January 28, 2011

Coastal route through Arabia 130,000 years ago confirmed?

A new paper on Arabian archaeological sites is making that claim. So far (Petraglia 2010) we had a limitation with dates only reaching in Arabia Peninsula as early as 90 Ka, while in South Asia and maybe other places these were probably quite older. Not anymore.


Abstract

The timing of the dispersal of anatomically modern humans (AMH) out of Africa is a fundamental question in human evolutionary studies. Existing data suggest a rapid coastal exodus via the Indian Ocean rim around 60,000 years ago. We present evidence from Jebel Faya, United Arab Emirates, demonstrating human presence in eastern Arabia during the last interglacial. The tool kit found at Jebel Faya has affinities to the late Middle Stone Age in northeast Africa, indicating that technological innovation was not necessary to facilitate migration into Arabia. Instead, we propose that low eustatic sea level and increased rainfall during the transition between marine isotope stages 6 and 5 allowed humans to populate Arabia. This evidence implies that AMH may have been present in South Asia before the Toba eruption (1).

The actual dates collected from the site are of as early as 123-127 Ka (supp. material is freely available).

Location of Jebel Faya and other key sites (dotted line: Pleistocene coast)

Other sources: Eureka Alert, Science Daily.

Related in this blog: Some key archaeological papers on the 'coastal route'.

21 comments:

  1. Greetings Maju,

    I have read in some newspapers that the material found was carved with the Levallois technique.

    If this is so, there is no assurance that sapiens is responsible, and that Neanderthals also used this technique.

    It seems logical to think that the tools were made by sapiens due to the proximity Mandeb Strait, also well documented in Israel sapiens in pre-Neanderthal dates.

    Do you Think there is any possibility that Neanderthals arrived at the Arabian peninsula before the sapiens?

    Regards.

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  2. I don't believe Neanderthals knew how to live in warm, dry places nor in hot, humid places - they were a cold-adapted specialization of what I (and many others) call heidelbergensis. Even in their preferred regions, they specialized in tree-covered low regions and avoided tree-less plains as well as mountains as much as possible.

    Heidelbergensis had been much more flexible, but continued to live and expand before and during Neanderthal development in Europe - likely at all of the Eastern fringes, perhaps including parts of Siberia, Anatolia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and all the way to China (were controlled fire use and modern tools were introduced quite late, but clearly not by Neanderthals.

    So, yes, there is a possibility that when climate turned warmer and wetter, not only were AMHs able to migrate ooA into the Arabian peninsular, but late existing heidelbergensis populations would have the opportunity to spread from the Anatolian, Iranian, and Pakistani/Indian areas into that region. Note that Neanderthals are not known from that region until much later, when climate started cooling, again.

    So, yes, the tools could have been made by heidelbergensis, or by an already mixed population. Clearly, SW Asia is one of the most likely locations where AMHs and heidelbergensis could have mixed.

    I don't think much off Neanderthal-AMH interbreeding, because that would have been too late to affect the migrating modern populations; basically, East Asia would have zero admixture (which is wrong). Moreover, the fact that parts of East Asia has additional admixture is also best explained by eastern heidelbergensis admixture, because Neanderthal did not get far east, and where it got, it was very late.

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  3. It's not Mousterian, so not likely Neanderthal. Levallois technique means little on its own, as it was a widespread technique.

    The paper includes images from the oldest assemblage: C (fig 2), which includes bifacial foliates (typical of MSA), levallois flakes (typical from all mode 3 techs), bifacial preform, radial core and hand axe.

    AFAIK, Mousterian did not work the bifacial foliates as MSA (and later Solutrean and Clovis) did. This technique also requires a bit more than just knapping, because it demands thermal modification of the stone (at least in some cases), what is a technological step on its own right (the "metallurgy" of the stone age, so to say).

    "Do you Think there is any possibility that Neanderthals arrived at the Arabian peninsula before the sapiens?"

