Radiocarbon dating of human remains from one of the deepest prehistoric sites in the Near East throws into question widely-held ideas about how the first modern people spread across the world during the Palaeolithic era.
The traditional view is that the first humans with anatomy like ours evolved in Africa, then from about 50,000 years ago started to spread into the Near East before continuing into Asia and Europe.
But the new study suggests they may have settled the Near East a lot later than previously thought, and that therefore the region may not be the single vital crossroads through which early humans passed on their way to colonising the whole Eurasian landmass. If so, the story of our spread out of Africa may need to be rewritten. Instead of colonising the Levant then moving into Europe, our distant ancestors may have first settled in the central Asian steppes before turning west again.