Humans lived in South Asia much earlier than previously thought
The discovery will likely reshape scientists’ theories about the global migration of hominines before modern humans migrated out of Africa around 60,000 years ago.Updated: Feb 01, 2018 23:19 IST
Scientists in Attirampakkam, Tamil Nadu, have discovered stone tools dating back 250,000 to 385,000 years, pushing back the known human habitation of South Asia by thousands of years.
The discovery, reported in Nature magazine on Wednesday, will likely reshape scientists’ theories about the global migration of hominines (humans and their ancestors) before modern humans migrated out of Africa around 60,000 years ago.
The progress of technology allows researchers to analyse the migration patterns of early humans. In the Nature study, the researchers wrote that the stone tools show a shift from early Stone Age technology – known as Acheulean – to the technology of the mid-Stone Age or Middle Palaeolithic.
“This clearly shows that populations with this culture were present in most parts of South Asia, adapting to local factors and with tool types evolving and changing through time,” Shanti Pappu of the Sharma Centre for Heritage Education in India, who led some of the excavations at Attirampakkam, told National Geographic.
Previous studies had shown that Middle Palaeolithic tools didn’t enter India till around 140,000 years ago.
However, the researchers pointed out that since no fossils were discovered at the site, the tools could also have been made by Neanderthals, a cousin of homo sapiens.
National Geographic reported that genetic evidence shows more than 90% of modern humans are descendents of a small population of homo sapiens that left Africa between 60,000 and 125,000 years ago. Scientists theorised this wave expanded so rapidly because they were armed with tools superior to those of the earlier Acheulian culture.
However, recent research is building the case that multiple waves of humans left Africa – last week, a study in Science magazine suggested modern humans ventured into modern-day Israel as early as 180,000 years ago.