Nearly 200,000 years ago, at the confluence of two long-vanished river systems in the heart of Arabia, people climbed a jagged, rocky dyke rising nearly 200 feet above the surrounding plains. There they crafted hand axes and other edged tools from plentiful volcanic stone—and left thousands of them behind. Today, many millennia after the more temperate Arabia the toolmakers knew vanished, those stone tools endure as tantalizing clues to the mysteries of human evolution and migration in the ancient world.
In [November 29] Scientific Reports researchers describe an array of large flakes, hand axes and cleavers, and date them to some 190,000 years ago. The work presents the first secure dates for Acheulean technology in Arabia.
Comparing [these] stone tools with those from other times and locales presents an interesting puzzle. They bear a strong resemblance to those found in African Acheulean sites such as Ethiopia, suggesting a possible migration from the Horn of Africa by following the era’s African Summer Monsoon. The tools are also technologically similar to those found in other surface sites around Arabia, suggesting that the people who made them may have used the ancient river system corridors to travel widely across the area.
[Archaeologist Eleanor] Scerri’s group doesn’t have the answers, but she says their findings add to an emerging picture of a prehistoric region between Africa and Eurasia that appears increasingly diverse.
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