Archaeological sites in India and Israel have yielded new finds that once again illustrate the probability that some groups of people left Africa much earlier than previously assumed. Although a number of these migrations have been found to have occurred throughout humanity’s early history, the earliest movement was assumed to have taken place between 130,000, and 115,000 years ago. Two new discoveries from India, and Israel may point to an even earlier beginning to the nomadic culture of the walking people, one that might very well have taken place more than 385,000 years ago.
A fossil of a human jawbone excavated in 2002 from a cave in Israel’s Mount Carmel region has recently been dated to be between 177,000 and 194,000 years old, making this fossil the oldest-known human remains outside of Africa, making it roughly 50,000 to 100,000 years older than the previously-oldest find (the oldest known human remains, found in Morocco, are 300,000 years old). This discovery suggests that some groups of people left Africa around 220,000 years ago, roughly 100,000 years earlier than previously anticipated. The study also suggests that this migration might have occurred even earlier, due to the presence of 60,000 flint tools found in the cave that were found to be 250,000 years old.
3,100 miles to the east, an archaeological dig in southern India’s Attirampakkam village has unearthed a treasure trove of stone tools that push the nomadic movement of the people event back to an even earlier date, as the tools have been dated to be up to 385,000 years old. The 7,200 specimens are finely crafted using what is known as the Levallois technique, that produces a rounded blade with pre-chipped sharp edges.
The archaeologists involved in the Attirampakkam dig caution that since no human remains were found with the tools, it is too early to determine who actually created them–Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, or possibly an even earlier hominid are all possible candidates. Regardless, both the Attirampakkam and Mount Carmel discoveries will prompt modern science to re-evaluate how people spread across the landscape, and most importantly, when.
"Now we have to write another story," explains co-author of the study on the Israeli find, Mina Weinstein-Evron. "People were moving all the time."