Archaeologists have recently uncovered traces of the earliest hominin migrations in the Arabian Peninsula of Saudi Arabia after the discovery of 300,000-year-old stone tools that were left behind in the swirling sands of the Nefud Desert.
As Ars Technica reports, the discovery shows that certain members of the species of the genus known as Homo took leave of the Levant and Africa between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago and ventured into the Arabian Peninsula. According to evidence, this may not have been a drastic change for these people and their new living environment may have even been slightly similar to what they had been used to in East Africa, at least in terms of climate.
The 300,000-year-old stone tools that archaeologists unearthed in Saudi Arabia include a scraper and six brown chert flakes. Archaeologists have previously discovered fossils in the Nefud Desert that appeared to have cut marks on them, but without actual evidence of tools, it was impossible to tell whether the marks on the fossilized rib discovered had appeared naturally or had been made by humans.
However, with the discovery of the ancient stone tools and the radiometric dating of these, archaeologists have now concluded that there was a hominin population living in the Arabian Peninsula at least 100,000 years before they were originally thought to have been there.
Archaeologists find 300,000-year-old stone tools in Saudi Arabia https://t.co/GbbFgMiycm
— PaleoAnthropology+ (@Qafzeh) October 30, 2018
Despite the advanced artistry involved in the making of these stone tools, which is what might be expected of Neanderthals or even early modern humans, archaeologists believe that a very early hominin species like Homo erectus would have fashioned the 300,000-year-old tools found in the Arabian Peninsula.
Scientists studying climate records that are found at the base of lakes and in caves have concluded that the Arabia Peninsula was once very wet and moderate in temperature, which lasted over a period of 2 million years. This would have been immensely helpful for hominin populations living there.
However, the area would have dried up tremendously during different climate phases, to the point where species like Homo erectus would have found living conditions impossible. This, according to Patrick Roberts of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, was what most likely prompted the hominin population to depart, leaving some of their ancient stone tools behind.
“In between these phases, I think it is clear that the Arabian Peninsula would have resembled something like today, and hominin existence would have been impossible throughout most of the interior. Indeed, this is why we end up with fossil assemblages like we have here, presumably the product of a downturn in climate and demise of local populations.”
Despite knowing that the Arabian Peninsula was once quite hospitable, Roberts is interested in learning just how green it really would have been at the time that the stone tools in Saudi Arabia were used, and believes that samples from lakes in the area may solve this question once and for all.
“Really, something we want to emphasize is that finds of early fossils should be accompanied by detailed environmental information. When we discuss migrations, this is arguably the most interesting part in terms of studying the challenges and capacities of different populations.”
The new study on the discovery of the 300,000-year-old stone tools that were found in the Arabian Peninsula of Saudi Arabia, providing proof of an early hominin population, has been published in Nature.