jueves, 14 de mayo de 2015

When Arabia was green: lush grasslands helped early man make leap out of Africa

2/3. This ancient lake in the Nefud is evidence of dramatic climate change... Courtesy Michael Petraglia

A prehistory professor has unearthed evidence that the Arabian Peninsula played a pivotal role in the evolution and migration of our species across the planet, and that the arid desert was once a lush green habitable landscape.

Michael Petraglia is no stranger to the hot, dusty and physically demanding business of unearthing the secrets of our distant past in some of the more inhospitable places on Earth.

So it came as a pleasant surprise in 2001 for the professor of human evolution and prehistory at the University of Oxford’s School of Archaeology to make one of his more unexpected discoveries in the air-conditioned comfort of the library at the National Museum of Saudi Arabia.

What he found, meticulously recorded in an archaeology journal almost completely unknown outside Saudi Arabia, were fascinating clues to the area’s prehistoric past that would trigger a dramatic reappraisal of the role played by the Arabian Peninsula in the migration of the first humans out of Africa.

As Professor Petraglia turned the pages of Atlal, reviewing the findings of the Comprehensive Archaeological Survey ordered by the Saudi government in the 1970s, the seed of an idea was planted that by 2012 would grow into an international project.

“Arabia had been completely underplayed in the story of human migrations out of Africa,” says Prof Petraglia, reflecting on the first three years of the five-year Palaeodeserts Project, on which he is the principal investigator.

With another two years of the project left to run, “the progress has been beyond my expectations”, he says. “I don’t know if I should say this myself, but we’re transforming the prehistory of Arabia.” [...] thenational.ae

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Actualización 21-09-15: Green Arabia's key role in human evolution - BBC News
Scientists have been illuminating the vital role played by the Arabian Peninsula in humankind's exodus from Africa. Far from being a desert, the region was once covered by lush vegetation and criss-crossed by rivers, providing rich hunting grounds for our ancestors... 

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Actualización: Green Arabia's key role in human evolution - BBC News