Tiny fossils found in a prehistoric cave in Israel reinforce the theory that human migration from Africa to the Middle East took place in the early Ice Age, some 200,000 years ago, contrary to what was believed due to the harsh climatic conditions for human passage.
Unlike the better-known theory that claims that the cold, dry climate was a barrier to migratory processes between continents, a study by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa indicates otherwise.
The research, published in the Journal of Human Evolution, examines small animal fossils from a cave on Mount Carmel near Haifa in northern Israel, and identifies several species of rodents that are native to high, cold and northern regions, some of which are found in the Zagros Mountains of Iran or the Caucasus.
These were found in the same stratum where two years ago a human jaw was found, almost 200,000 years old, which is "among the first remains" of modern humans (Homo sapiens) found outside Africa, suggesting that the primitive human species "survived" and adapted to live under the harsh climatic conditions that prevailed in the region during that time.
"The small remains of the animals we are examining are extremely important for the study of human evolution," says one of the research's authors, Dr. Mina Weinstein-Evron of the University of Haifa, who claims that fossils help determine how ancient humans adapted and lived in different prehistoric times.
The IAA notes that this study reveals how migration from Africa "occurred during a period of global ice," and supports the belief that the adaptations they experienced at that time were one element that made humans the dominant species on the planet.
According to Weinstein-Evron, the prehistoric findings being made in Israel, North Africa, or Southeast Europe shed light on the origins of modern humans and the development of their physiological and behavioral abilities.
"These capacities allowed us to reach each of the continents in a relatively short time in evolutionary terms," accelerated "the extinction of previous human species" and allowed "our ancestors to dominate the world," this researcher concludes.