Technological advances in the fields of genetics and archaeology over the past decade, however, are revising the story. The emerging new model, outlined in the journal Science by Petraglia and his team, shows that there were multiple dispersals of modern humans out of Africa, beginning at least 120,000 years ago.
Petraglia explained that modern human fossils dating to between 120,000–70,000 years ago have been unearthed in the Levant: the region that now includes Israel, Lebanon, western Jordan, the Sinai in Egypt, and part of Syria. Co-author Katerina Douka, also from Max Planck, said that the Levant "forms a biogeographical extension of Africa."
Aside from being a convenient place for many Africans to go, the Levant also had plenty of lakes, rivers, grasslands, and savannahs, depending on the year's climate. "This would have drawn in both animals and the hunter-gatherers that tracked them," explained Petraglia. "When the environments worsened, these regions would have become hyper-arid deserts, thus pushing people on, perhaps."
Once the individuals originating from Africa were in Europe and Asia, they encountered the Neanderthals, Denisovans, and possibly other hominid groups that were already in these areas. Anthropologists use the term "archaic" to describe such hominid groups, but this is not in the colloquial lower-level sense.
"Most researchers studying late human evolution will use the term to refer to older lineages, not directly linked to modern lineages, rather than (meaning) less evolved and adapted, or less clever," Douka said. "Neanderthals and Denisovans share a common ancestor dating to 400,000–450,000 years ago, whereas archaic and modern humans share a common ancestor dating to 520,000–650,000 years ago."