earliest and even that date is on shaky ground. The 100,000 year BP date claimed has no basis in fact. At best, all that can be said is that there was a low oxygen fire event at Cerro de Capivara about 100,000 ago. As to the refutation of the Clovis First Theory, that has been well established for over 20 years. That being said, I would not be surprised at all to find American sites with definitive proof of human habitation at 25,000 years BP. Hell I would not be at all surprised to find a human Presence in the Americas contemporaneous the Lake Mongo finds in Australia at 50,000 years BP. However, dates of 100,000 years or more are in the realm of pure fantasy at this point in time.

Clyde Winters's picture

These comments are pure speculation. Professional archaeologists would not claim a site was 100ky old, and risk ridicule by their peers.

The Brazilian researchers make it clear that the charcoal was found in a hearth. If there had been a low oxygen fire event at Cerro de Capivara 100,000 ago, the charcoal would have been found over an extended area, and it would persist in the fire burn area over time, instead of inside a hearth.

In summary, the amount of charcoal produced by a fire event would be found over a widespread area where the burn occurred , not inside of a hearth.

They reported a hearth like structure which is a nice way of saying rocks. It's also a nice way of bending the truth. No, there would not necessarily be charcoal spread over a large area. There would be ash which is easily washed away by rains. Charcoal would only be formed in low oxygen environments like caves and rock falls and would be preserved there as it is sheltered from the weather. Just as it is at Cerro de Capivara. Which do you think is more likely?.

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