oh the pre-humanity

These archaeologists have turned up evidence that human ancestors were established in Arabia about 300 thousand years ago. The location is no surprise, because our ancestors passed through as they radiated out of Africa. It’s the timing that’s interesting.

Before moving to Oman in 2007, I became very interested in the prospect of finding more evidence of its place in prehistory as a conduit for hominids moving from Africa to Eurasia. I found only one mention of a simian fossil (Miocene age, 23-5.3 Ma BP, as reported) found near Taqah in southern Oman. A colleague, Jason Lewis, now at Stony Brook University in New York and the West Turkana Project in Kenya, used a state-of-the-art scanner in the geology library at Stanford to digitize geologic maps of Oman for me, to help find Quaternary deposits to survey. Unfortunately, I had no luck at all finding collaborators in Oman, even in the anthropology department at Sultan Qaboos University.

Now on Borneo, Indonesia, U-series dating on cave art shows it to be about 37.2 to 51.8 ka old. The region is interesting for a host of reasons, among which are: Borneo is the last major landmass west of the Wallace Line, where a marine trench divided Eurasia from southeastern Austronesia throughout hominid history; New Guinea, the first large landmass east of the Line, may be the most linguistically diverse place in the world; and there is broadly accepted evidence of now extinct hominids from very early in human prehistory.

Image: Photograph, L.-H. Fage; tracing, L. Huntley, based on previously published data and at http://www.kalimanthrope.com. Aubert et al. (2018).

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