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Tracing humanity's African ancestry may mean rewriting 'out of Africa' dates
Date:12/13/2012

e dated using radiocarbon, but the older deposits must go through more specialized processes, such as electron spin resonance, to determine their age. Other parts of the Magubike rock shelter, excavated in 2006 and 2008, include occupations from after the middle Stone Age. Taken together, this information could be crucial to tracking the evolutionary development of the inhabitants.

"What's important about the whole sequence is that we may have a continuous record of human occupation," said Willoughby. "If we doand we can prove it through these special dating techniquesthen we have a place people lived in over the bottleneck."

Rugged, hilly terrain may have been key to survival

The team made similar findings at Mlambalasi, about 20 kilometres from Magubike. Among the findings at this site was a fragmentary human skeleton that probably dates to the late Pleistocene Ice Ageafter the out-of-Africa expansion but at the end of the bottleneck period. The bottleneck theory explains what geneticists have found by studying the mitochondrial DNA of living peoplethat all non-Africans are descended from one lineage of people who left Africa about 50,000 years ago.

Reconstructions of past environments through pollen and other archeological records in Iringa suggest that people abandoned the lowland, tropical and coastal areas during that period but remained in the highlands, where vegetation has remained mostly unchanged over the last 50,000 years. Those who moved to higher ground may have found what is likely one of the few places that facilitated their survival and forced their adaptation. Further testing will determine whether these findings point to a clearer link to our African ancestorsa find Willoughby says could put that region of Tanzania on many archeologists' radar.

"It was only about 20 years ago that people recognized that modern Homo sapiens actually had an African ancestry, and everyone was focused on looking at
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Contact: Jamie Hanlon
jamie.hanlon@ualberta.ca
780-492-9214
University of Alberta
Source:Eurekalert

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