Modern humans took detours on their way to Europe

October 14, 2020

Favourable climatic conditions influenced the sequence of settlement movements of Homo sapiens in the Levant on their way from Africa to Europe. In a first step, modern humans settled along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Only then did they spread out into the Sinai desert and the eastern Jordanian Rift Valley. This is the result of archaeological research conducted by Collaborative Research Centre 'Our Way to Europe' (CRC 806) at the universities of Cologne, Bonn, and Aachen. The article 'Al-Ansab and the Dead Sea: mid-MIS 3 Archaeology and Environment of the Early Ahmarian Population of the Levantine Corridor' was published in PLOS ONE.

For more than ten years, the team has been analysing sediments, pollen, and archaeological artefacts around the site of Al-Ansab 1 near the ancient ruin-city of Petra (Jordan). The goal was to gain an understanding of the environmental conditions that prevailed at the time of human expansion. 'Human presence consolidated in the region under favourable climate conditions', said Professor Dr Jürgen Richter, lead author of the study.

The success story of anatomically modern humans outside of Africa began about 100,000 years ago with well-known sites such as Qafzeh and Skhul in Israel. However, these early records only reveal a brief, temporary expansion of the territory into the Levant. Permanent settlement of the region only dates back to about 43,000 years ago, scientists believe. During the epoch of the so-called 'Early Ahmarian', modern humans gradually had been spreading throughout the Levant - a first step on their way to Asia and Europe.

Favourable climatic conditions were preconditions for permanent human settlement. On a large scale, this is illustrated by the presence of the so-called Lake Lisan. This freshwater lake was located where the Dead Sea is today. However, it was of a much larger extent and carried greater water volume. Most of the water evaporated only with the end of the last ice age, leaving behind the hypersaline Dead Sea known today.

Even on a small scale, the scientists were able to recognise the favourable environmental conditions: geo-archaeological teams from the University of Cologne and RWTH Aachen University examined the site of Al-Ansab 1. Whereas today, the Wadi Sabra, in which the site is located, is strongly shaped by seasonal flash floods, geomorphological and archaeological investigations showed that at the time of settlement, the conditions were less erosive and continuously wet, permitting the presence of humans.

'This enabled the spread of humans from the coastal Mediterranean area to the formerly drier regions of the Negev desert and the eastern slopes of the Jordan Rift Valley. They hunted gazelles in the open landscape - a prey we found in many sites in the region from this period', says Richter. 'Humans did not come by steady expansion out of Africa through the Levant and further to Europe and Asia. Rather, they first settled in a coastal strip along the Mediterranean Sea.'

The region around the site of Al-Ansab 1 therefore was a stepping stone on Homo sapiens' way - a journey that did not take a straight path to the European continent, but was guided by complex interactions between humans and their environment.

University of Cologne

Related Environmental Conditions Articles from Brightsurf:

Cannabis to treat gynecological conditions
A significant number of women would consider using cannabis to treat gynecological conditions, primarily gynecological pain.

Examining CBD use for conditions with proven therapies
Testimonials posted on a social media site were analyzed to examine whether individuals are using the cannabis-derived chemical compound cannabidiol (CBD) in an attempt to treat diagnosable conditions that have evidence-based therapies.

Ultra-sensitive nanothermometer under ambient conditions
Nanoscale temperature measurement with high sensitivity is important to studying many phenomena ranging from heat dissipation in nanocircuits to thermal processes in live systems.

Chinook salmon declines related to changes in freshwater conditions
A new University of Alaska-led study provides the first evidence that declines in many of Alaska's chinook salmon populations can be attributed in part to climate-driven changes in their freshwater habitats.

Environmental conditions found to affect stability of virus that causes COVID-19
A new study led by Marshall University researcher M. Jeremiah Matson found that environmental conditions affect the stability of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in human nasal mucus and sputum.

AGA does not recommend the use of probiotics for most digestive conditions
After a detailed review of available literature, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) has released new clinical guidelines finding that for most digestive conditions there is not enough evidence to support the use of probiotics.

Same genes, same conditions, different transport
The bacterium Lactococcus lactis is unable to produce the amino acid methionine and has to rely on uptake from the environment, using systems with high or low affinity.

Hemp 'goes hot' due to genetics, not growing conditions
As the hemp industry grows, producers face the risk of cultivating a crop that can become unusable -- and illegal -- if it develops too much of the psychoactive chemical THC.

Mites can change their diet depending on environmental conditions
A team of scientists from Tyumen State University together with their foreign colleagues discovered that soil mites change their dietary preferences if their habitat is transformed by human activity.

How extreme environmental conditions affect the human brain
Members of a polar research expedition have provided researchers from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development with an opportunity to study the effects of social isolation and extreme environmental conditions on the human brain.

Read More: Environmental Conditions News and Environmental Conditions Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to