100,000 years ago, modern humans leaving Africa crossed the Negev

The discovery offers new insights on the itinerary that our ancestors followed on their way to spread around the globe.

Prehistoric excavation in Dimona (Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority)
About 100,000 years ago, modern humans leaving Africa passed through the Negev desert.
The Israel Antiquities Authority unveiled on Tuesday that a site found near Dimona presents an abundance of flint tools carved with the special ‘Nubian Levallois’ technique that had never been encountered in Israel before. The discovery therefore offers new insights on the itinerary that our ancestors followed on their way to spread around the globe.
Aerial photography of the excavation by the Antiquities Authority near Dimona (Credit: Emil Eljem/IAA)Aerial photography of the excavation by the Antiquities Authority near Dimona (Credit: Emil Eljem/IAA)
“This technique is identified with the modern humans that lived in East Africa 150-100,000 years ago and migrated from there to around the world,” prehistoric researcher Talia Abulafia and Maya Oron from the IAA, the excavation directors, explained in a press release. “In the last decade, quite a few Nubian sites have been discovered in the Arabian Peninsula. This fact has led many scholars to believe that the exodus of modern men from Africa occurred through that region. The site from Dimona probably represents the northernmost penetration of the flint tool industry from there, thus marking a migration route from Africa to Saudi Arabia and from there, perhaps, to the Negev.”
As explained by the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Levallois technique was characterized by the production of large flakes from a core prepared in the shape of an inverted tortoise shell. Moreover, the flakes were flat on one side and had sharp cutting edges.
The site was originally uncovered during a salvage excavation conducted prior to the construction of a solar field in the area and funded by the Electric Company.
Tools made of stone show the migratory patterns of early humans (Credit: Emil Eljem/IAA)Tools made of stone show the migratory patterns of early humans (Credit: Emil Eljem/IAA)
Working on the excavation are several teenagers from Dimona who were hired by the IAA for a summer job. The program allows young Israeli to both connect to the country’s history and to earn money.
"Dimona is one of the towns which has been most severely affected by the second phase of the coronavirus outbreak,” Svetlana Talis, IAA archaeologist for the Northern Negev District pointed out. “Youth from Dimona came to the excavation to work and help their families and to contribute to uncover a site of particular importance. All of this is part of a project promoted and directed by the IAA in recent years with the purpose of fostering a connection between Israeli youth and their own heritage.”