Fossil finger bone of Homo sapiens from the Al Wusta site, Saudi Arabia.(Ian Cartwright)

First human migration out of Africa began 90,000 years ago, far wider than previously thought: Study

A bone, identified instantly as a human middle finger by an archaeologist in Saudi Arabia turned out to be 88,000 years old sending the scientists into ecstasy. The excavation was led by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

The bone is the oldest fossil of Homo Sapiens species to ever be found outside of Africa and the Levant or the present Middle-East.

Prior to this discovery, it was thought that early migration into Eurasia remained restricted to the Mediterranean forests of the Levant, on the doorstep of Africa.

The middle finger bone fossil found at the Al Wusta site shows that there were both multiple dispersals out of Africa, and these spread further than previously known.

General view of the excavations at the Al Wusta site, Saudi Arabia. The ancient lake bed (in white) is surrounded by sand dunes of the Nefud Desert.(Michael Petraglia)

Found in the Nefud desert in 2016 by Iyad Zalmout, a scientist with the Saudi Geological Survey, as a part of the excavations at the Al Wusta site, the finger joint just lying in the sand, it did not match the Neanderthals and was sent to the University of Cambridge, where specialists made 3D scan to confirm it as Homo Sapiens.

The 3.2cm-long middle finger, along with other samples found at the Al Wusta site, was sent to the Australian National University in Canberra where researchers conducted uranium series dating to confirm that it was 88,000 years old.

Project Lead Michael Petraglia said, “The Arabian Peninsula has long been considered to be far from the main stage of human evolution. This discovery firmly puts Arabia on the map as a key region for understanding our origins and expansion to the rest of the world. As fieldwork carries on, we continue to make remarkable discoveries in Saudi Arabia.” The results of this study were published today in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

The ancient fossils ever found was 120,000 years old, found in China but their human origin was not dated precisely so far.

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