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MENAFN - Muscat Daily - 04/05/2014
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(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) Fresh evidence unearthed by archaeologists from new sites in Rub al Khali has further challenged the theory that the 'great expansion' of modern humans originated in Africa. 

It suggests the expansion happened through Arabia, and that the Empty Quarter, for most of human prehistory, was not so empty after all.

Modern humans first arose about 200,000 years ago in Africa. How they dispersed has long been debated, but geneticists have suggested this exodus started between 40,000 and 70,000 years ago. The accepted theory till 2011 was that the exodus from Africa traced Arabia's shores, rather than passing through its now-arid interiors. New site findings in Dhofar that year by paleolithic archaeologist Jeffery Rose, strengthened by studies in 2013, underscore scope of human presence in south Rub al Khali.

In 2011, Rose, who has researched in Oman for more than a decade and runs the Empty Quarter, in cooperation with the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, surprised the scientific community with findings from over 100 newly discovered Nubian Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites in Dhofar, confirming that modern humans left Africa through Arabia long before genetic evidence suggested and did so by venturing into the Arabian Peninsula instead of hugging its coasts. ''Since 2011 we have mapped approximately 250 Nubian Complex sites in Dhofar, including a new prehistoric culture we call the 'Mudayyan' (after a nearby village, Mudayy) which descends from those first Nubian Complex toolmakers in Arabia. This is significant because it tells us the Nubian Complex survived in southern Arabia, even after the climate dried out some 70,000 years ago, and became the first modern humans to populate the globe,'' said Rose.

In the winter of 2013, Rose's team carried out a preliminary survey in the southern Rub al Khali, in the region around Al Hashman. ''Among a handful of sites from the last million years, we fond a couple of 'findspots' with Nubian Complex artefacts. These findings underscore the scope of human presence in the southern Rub al Khali and it is no surprise that each of these periods of occupation corresponds to a pluvial cycle, in which heightened monsoon activity transformed the Rub al Khali into a savannah grassland dotted with playa lakes.''

These discoveries are just the tip of the iceberg, believes Rose, adding that there is much more to be learned about Oman's earliest past in the heart of the Rub al Khali. ''What all these new discoveries tell us is that the Nubians weren't constrained to Dhofar, but had expanded into the Empty Quarter, and ultimately northward into the deserts of Saudi, Jordan and Syria.''

This has been proven recently by Rose's PhD student Yamandu Hilbert, who has been carrying out archaeological survey in central and northern Saudi Arabia, where he too has found evidence for Nubian Complex toolmakers widespread across the entire Arabian Peninsula.

MSA sites around 106,000 years old

Nubian MSA artefacts are well known throughout the Nile valley, but this is the first time that such sites have been found outside Africa.

A dating technique called optically stimulated luminescence, which measures how much radiation a mineral has absorbed over time, revealed that the tools are roughly 106,000 years old. This is considerably older than previous biological data that indicated men left Africa between 70,000 and 40,000 years ago.

Nubian MSA artefacts are well known throughout the Nile valley, but this is the first time that such sites have been found outside Africa.

A dating technique called optically stimulated luminescence, which measures how much radiation a mineral has absorbed over time, revealed that the tools are roughly 106,000 years old. This is considerably older than previous biological data that indicated men left Africa between 70,000 and 40,000 years ago


Muscat Daily

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