    Sincerely nope: they arrived after we did to Palestine and crossing the Arabian desert was probably beyond their capacities (also ours but we crossed the sea).

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  4. Hello again, Maju. Thanks for posting this reference. Very interesting! I know you've always felt that the "Out of Africa" expansion began much earlier than the genetic estimates suggest. I haven't read the article yet and am wondering whether they say anything more about the Toba connection.

    By the way, I've started yet another blog, and it might interest you, as it's designed to assist non-native English speakers with grammar and spelling. I decided to do this because I'm getting increasingly alarmed at the number of very basic errors I'm seeing, even in peer-reviewed journals. http://englishproper.blogspot.com/

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  5. "I haven't read the article yet and am wondering whether they say anything more about the Toba connection".

    Nothing that I know. Mostly Petraglia demolished the Toba hypothesis in the last years, since he found cultures with continuity across the Toba layer. However at the moment, and specially considering the many archaeological blanks of SE Asia, we cannot understand well what role played Toba in the human adventure.

    However I am quite certain that the mtDNA storyline and Toba cannot match unless (a) the mtDNA storyline in Eurasia begins at Toba time (not before) or (b) Toba was essentially trivial.

    With the new older and older dates for the OoA, option (a) seems to be discarded, so we only have (b) left, IMO.

    "By the way, I've started yet another blog, and it might interest you, as it's designed to assist non-native English speakers with grammar and spelling. I decided to do this because I'm getting increasingly alarmed at the number of very basic errors I'm seeing, even in peer-reviewed journals. http://englishproper.blogspot.com/"

    :)

    That's part of globalization of English: like Latin before, it is evolving into a global Pidgin, which is not anymore classical English but a new creole language only loosely based on English.

    That's part of the revenge of the provinces over the Empire. There's no thesis without antithesis, no Roman Empire without Vulgar Latin.

    In other words: I am 42, I speak English well enough for what I need, so why would I bother learning more. Let them English natives learn our dialects... for theirs is the English that cannot be understood.

    That's what I think, sincerely. After all the best English is spoken not in London or NYC but in Dublin without doubt.

    Die, Shakespeare, die! ;)

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  6. Shakespeare, what a great playwrighter if he ad written in basque !!

    Maju, i suggest you to change the title of this post to yellow: this colour fits better the content.

    As you know i´m of those skeptics with "archeo without bones" discoveries. Moreover even if the producers of this toolkit were AMS, why everybody assumes that they did not went extinct ? Any proof of descent until today in the paper i´m missing (i´ve not read it)?

    As an example of Y and Mt-DNA equilibristic arguments "southern-routers" must hold, pls read at Razib´s the comment of Andrew Oh- Willeke (i know it´s long...).

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  7. From an archaeologist point of view (mine) there's no point in the sapiens atribution of those tools.
    I only see a (...euphemism incoming...) "very well meditated" press release, built for the hype and not really sincere. The information, in fact, is related to a (very) ubiquitous material, with -imo- a very low relevance. At least, for the sapiens expansion issue.
    I think we should identify the press release headlines as full speculation, if not plain fantasy.
    The makers of the tools can be... any middle-late pleistocene population.
    Actually, the makers of the tools can perfectly be neanderthals, or any other non-modern (sapiens) homo.
    Both Levallois _blades_ and (a wide range of) bifacial tools are typically found in neanderthal sites (taking in account only Middle Paleolithic ones, of course). Additionally, is widely recognised that Neanderthal populations developed a -really- rich and variable range of (diferent) blade producing strategies, both levallois and non-Levallois (say, volumetric core reduction). Is been demostrated decades ago, both in (many places of) NW and North-Central Europe, and in the Mediterranean Easternmost. Other different blade assemblages are being studied in other places and regions (i can think about examples both in the Iberian peninsula and the south of France).
    Aditionally, i cant really imagine how or why some pleople forgets the many neanderthal remains fully documented in Palestine, Iran or Siria... and, finally, i find Eurologist diatribe about neanderthal "hyper-specialization-non-for-warm/wet" out of the reality. I find that this part is plain no sense.
    I'll tell you something as a final conclusion about the press release: if that piece of s*** is what the archaeologists can really offer for the reconstruction of the pleistocene population dynamics, maybe is better we forget the whole question and go into -say- digging roman fortresses or something.

