New research by a University of Alberta archeologist may lead to a rethinking of how, when and from where our ancestors left Africa.
U of A researcher and anthropology chair Pamela Willoughby's explorations in the Iringa region of southern Tanzania yielded fossils and other evidence that records the beginnings of our own species, Homo sapiens. Her research, recently published in the journal Quaternary International, may be key to answering questions about early human occupation and the migration out of Africa about 60,000 to 50,000 years ago, which led to modern humans colonizing the globe.
From two sites, Mlambalasi and nearby Magubike, she and members of her team, the Iringa Region Archaeological Project, uncovered artifacts that outline continuous human occupation between modern times and at least 200,000 years ago, including during a late Ice Age period when a near extinction-level event, or "genetic bottleneck," likely occurred.
Now, Willoughby and her team are working with people in the region to develop this area for ecotourism, to assist the region economically and create incentives to protect its archeological history.
"Some of these sites have signs that people were using them starting around 300,000 years ago. In fact, they're still being used today," she said. "But the idea that you have such ancient human occupation preserved in some of these places is pretty remarkable."
Magubike: Home to a modern Stone Age family?
Willoughby says one of the fascinating things about Magubike is the presence of a large rock shelter with an intact overhanging roof. The excavations yielded unprecedented ancient artifacts and fossils from under this roof. Samples from the site date from the earliest stages of the middle Stone Age to the Iron Age. The earlier deposits include human teeth and artifacts such as animal bones, shells and thousands of flaked stone tools.
The Iron Age finds can b
|Contact: Jamie Hanlon|
University of Alberta