- A fossil finger bone found in the heart of Saudi Arabia dates to at least 85,000 years ago
- It is the oldest directly dated Homo sapiens outside Africa and the Levant, a study says
- One expert warns of the finding's ambiguity, however
(CNN)The first fossil of an ancient human found in the Arabian Peninsula could disrupt the widely accepted theory of how modern humans migrated out of Africa.
A fossil finger bone found in the heart of Saudi Arabia -- in the middle of what is now called the Nefud Desert -- dates to at least 85,000 years ago, seemingly belonging to a member of the Homo sapiens species.
This fossilized bone, measuring just 3.2 centimeters (1.25 inches) in length, is the oldest directly dated Homo sapiens fossil discovered outside of Africa and the neighboring Levant, according to a study published in Monday the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.
"What our discovery shows is that the early spread of Homo sapiens was much more spatially widespread than we thought," said lead study author Huw Groucutt of the University of Oxford.
"These people were extending far into grasslands in the Arabian Peninsula."
This finding challenges the existing consensus view of modern human migration -- known as "Out of Africa" -- that indicates modern humans originated in Africa and migrated to the rest of the world in a single wave about 60,000 years ago.
What this find suggests is that instead of one rapid dispersal out of Africa, Homo sapiens were moving out of Africa multiple times, 20,000 to 25,000 years earlier than expected.