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  8. For you is "any population" but the closest one we know of are H. sapiens from Palestine and Ethiopia, while the closest H. neanderthalensis is from at least Anatolia (or Greece) and the closest H. other is from Central India.

    Then we have that identification of the technology of Jwalapuram as identical in typology to that of Southern African MSA (roughly contemporaneous) and not others (incl. no Neanderthal techno-cultures and no East African MSA), vide Petraglia 2007. It is also in South Asia where the oldest stone blades exist (not in Palestine's Amoudian, which is later by some 40 or 50 Ka).

    And now we have this bifacial stuff that looks MSA-like. Sure Neanderthals and their Mousterian included occasional bifacial stuff but I do not think it looks like this at all.

    Importantly we were already aware of human (probably Sapiens) presence in Arabia later, since c. 90 Ka but this date is consistent with the other indications of Sapiens expansion to North Africa and Palestine in the context of the Abbassia Pluvial, which is anyhow the best window for the OoA flow in any case.

    It does not only fit well with the North African and Levantine occupations but also with the presence of (often African-like) Middle Paleolithic techs in South Asia particularly ("Soanian" since >100 Ka) but also maybe in Crete and Japan, and also we have a jaw with a chin in South China by those dates.

    So while not everything is clear, Millán, all indicates a pattern that makes good sense and will likely, after careful confirmation and further information, become paradigmatic in the near future. I have been caressing this concept for years now and I'm not afraid at all of embracing it as something that makes good sense and is most parsimonious on light of the overall data. However I agree that the more info, the better.

    This is more info on its own right and hence we are better with it. IMO it is critical info and principle of evidence for a migration OoA on those dates. For me this is no problem whatsoever. In fact, I suspected it all along.

    "Aditionally, i cant really imagine how or why some pleople forgets the many neanderthal remains fully documented in Palestine, Iran or Siria..."

    The only West Asian Neanderthal of that timeframe is Tabun. I luckily found a page where MSA and Tabun tools are almost side by side, please compare with those at the illustrations (layer C). While the more recent ("aurignacoid") layer B could resemble Tabun tools, the oldest layer C, which is the matter of contention, does not.

    Simply put: Neanderthals at Tabun did not make bifaces (in fact these are rare in Mousterian, except for the usual post-Acheulean wide almond-like handaxe).

    I think that there is a strong case for the MSA connection and for the H. sapiens OoA connection. But of course each one believes what he/she prefers.

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  9. Erratum "while the closest H. neanderthalensis is from at least Anatolia (or Greece)" should have been deleted with all the opening paragraph. My bad (forgot Tabun until later in the reply).

    But all the rest stands.

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  10. Millán,

    Instead of cursing and using ad hominems, just look at where and from when Neanderthal fossils are actually documented. The first cold adaption, divergent from heidelbergensis, occurred long after 400,000 ya, when the climate in central Europe was still humid/Mediterranean (with Macaques living there). Full-featured Neanderthals don't appear until ~135,000 ya, after long periods of extreme cold. And except for a couple of highly controversial Tabun dates, West Asian Neanderthal finds roughly fall into the 40,000-80,000 range. This is fully consistent with heidelbergensis-like humans continuing in west Asia (and likely central and east Asia) until this very late arrival of Neanderthals. Finally, note that the easternmost finds in the Altai, again consistent with this scenario, carry European Neanderthal DNA plus much more ancient, non-Neanderthal DNA.

    We don't have fossils from all the earlier stone tool finds in the area, but it is quite clear that they can't be Neanderthal, because Neanderthals didn't even exist in their region of origin, at that time.

