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14 December 2011
'Out of Africa' theory pushed back over 40,000 years

Until now, geneticists and archaeologists had believed that modern man has started to migrate out of the cradle of civilisation in Africa between 70,000 and 40,000 years ago. But new discoveries in the southern region of the Sultanate of Oman are causing a re-evaluation.
     An international team, under the auspices of the Omani Ministry of heritage and Culture, and led by Dr Jeffrey rose of the University of Birmingham (UK) has been researching in the Dhofar mountains in southern Oman, near the border with Yemen. They have discovered a plethora of sites attributed to 'Nubian Middle Stone Age', which produced highly distinctive stone tools. Until these finds they had only been found in Africa.
     The date of the artefacts and the sites has been confirmed by the use of a technique known as Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL). This measures doses from ionizing radiation that the material in question has absorbed and it effectively calculates when the object was last exposed to sunlight.
     The results have pushed the migration out of Africa back to approximately 106,000 years ago and refocused attention on a migration path through the Arabian peninsula rather than Europe. The dating coincides with a period when the Arabian peninsula comprised sprawling grasslands, before the Last Ice Age and Dr Rose is quoted as saying "For a while South Arabia became a verdant paradise rich in resources - large game, plentiful fresh water, and high quality flint with which to make stone tools".
     
Edited from EurekAlert (30 November 2011), Oman Daily Observer (4 December 2011)

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