(CBS Local) — The fossil of a finger that dates back over 85,000 years may end up changing everything the world knows about the history of the human race.
Spurred on by the discovery made in the desert of Saudi Arabia, scientists say there is now evidence that early humans may have taken a completely different path out of Africa than archaeologists previously suspected. According to reports, the tiny bone is the oldest human fossil found outside of Africa or an ancient area in the Mediterranean known as the Levant.
“With the fossil finger bone from the site of Al Wusta in Saudi Arabia, we have a find that’s 85,000 to 90,000 years old, which suggests that Homo sapiens is moving out of Africa far earlier than 60,000 years ago,” archaeologist Michael Petraglia said, via Live Science.
Petraglia called the findings a “dream come true” during a press conference on April 5. The researcher at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History added that the fossil proves his team’s theory that early humans left the African continent much earlier and colonized more of the region that previously thought.
Petraglia and his team theorize that the Saudi Arabian desert was actually a habitable place in the distant past, which supported animals like the hippopotamus which migrated from Africa to the Middle East. “Hunters and gatherers would have been following those animals,” Petraglia argues. “The ability of these early people to widely colonize this region casts doubt on long held views that early dispersals out of Africa were localized and unsuccessful.”