Early humans trekking out of Africa moved faster than we thought they did: New archeological evidence suggests they reached the Persian Gulf 50,000 years before we previously thought.
Archeologists excavating a rock shelter in Jebel Faya, in the United Arab Emirates, found a cache of hand axes and other tools that date back 125,000 years ago. Their age was established by dating the silicon in the chert tools, and also via comparison to other artifacts:
Team member Anthony Marks of Southern Methodist University, an anthropologist, said the tools were made in ways consistent with the 125,000-years-ago time period and therefore raise the inevitable question of how they got to the area near the Persian Gulf…. “Either these people came out of East Africa or they came from nowhere,” he said. [The Washington Post]
The team’s research, published in Science, posits that the area’s climate had a role in spurring mankind’s expansion around the planet. Climate records suggest that the Red Sea was much shallower during an ice age that lasted from 200,000 to 130,000 years ago, because much of the world’s water was trapped in glaciers. This allowed early humans to cross the now-shallow Red Sea for new land in the southern Arabian peninsula, the researchers say. After the crossing, these early humans would have found themselves in a surprisingly fertile place: Towards the end of that ice age, the deserts of Arabia experienced a brief “wet” era with rivers, lakes, vegetation, and wildlife.
Twenty miles outside of Abu Dhabi, in the scorching desert of the United Arab Emirates, the new planned city of Masdar is nearly ready for its close-up. This weekend The New York Times reported from the experimental zero-carbon closed community, funded by stacks of oil money, which is now prepared to take on its first inhabitants. The urban design is simultaneously sleek and unsettling, raising the questions: Is this what the city of the future will look like, and would that be a good thing?
Masdar’s main designer, Norman Foster, hits all the notes that make green ears perk up: excluding any carbon-based energy sources, using simplified “sustainable” architecture, and learning from the lessons of the past, even going back as far as centuries-old desert settlements.
The United Arab Emirates announced this weekend that all BlackBerry mobile services will be banned beginning in October, forcing users of the smartphone to find other ways to surf the web and send email and text messages. The decision will not only affect the U.A.E.’s half-million BlackBerry users, but also international visitors–which could lead to business travelers going into abrupt “crackberry” withdrawal as soon as they hit the Dubai airport. The reason for the ban:
The Emirates have been in a long dispute with Research In Motion, the smartphone’s producer, over the BlackBerry’s highly encrypted data system, which offers security to users but makes it more difficult for governments to monitor communications. [The New York Times]
Saudi Arabia is likely to take similar measures, and Kuwait and Bahrain may also follow suit. The Middle Eastern nations have singled out BlackBerry because of its distinct system for transmitting messages. When a BlackBerry user hits “send” on an email, the data is encrypted and sent to a local cell phone tower. From there, it’s routed through RIM’s private global network of servers, which puts the data out of reach for government snoops. Other smartphones send data through the open Internet and can be monitored relatively easily.