Oxford — A new study provides fresh insights into the life of early modern humans in North Africa, the only land route into Eurasia. Researchers have carried out the biggest ever comparative study of stone tools dating to between 130,000 and 75,000 years ago found in the region between sub-Saharan Africa and Eurasia.
They have discovered there are marked differences in the way stone tools were made, reflecting a diversity of cultural traditions. The study has also identified at least four distinct populations, each relatively isolated from each other with their own different cultural characteristics.
The research paper also suggests that early populations took advantage of rivers and lakes that criss-crossed the Sahara desert. Read more.
During ongoing excavations in northern Sudan, Polish archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology in Poznań, have discovered the remains of a settlement estimated to 70,000 years old. This find, according to the researchers, seems to contradict the previously held belief that the construction of permanent structures was associated with the so-called Great Exodus from Africa and occupation of the colder regions of Europe and Asia.
The site known as Affad 23, is currently the only one recorded in the Nile Valley which shows that early Homo sapiens built sizeable permanent structures, and had adapted well to the wetland environment.
This new evidence points to a much more advanced level of human development and adaptation in Africa during the Middle Palaeolithic. Read more.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has returned eight works of art to Nigeria after determining that the documentation accompanying some of the items, six of which were bequeathed in early 2013 by a prominent donor and collector, was suspect or fraudulent.
Museum officials said the eight items were acquired “in good faith” by the donor, William E. Teel, and his wife, Bertha, in the 1990s from European and American art dealers. Six of the works were part of a 308-item bequest last year, mostly of art of sub-Saharan African or Oceanic origin. The other two objects were also donated by Mr. Teel, but in the 1990s. All eight were to be formally handed over to Nigeria on Thursday. Read more.
Early humans, or hominins, stretched further west—into today’s Central Africa—than previously known, according to findings by a research team that included NYU anthropologist Shara Bailey.
The results, which appeared in the journal PLOS ONE, expand the range of early hominins significantly farther west and suggest that they made use of a wide range of geographic locations and likely ecological conditions. They also reveal a need for a shift in our paradigm about where to search for early hominins.
"While the eastern branch of the Rift Valley is an important place for early human evolution, this find suggests additional results may come from farther west than we once thought," says Bailey. Read more.
It is well established that modern humans originated in Africa, before moving out to inhabit rest of the planet. They first spread into Asia and Europe via the Arabian Peninsula, and those in the Far East eventually reached America and the Pacific islands.
However, this simple picture does not explain several groups found across Asia and Oceania. Now, by looking at genetic and archaeological data, researchers think they might have found the answer, confirming theories that humans migrated out of Africa more than once.
Across Asia, people are usually similar in appearance to those around them. However, there are scattered populations on islands and in other isolated areas that look quite distinct. These people are sometimes collectively called Negritos (while this may sound archaic, it is the accepted scientific term). Along with Papuans, Melanesians and aboriginal Australians, they are generally much darker-skinned and curlier-haired than their neighbours. Read more.
Modern humans may have dispersed in more than one wave of migration out of Africa, and they may have done so earlier than scientists had long thought, researchers now say.
Modern humans first arose between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago in Africa. But when and how the modern human lineage then dispersed out of Africa has long been controversial.
Scientists have suggested the exodus from Africa started between 40,000 and 70,000 years ago. However, stone artifacts dating to at least 100,000 years ago that were recently uncovered in the Arabian Desert suggested that modern humans might have begun their march across the globe earlier than once suspected. Read more.
Secrets of sixty remarkable clay figurines - up to 1,400-years-old and excavated by archaeologists from The Universities of Ghana and Manchester, and the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board (GMMB)– are to be revealed at an exhibition starting this week (October 25).
The beautiful objects - up to 31cm in height - will take pride of place at the Manchester Museum, part of the University, the first time they will be seen publicly outside Ghana.
The figurines, including two-headed humans, a chameleon, a crocodile and a man on horseback, are thought by the team to have been used to invoke the help of ancestors to cure illnesses. Read more.
The first humans left Africa some 200,000 years ago, dispersing to populate the rest of the world. But this was not a one-way trip: some people came back. Scientists say that they have traced a reverse migration that, in two steps, carried genes from the rest of the world back to southern Africa, long before European colonizers arrived.
The findings are part of a flurry of research enabled by better tools to survey African genomes. For the first time, population geneticists can examine the complex history of human migration in Africa effectively, a field long dominated by the analysis of bones, artefacts and languages.
“Up until now this was mostly done based on linguistics and archaeology, and now we can use genetics to test ideas,” says Carina Schlebusch, a geneticist at Uppsala University in Sweden. “It’s a really exciting time for African genetics.” Read more.