Early humans came into Europe from North Africa via the Strait of Gibraltar

A new study published by the Journal of Human Evolution has added to the growing body of evidence showing early humans came into Europe from North Africa across a land bridge that formed through the Strait of Gibraltar.

Using cutting-edge dating techniques, a team of researchers has been able to confirm a date range between 900,000 and 850,000 years ago as a period when a species of Old World monkey and an early species of human lived in the same cave location in southeastern Spain.

The location isn’t far from where many researchers have hypothesized that humans may have gone over into Europe from North Africa through the Strait of Gibraltar at a time when sea levels were low enough to offer a land bridge connecting the continents.

The study team assessed cave deposit specimens and found evidence for the Old World monkey Theropithecus living between 900,000 and 850,000 years ago. Comparable dates have been reached through previous scientific studies on the Cueva Negra cave in the same area of Spain. This cave also held evidence of early human fossils connected with what is arguably regarded as some of the earliest Paleolithic stone tools in Europe.

The study authors said the existence of the same species of Theropithecus and human at around the same time in North Africa, in conjunction with the lack of Theropithecus fossils elsewhere in Europe, props up the theory of a dispersal of the two primates through the Strait of Gibraltar nearly 1 million years ago. At this time, sea levels were likely low enough to generate a land bridge at the Strait connecting Africa and Europe.

Previous research studies by other teams have also indicated a different, earlier human dispersal into southeastern Spain through the Strait of Gibraltar around 1.3 million years ago. Well-known research and Homo fossil discoveries in the country of Georgia have indicated an even earlier Homo diaspora out of Africa, quite possibly through the Middle East and up through Asia Minor to the southern Caucasus at approximately 1.8 million years ago.


Feature Image: Wikimedia Commons