Were rivers flowing across the Sahara during the last interglacial? Implications for human migration through Africa.

Tom J. Coulthard*, Jorge A. Ramirez, Nick Barton, Mike Rogerson, Tim Brücher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Human migration north through Africa is contentious. This paper uses a novel palaeohydrological and hydraulic modelling approach to test the hypothesis that under wetter climates c.100,000 years ago major river systems ran north across the Sahara to the Mediterranean, creating viable migration routes. We confirm that three of these now buried palaeo river systems could have been active at the key time of human migration across the Sahara. Unexpectedly, it is the most western of these three rivers, the Irharhar river, that represents the most likely route for human migration. The Irharhar river flows directly south to north, uniquely linking the mountain areas experiencing monsoon climates at these times to temperate Mediterranean environments where food and resources would have been abundant. The findings have major implications for our understanding of how humans migrated north through Africa, for the first time providing a quantitative perspective on the probabilities that these routes were viable for human habitation at these times.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS One
Volume8
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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