I. Prehistoric Times > G. The Spread of Modern Humans in the Old World (100,000 to 12,000 Years Ago)
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
G. The Spread of Modern Humans in the Old World (100,000 to 12,000 Years Ago)
About 100,000 years ago, the Sahara was cooler and wetter than today and capable of supporting sparse hunter-gatherer populations. It may have been then that modern humans spread to North Africa and the Near East. We know they were living at Qafzeh Cave in Israel by 90,000 years ago. For the next 45,000 years, they flourished in the Near East alongside highly varied Neanderthal populations. Then, some 45,000 years ago, Homo sapiens sapiens hunted and foraged out of the Near East into south Asia and also much harsher northern environments.  1
1. Europe
As the Near East became increasingly dry and less productive during the Würm glaciation, some of the newcomers responded to population pressure and food shortages by moving across the wide land bridge that joined Turkey to southeastern Europe 45,000 years ago, spreading into the game-rich steppe-tundras of central and western Europe and Eurasia.  2
The first anatomically modern Europeans were the robust Cro-Magnons, who showed no signs of having evolved from local Neanderthal populations. They lived alongside their predecessors for about 10,000 years, using a distinctive and highly specialized stone technology based on fine blades. Expert stoneworkers used carefully shaped cylindrical lumps of flint and antler, bone, or wood punches to produce dozens of standard stone blades. These long, parallel-sided, thin blades could be made into scrapers, woodworking tools, and, above all, fine graving tools. A good analogy is the Swiss Army Knife with its strong hinges, which allows one to carry around a variety of different blades for specific uses.  3
The graving tool, or burin, was of critical importance, for it enabled people to cut strips of fresh reindeer antler to manufacture specialized tools. These included needles for tailoring fitted, layered clothing, essential for survival in the nine-month winters of the late Ice Age. Technological innovations like the needle enabled modern humans to master arctic environments for the first time, to expand and adapt into new landscapes.  4
By 30,000 years ago, the last Neanderthals had vanished from Europe and Eurasia. Over 15,000 years, up to the end of the Ice Age, the Cro-Magnons enjoyed an increasingly elaborate hunting and foraging culture, wintering in deep river valleys in western and central Europe, following reindeer migrations in spring and fall. All manner of arctic game, many plant foods, and salmon were among the foods taken by these people.  5
By 30,000 years ago, the Cro-Magnons had developed elaborate art traditions, rock engravings and paintings. They also carved and engraved fine bone and antler artifacts. The artists painted naturalistic depictions of mammoth, bison, wild ox, and other now long-extinct animals, sometimes using natural protrusions on the rock to give relief to a figure. Experts believe that the art had a deeply symbolic meaning, connected with the intricate relationships between humans and the animal and spiritual worlds. But we cannot, at a distance of 18,000 years, hope to understand this symbolism. The Cro-Magnon paintings are among the earliest-known human art, but Australians and South Africans may have been painting at the same period.  6
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.