What was the exact path followed by ancient humans as they moved out of Africa? Where did they travel to, and how did this mass migration take place? Did everything take place in one massive wave? Or did it take place in stages?
Many questions remain unanswered, and the entire puzzle is far from complete. Nonetheless, archeological excavations worldwide help us resolve many of the historical enigmas that cloud to this day, our understanding of human origins.
It has been revealed that between 50,000 and 43,000 years ago, ancient humans settled in what is today known as the “Levant” before expanding into Asia and Europe.
A few factors were crucial for them to settle there, but researchers now say that one of the most important factors was the favorable climatic conditions. It is believed that this was one of the main factors that led ancient people to choose to settle in the Levant on their long journey towards Europe and Asia.
In a first step, it is believed that our ancestors settled along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, then spread through the Sinai Desert and the eastern Rift Valley of Jordan.
This theory results from a series of archaeological excavations carried out by the Collaborative Research Center “Our Way to Europe” (CRC 806) at the universities of Cologne, Bonn, and Aachen. Scientists wanted to understand better what environmental conditions existed on Earth when humans moved out of Africa and how migration took place.
The study, titled “Al-Ansab and the Dead Sea: mid-MIS 3 Archeology and Environment of the Early Ahmarian Population of the Levantine Corridor“, was published in the journal PLOS ONE and offered extensive data that backs up the theory of how ancient people settled in the Levant, on their way to Asia and Europe.
To come to this conclusion, archeologists spend more than a decade analyzing sediments, pollen as well as archaeological artifacts that were spread across a vast area not far from the ancient city of Petra in present-day Jordan.
The leading author of the study, Professor Dr. Jürgen Richter, explained that climate played a huge role in the migratory journey picked out by our ancestors:
“Human presence consolidated in the region under favorable climate conditions.”
Experts have long maintained that anatomically modern humans began migrating outside of Africa around 100,000 years ago, as evidenced in well-known sites such as Qafzeh and Skhul, in Israel.
But there’s an issue. These records only reveal a brief temporary expansion of the territory in the Levant.
It has been concluded that a permanent settlement in the region dates back to about 43,000 years ago. During the time of the so-called “first Ahmarians“, had gradually spread throughout the Levant as the first step on their way to Asia and Europe.
More than one factor was required for a permanent settlement, but researchers say that climate once again-played the most important role in the decision for humans to settle down in a specific region.
As revealed by the new study, on a large scale, this is illustrated by the presence of the so-called Lisan Lake.
This freshwater lake was located where the Dead Sea is today. However, it was much larger and carried more volume of water. Most of it evaporated towards the end of the last Ice Age, leaving behind the hypersaline Dead Sea that is known today.
But even on a smaller scale, scientists succeeded in identifying various favorable environmental conditions that led towards permanent settlements, and these were found at a site called Al-Ansab 1 (Jordan).
This site is located some eight kilometers from the ancient city of Petra, and experts have found strong evidence of seasonal flash floods. There, at the time when people are believed to have dwelled there, the conditions were much more favorable with a more humid climate, which contributed to ancient people deciding to stay there for prolonged periods of time.
Al-Ansab 1 is considered a key site and likely served as a stepping stone that would eventually pave the way for our ancestors to begin their journey towards the Asian and European continent, albeit indirectly; the entire migratory structure was guided by complex interactions between ancient humans and the environments they encountered between 43,000 and 50,000 years ago.
I find this particular study of great interest, especially since it is know accepted that ancient people from present-day Anatolia likely traveled towards parts of Eastern and Central Europe over 12,000 years ago.
There’s conclusive evidence that the builders of Stonehenge in England are in fact the descendants of people that originated not far from Göbekli Tepe, an ancient site that is considered being either the oldest known astronomical observatory in the world or the oldest known megalithic temple.
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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0239968 / All other sources and references are linked throughout this article.