Human density simulated by UHM Human Dispersal Model, which shows a shift from Africa to Asia and Europe. Graphic courtesy of UH
A small group of Homo sapiens left Africa around 100,000 years ago in a series of astronomically paced slow migration waves and arrived for the first time in southern Europe around 80,000-90,000 years ago, according to a new study published in the journal Nature.
These results by a team of researchers from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa challenge prominent anthropological models that assume a single exodus out of Africa around 60,000 years ago, according to a recent UH article.
The wobble of Earth’s axis, with a period of about 20,000 years, and the corresponding changes in climate are known to have caused massive shifts in vegetation in tropical and subtropical regions. Such shifts opened up green corridors between Africa, the Sinai and the Arabian Peninsula, enabling some Homo sapiens to leave Northeastern Africa and embark on their grand journey into Asia, Europe, Australia and, eventually, into the Americas. Whether climate shifts really influenced the early human migration has been a matter of intense debate.
Researchers from the International Pacific Research Center at UHM used one of the first integrated climate-human migration computer models in an attempt to re-create quantitatively the grand journey of Homo sapiens over the past 125,000 years and determine the role of climate in human dispersal. The model simulates ice-ages, abrupt climate change and captures the arrival times of Homo sapiens in the Eastern Mediterranean, Arabian Peninsula, Southern China and Australia in close agreement with paleoclimate reconstructions and fossil and archaeological evidence.
“One of the surprising results of our study is that the scenario that agrees best with all the Asian data is one that also simulates a very early arrival of Homo sapiens in Europe around 80,000-90,000 years ago, pre-dating the oldest fossil evidence by about 45,000 years,” said Axel Timmermann, lead author of the study and a professor at UHM’s IPRC and Department of Oceanography.