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International Study Involving AAU Scientists Offers New Insights into Early Migration out of Africa

A new international team authored study by scientists from the collaborating institutions of the College of Natural Science of Addis Ababa University (led by Dr Mulugeta Feseha) and the University of Texas at Austin (led by Prof. John Kappelman) suggests that modern humans migrated out of Africa during arid conditions some 74,000 years ago,  which challenges an earlier thesis that the dispersals of humans out of Africa occurred during humid periods.

According to Dr Mulugeta, the study published in the latest issue of the  prestigious journal Nature was conducted in Shinfa located in northwest Ethiopia, which is near the Shinfa River (a tributary of the Nile River).

The study presents fresh evidence of how early modern humans survived in the aftermath of the eruption of Toba,  about 74,000 years ago.The team of researchers showed how adaptive capacity was a necessary mechanism to live through the turbulence of the super-eruption and further sheds light into how migration out of Africa  resulted as a coping response to the traumatic eruption.

Marean,  research scientist with the Institute of Human Origins and Foundation Professor with the School of Human Evolution and Social Change , said ” one of the ground-breaking implications of this study is that with the new cryptotephra methods developed for our prior study in South Africa, and now applied here to Ethiopia, we can correlate sites across Africa, and perhaps the world, at a resolution of several weeks of time.”

University of Texas anthropology and earth and planetary sciences professor and lead author of the study John Kappelman further explained  :  ” As
people depleted food in and around a given dry season waterhole, they were likely forced to move to new waterholes,” adding “seasonal rivers thus functioned as ‘pumps’ that siphoned populations out along the channels from one waterhole to another, potentially driving the most recent out-of-Africa dispersal”.

The international research project was initiated in 2001 and has been going on for the last 22 years.