    There is evidence of early human occupation across west Asia from ~800,000 to 200,000 ya and later. It is simply improper to describe these populations as Neanderthal - they can be called either heidelbergensis (~600,000 to ~200,000) or erectus/ "early human".

    Actual Neanderthal-associated sites:

    Israel:
    -------
    Tabun Cave:
    Tabun C1 find dated to ~33,000 (U series),
    Tabun C2 borderline Neanderthal/AMH; likely <70,000
    also, controversial dates around 170,000, 120,000 and 45-80,000 have been given
    Kebara Cave: two finds; 48,000-61,000
    Amud: find dated <60,000
    Qafzeh/Skuhl Caves:
    Qafzeh: 96,000-115,000; TL: 92,000 <-- old AMH
    Skuhl: 81,000-119,000 (the latter TL) <-- old AMH

    Syria:
    ------
    Dederiyeh: 48,000-54,000 (preliminary); Neanderthal babies

    Iran:
    -----
    Various sites *presumed* Neanderthal, dated 40,000-85,000

    Iraq/Kurdistan:
    ---------------
    Zagros Mountains, Shanidar Cave: 9 individuals, 80,000-60,000

    Uzbekistan:
    -----------
    Teshik-Tash, ~<70,000 (?)

    Siberia/Altai:
    --------------
    Okladnikov cave: various finds, 30,000-38,000; European Neanderthal DNA
    Denisova Cave: 30,000-48,000; ancient, non-Neanderthal DNA (i.e., heidelbergensis, erectus, or "early human")

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  11. For whatever is worth, the oldest dates from Altai MP range from 282 Ka (TL, Denisova) to 62 Ka (TL, Kara Bom). Denisova and Okladnikov are not the only caves in the Altai area with Mousterian tech anyhow. (See Derevianko 1999 and 2002).

    I would say that the oldest dates (all TL on sediment), if correct, should correspond with pre-Neanderthal settlements, probably H. erectus, eventually leading to the Denisova hybrid population. But it's not impossible an early Heidelbergensis/Neanderthal colonization either.

    I was not aware that the 120 Ka. date of Tabun is so uncertain/controversial, care to document? I ask because, if it's correct that no Neanderthal sites can be documented for Asia (maybe excepting Anatolia?) before c. 70 Ka, then we'd have to accept that it is likely that the Neanderthal expansion is not older (but actually more recent) than that of H. sapiens.

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  12. ...then we'd have to accept that it is likely that the Neanderthal expansion is not older (but actually more recent) than that of H. sapiens.

    I have long tried to emphasize that, and its consequences with regard to ancient DNA in modern humans outside Africa. That's why I keep saying admixture did not take place with Neanderthals, but more likely with heidelbergensis (in the broad sense) - whether in the structured African population model (less likely IMO) or in West Asia.

    To me, there is a wide chasm between "western evolved erectus" (significant shared continuing evolution with Africa and West Asia, includes antecessor and heidelbergensis), and eastern, little-evolved erectus (Indonesia, China). I attribute later, more modern tools and daily use of fire in East Asia to migrants from the west (we know they were in west Asia and later in Siberia, anyway), so I just find it easiest to call all these non-Neanderthal, big-brained people heidelbergensis. You can call them erectus or early humans, but then you need to add several paragraphs of what you are actually talking about.

    As to the Tabun dates, there are several problems. One of them is the fact that the actual location of the C1 fossils is disputed, and the other is that until recently, it seemed wrong that the more modern looking finds were older (now we know otherwise!). Here are some dates:

    C1 is usually identified as Neanderthal, and is likely from layer B
    C2 is more modern, but lower, from layer C (98,000 to 105,000; McDermott below)

    Simpson, H. P., et al., Journal of Human Evolution, 35, Issue 6, December 1998, Pages 635-645
    34,000 on mandible C1, 19,000 to 33,000 on femur (latter date more realistic, using linear U uptake model); U-series by gamma ray spectroscopy.

    McDermott, F., et al., Nature 363, 252 - 255 (20 May 1993); doi:10.1038/363252a0
    50,000 using animal teeth from Tabun layer B, from which the Tabun C1 skeleton is widely assumed to derive, with the U-series method

    Mercier, N., et al., Journal of Archaeological Science, 22, Issue 4, July 1995
    170,000 TL from burnt flint, but not associated with Neanderthal, and at the bottom of "layer C", i.e., clearly not associated with the fossil finds (which are from layer B or above, or perhaps - but disputed - from the very top of layer C).

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  13. That's more or less what I proposed (speculatively) in this post. But I suggested that rather than in West Asia the Heidelbergensis admixture could have happened in South Asia (Hathnora).

    The explanation on Tabun C2 is most important and I appreciate it. C2 has a chin and has been argued by some experts to be a Homo sapiens with a robust jaw (while others disagree, as usual).

    I'd say that, from context, Tabun C2 is likely to be yet another case of archaic Sapiens in the area, maybe with some Neanderthal or Heidelbergensis admixture. You may well be right about this, Eurologist.

    However I cannot agree with the idea of H. neanderthalensis being a cold adapted species. That's probably not more true than us being a heat adapted species, yet this was not any major obstacle in the mid-run to take over the cold areas of the world as well. I'd rather support the notion that Neanderthals arrived late everywhere just because their legs were shorter (what causes an statistical accumulation through the centuries and generations that must be important).

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  14. Maju: "Mostly Petraglia demolished the Toba hypothesis in the last years, since he found cultures with continuity across the Toba layer."

    As far as I'm concerned the important question is whether or not modern humans were living in S. Asia when Toba erupted. Whether some might have survived this event is relatively insignificant.
    As Petraglia himself has stressed, any such survivors would have found life extremely difficult. So, no, his findings have NOT demolished the hypothesis that Toba could have had a major effect on both the biology and the cultural life of the Out of Africa migrants.

    As far as the genetic evidence regarding a possible Toba bottleneck, the evidence is inconclusive, and as you know we disagree on how to interpret it.

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  15. Maju: "That's part of globalization of English: like Latin before, it is evolving into a global Pidgin, which is not anymore classical English but a new creole language only loosely based on English."

    Interesting hypothesis. I hope you'll find some time to post a comment on my website, so we can discuss it there. All I'll say for now is: 1. I agree that as far as day to day communication is concerned, especially on the Internet, some type of patois does seem to have emerged; 2. for scientific discourse to proceed on the basis of a loosely defined "pidgin" would be a disaster. For centuries, Latin was the standard for international scholarly and scientific disourse. It worked not because it was some sort of pidjin Latin, but because it became strictly standarized, which facilitated clearly communicated logical discourse.

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  16. Whether Toba was so bad or not so much, is open to speculation at this moment. There was a top level archaeological conference last year, btw.

    For me it's difficult to accept that H. erectus could survive in Java or H. floresiensis in Flores, so close to the Toba caldera, and people would have to go extinct all through South Asia, just because there's a layer of ash.

    I do not see any genetic signature suggesting Toba as bottleneck... unless it is the same bottleneck as the OoA and happened almost at the same time. It would not fit well with a 120 Ka OoA but it would with a 90 Ka OoA and later (<80 Ka.) arrival to South Asia. I do not see any clear re-expansion from SE Asia: there was one surely but its impact on South Asia was very minor.

    But the answer remains open and may be complex.

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  17. @ eurologist : "but more likely with heidelbergensis (in the broad sense)"

    Is it a reference to this :

    http://dienekes.blogspot.com/2011/01/out-of-north-africa.html

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  18. @wagg:

    If that is a comment to the recent North African finds:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6013/20.full
    - no, at least not directly. Those were AMHs, similar to the contemporaneous and likely related people in East Africa and in the Levant (and perhaps Arabia).

