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According to Breaking Science News
An international team of researchers has discovered a fossilized human finger bone in the Nefud Desert of Saudi Arabia estimated to be about 90,000 years old. The discovery is described in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.
The small (just one inch, or 3.3 cm, long) bone was found at the site of Al Wusta, an ancient fresh-water lake located in what is now the hyper-arid desert.
Dubbed Al Wusta-1, the relic is the oldest directly dated Homo sapiens fossil outside of Africa and the Levant, and suggests that people traveled further than initially thought during the first reported human migration into Eurasia.
Prior to this discovery, it was widely believed that early ventures from Africa into Eurasia had been unsuccessful and only ever reached the parameters of the neighboring Mediterranean forests of the Levant.
“This discovery for the first time conclusively shows that early members of our species colonized an expansive region of southwest Asia and were not just restricted to the Levant,” said lead author Dr. Huw Groucutt, from the University of Oxford in the UK and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany.
“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.”
To be sure of their find and date its origins, the Al Wusta-1 bone was scanned in 3D and its shape compared against fingers bones from other Homo sapiens, other early humans, such as Neanderthals and species of primates.
Using a technique called uranium series dating, a laser was used to make microscopic holes in the bone and measure the ratio between tiny traces of radioactive elements. These ratios revealed that the fossil was 88,000 years old.
Other dates obtained from associated fossils and sediments converged to a date of approximately 90,000 years ago.
In addition to the human remains, abundant stone tools made by humans and numerous animal fossils, including those of hippopotamus and tiny fresh water snails, were found at the site.
“The Arabian Peninsula has long been considered to be far from the main stage of human evolution,” said senior author Professor Michael Petraglia, from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
“This discovery firmly puts Arabia on the map as a key region for understanding our origins and expansion to the rest of the world. As fieldwork carries on, we continue to make remarkable discoveries in Saudi Arabia.”
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