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A once fertile landmass now submerged beneath the Persian Gulf may have been home to some of the earliest human populations outside Africa, according to an article published Wednesday in Current Anthropology.
In recent years, archaeologists have turned up evidence of a wave of human settlements along the shores of the Gulf dating to about 7,500 years ago. But how could such highly developed settlements pop up so quickly, with no precursor populations to be found in the archaeological record? Jeffrey Rose, an archaeologist and researcher with the University of Birmingham in the U.K., believes that evidence of those preceding populations is missing because it's under the Gulf.
"Perhaps it is no coincidence that the founding of such remarkably well developed communities along the shoreline corresponds with the flooding of the Persian Gulf basin around 8,000 years ago," Rose said. "These new colonists may have come from the heart of the Gulf, displaced by rising water levels that plunged the once fertile landscape beneath the waters of the Indian Ocean."
Evidence is also emerging that modern humans could have been in the region even before the oasis was above water. Recently discovered archaeological sites in Yemen and Oman have yielded a stone tool style that is distinct from the East African tradition. That raises the possibility that humans were established on the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula beginning as far back as 100,000 years ago or more, Rose says. That is far earlier than the estimates generated by several recent migration models, which place the first successful migration into Arabia between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago.