A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal earlier in the week suggests modern humans first arrived in South East Asia no more than 55,000 to 60,000 years ago, and that is more than 60,000 years later than most scientists had always thought.
The study, carried out by a group of British scientists, seems to show there is no possibility modern humans could have lived in South East Asia before or during the volcanic eruption of Sumatra’s Mount Toba around 75,000 years ago. In fact, they were still living in East Asia, the Near East and Africa at the time.
According to Martin Richards from the University of Huddersfield, that is because when his research group took mitochondrial DNA from people in South East Asia and tested it against the DNA of people in regions where modern humans would have migrated to South East Asia from, the earliest they could link anyone’s DNA was 60,000 years ago.
Up until recently, archaeologists had always thought modern humans didn’t arrive in South East until around 50,000 years ago. However, that hypothesis changed in 2007 when an archaeological dig in India discovered what looked like stone tools used by modern humans.
As the tools were discovered under the layers of volcanic ash, they hypothesized that meant modern humans were living in the region before the Mount Toba volcano struck.
As part of this latest study, however, when archaeologists at the UK’s University of Cambridge looked more closely at the stone tools they discovered they did not resemble other modern stone tools. Thus making it more likely they were actually created by a more ancient group of human beings like the Neanderthals.
However, just when you think a final decision has been made, another researcher has already disputed these findings and he’s also British.
Professor Michael Petraglia from Oxford University says there simply isn’t enough evidence to support these claims from either the DNA research or the analyzing of stone tools.
He and his archaeological team are currently doing fieldwork in the region and expect to come up with a philosophy about modern human migration that is much more complex.