    I do believe that before then, from perhaps 800,000 to ~300,000 ya, there was significant gene flow between Europe, West Asia, and North-East Africa, and the simultaneous development of several features (most notably larger brain cases) supports this. This gene flow would have taken place mostly under similarly opportune, wet conditions as around 120,000-130,000 ya that we know to be periodic.

    In the structured-Africa model, there was a more ancient, surviving population somewhere in North-East Africa that mixed almost exclusively with the folks that would go ooA. Yes, an involvement of much of North Africa could make sense if it happened before 130,000 years ago, and when conditions got dry again, the mixed population died out in the north due to lack of habitat, or at least was completely marginalized so as to not leave much of a fingerprint in the remainder of Africa.

    But we know that the initial ooA wasn't all that successful (apparently, low population densities and no move into Europe or North or East Asia), so we have a ~80,000 year hiatus, during which time much could have happened. Including a second ooA.

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  19. I'm not very certain about the rest but I must disagree with this:

    "But we know that the initial ooA wasn't all that successful (apparently, low population densities and no move into Europe or North or East Asia)"...

    Do we know that? I do not. And anyhow moving into Europe is not part of the OoA or Great Eurasian Expansion but of a later process... it's final spams.

    "so we have a ~80,000 year hiatus, during which time much could have happened. Including a second ooA".

    Between 120 and 90 Ka (confirmed "second wave" in Arabia) there's only 30 Ka, just as between 110 and 80 Ka (Indian sites). No idea where you get your 80 Ka figure, really.

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  20. I'm not very certain about the rest but I must disagree with this:

    "But we know that the initial ooA wasn't all that successful (apparently, low population densities and no move into Europe or North or East Asia)"...

    Do we know that? I do not. And anyhow moving into Europe is not part of the OoA or Great Eurasian Expansion but of a later process... it's final spams.

    "so we have a ~80,000 year hiatus, during which time much could have happened. Including a second ooA".

    Between 120 and 90 Ka (confirmed "second wave" in Arabia) there's only 30 Ka, just as between 110 and 80 Ka (Indian sites). No idea where you get your 80 Ka figure, really.

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  21. "not in Palestine's Amoudian, which is later by some 40 or 50 Ka"

    Is that possibly the reason why the Hormuz technology doesn't resemble that of the Middle East? They're not comparing apples with apples.

    "crossing the Arabian desert was probably beyond their capacities (also ours but we crossed the sea)".

    There's no evidence at all that these humans (whatever they were) arrived at Hormuz any other way than by walking.

    "we'd have to accept that it is likely that the Neanderthal expansion is not older (but actually more recent) than that of H. sapiens".

    Like Eurologist I think that is the case. The expansion south of Neanderthals broke up any previous continuity of technology and culture between Africa and India.

    "To me, there is a wide chasm between 'western evolved erectus' (significant shared continuing evolution with Africa and West Asia, includes antecessor and heidelbergensis), and eastern, little-evolved erectus (Indonesia, China)".

    Quite so. On the other hand I see no reason why 'modern' humans could not have successfully formed hybrids with either the eastern or western group, and probably did.

    "I do believe that before then, from perhaps 800,000 to ~300,000 ya, there was significant gene flow between Europe, West Asia, and North-East Africa, and the simultaneous development of several features (most notably larger brain cases) supports this".

    And that gene flow continues to this day, although perhaps greatly accelerated. I'm sure 'modern' humans are a product of such flow. It's just that many of us, for cultural reasons, like to believe that humans are somehow totally different, and disconected from all other species.

    "For me it's difficult to accept that H. erectus could survive in Java or H. floresiensis in Flores, so close to the Toba caldera, and people would have to go extinct all through South Asia, just because there's a layer of ash".

    Agree whole-heartedly with that.

    "Do we know that? I do not".

    Again I agree with Maju. It makes sense that the earlier movement survived, although perhaps the men who took part in that movement have since been replaced.

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