Researchers in northern Saudi Arabia have discovered human and animal footprints that lived in the region about 120 thousand years ago, which provides new information about the routes taken by the ancestors as humans expanded outside the African continent, and this, according to a Saudi government official, “the first evidence of the oldest human existence In the Arabian Peninsula.
In a study published in the journal Science Advances on Wednesday, the researchers presented the details of the scene discovered at the site, where it seems that a group of ancestors of the Homo sapiens stopped to drink water and search for forage at a shallow lake that was also frequented by camels, buffaloes, and elephants of a larger size than any existing race. In the world now.
The CEO of the Saudi Heritage Authority, Jasser bin Sulaiman Al-Herbash, said during a press conference held in Riyadh on Wednesday that a “joint international Saudi team” was behind the discovery.
— هيئة التراث (@MOCHeritage) September 16, 2020
In statements carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA), he explained that the traces of animal hooves belong to “camels, elephants, and predatory animals” and animals from the antelope and bovine families, indicating that the “ancient dry lake” is located “on the outskirts of Tabuk.”
According to the study, these humans may have hunted the gigantic animals, but they did not stay long in the site they used as a water point to survive a long trip.
Currently, the Arabian Peninsula includes vast and arid deserts that would not have been a suitable habitable site for human ancestors and the animals that they hunted.
— واس العام (@SPAregions) September 16, 2020
However, research conducted over the past decade showed that this was not always the case, as the region included green areas with greater humidity during the last period known as the interglacial period.
Al-Herbish stressed that the discovery, which he described as “new and important,” “provides a rare glimpse into the environment of the living during the movement of humans to this part of the world.”
“During certain periods in the past, the deserts that dominated the interior landscape in the (Arabian) peninsula were transformed into vast green pastures in which the water of lakes and rivers was always supplied,” said researcher Richard Clark Wilson at Royal Holloway University in English, one of the study’s authors.
The lead author of the study, Matthew Stewart, of the Max Planck Institute for the Chemical Environment, told AFP that the footprints were discovered during his fieldwork related to his PhD in 2017, following the erosion of the upper sediments at an ancient lake called Lake Al-Athar.
He added, “Footprints are unique fossil evidence because they provide a glimpse of a specific moment in time by depicting what was happening within hours or days, which we generally do not obtain by relying on other data.”
The effects were dated by a technique based on lighting up quartz grains and measuring the amount of energy emitted from them.
Ample green spaces and water
In total, seven of the hundreds of artifacts discovered were classified as hominin ancestors, including four that were interpreted as having two or three people traveling together, given their identical destination, distances between them, and differences in size.
The researchers believe that these effects belong to modern humans in terms of their anatomical characteristics, unlike the Neanderthals, on the basis that our extinct ancestors were not known to exist in the Middle East region at that time, and based on estimates on the standing position and weight associated with footprints.
“We realize that humans were visiting the lake at the same time to visit animals,” Stewart said. “Also, there are no stone tools in an unusual way for this area.”
He added, “It seems that these people were visiting the lake to seek water resources and for fodder at the same time for the animals to come,” and they were probably heading to the place to hunt animals as well.
Besides, the elephants, which became extinct in the Levant region for about 400 thousand years, formed a favorite prey for these ancestors, while their presence also leads to the belief that there are many other water and plant resources at the site.
In addition to the footprints, 233 fossils were found, and it seems that carnivores were showing interest in these herbivores in Lake Trail, similar to what we see in the African savannah today.
Al-Herbish explained that the fossils “represent the bony remains of elephants and oryx.”