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UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA—Humans migrated out of Africa as the climate shifted from wet to very dry about 60,000 years ago, according to research led by a University of Arizona geoscientist.
Genetic research indicates people migrated from Africa into Eurasia between 70,000 and 55,000 years ago. Previous researchers suggested the climate must have been wetter than it is now for people to migrate to Eurasia by crossing the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.
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"There's always been a question about whether climate change had any influence on when our species left Africa," said Jessica Tierney, UA associate professor of geosciences. "Our data suggest that when most of our species left Africa, it was dry and not wet in northeast Africa."
Tierney and her colleagues found that around 70,000 years ago, climate in the Horn of Africa shifted from a wet phase called "Green Sahara" to even drier than the region is now. The region also became colder.
Researchers - Horn - Africa - Climate - Years
The researchers traced the Horn of Africa's climate 200,000 years into the past by analyzing a core of ocean sediment taken in the western end of the Gulf of Aden. Tierney said before this research there was no record of the climate of northeast Africa back to the time of human migration out of Africa.
"Our data say the migration comes after a big environmental change. Perhaps people left because the environment was deteriorating," she said. "There was a big shift to dry and that could have been a motivating force for migration."
Ancestors - Climate
"It's interesting to think about how our ancestors interacted with climate," she said.
The team's paper, "A climatic context for the out-of-Africa migration," is published online in Geology this week. Tierney's co-authors are Peter deMenocal of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, and Paul Zander of the UA.
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