New study finds early humans migrated out of Africa via Jordan 84,000 years ago

A group of international scientists has made a significant discovery regarding the early migration of humans out of Africa into Eurasia. Their research, led by the University of Southampton (UK) and Shantou University (China), with collaborators from Jordan, Australia, and the Czech Republic, reveals that more than 80,000 years ago, early human migrants used a “well-watered corridor” through the Levant, via Jordan, on their way to western Asia and northern Arabia.

This finding aligns with previous studies in Arabia, suggesting that this green pathway, now a desert, was favored by our Homo sapiens ancestors as they journeyed northward. The research paper, titled “Human dispersals out of Africa via the Levant,” has been published in Science Advances.

The story of modern humans’ migration out of Africa, evolving there between 300,000 and 200,000 years ago, is complex. Over tens of thousands of years, they gradually populated Asia and later Europe.

A second flake, or hand tool, seen from three different angles, discovered in the Jordan Rift Valley. The flakes helped scientists date human migration. Credit: University of Southampton

In their latest research, the team conducted fieldwork in the Jordan Rift Valley, unearthing ancient hand tools called “flakes” near dried-up river channels known as wadis. Using luminescence dating techniques, they determined that these tools were likely used approximately 84,000 years ago and were abandoned on the wadi banks, where they were eventually buried.

Paul Carling, a Professor of Geomorphology at the University of Southampton, emphasized, “Our newly published evidence confirms there was a well-established route to the north, the only land connection from Africa to Eurasia. Humans likely used small wetland areas as bases while hunting in the drier grasslands. This challenges the previous belief that the southern route via the Red Sea was the primary path.”

Dr Mahmoud Abass (Shantou University) on left, Professor Paul Carling (University of Southampton) in centre and Dr John Jansen (Czech Academy of Sciences) on right, in the field in Jordan Rift Valley. Credit: University of Southampton
General view of Wadi Gharandal riverine wetland along the Jordan Rift Valley. Credit: Mahmoud Abbas/Shantou University
Sampling for luminescence dating from Wadi Hasa area. Credit: Dr Mohammed Alqudah/Yarmouk University

Dr. Mahmoud Abbas, the lead author of the study from Shantou University, China, added, “The Levant served as a lush corridor for early humans during the last interglacial period, enhancing our understanding of the environmental conditions at that time. Instead of a dry desert, savanna grasslands would have provided essential resources for survival as humans journeyed from Africa into southwest Asia and beyond.”

Ultimately, this research underscores the close relationship between climate changes, human survival, and migration patterns.

Source: University of Southampton

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