Research ArticlePALEONTOLOGY

Human footprints provide snapshot of last interglacial ecology in the Arabian interior

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Science Advances  18 Sep 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 38, eaba8940
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba8940


The nature of human dispersals out of Africa has remained elusive because of the poor resolution of paleoecological data in direct association with remains of the earliest non-African people. Here, we report hominin and non-hominin mammalian tracks from an ancient lake deposit in the Arabian Peninsula, dated within the last interglacial. The findings, it is argued, likely represent the oldest securely dated evidence for Homo sapiens in Arabia. The paleoecological evidence indicates a well-watered semi-arid grassland setting during human movements into the Nefud Desert of Saudi Arabia. We conclude that visitation to the lake was transient, likely serving as a place to drink and to forage, and that late Pleistocene human and mammalian migrations and landscape use patterns in Arabia were inexorably linked.

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