A fossil discovery of an extinct rat species may provide evidence for early human migration routes and for the location of the Garden of Eden.

Six years ago, I wrote an article about alluvial fan deposits that revealed three epochs (~55,000, 75,000–130,000, and 150,000–160,000 years ago) during which humans could have easily migrated back and forth from the Persian Gulf region and eastern Africa.1 I explained how such an easy migration route accords with a consistent interpretation of all the scientific and biblical data on human origins. A new subfossil find adds evidence for this consistency. I’ll discuss the discovery after a review of the data concerning the timing and location of early humans.

Scientific and Biblical Data on Human Origins
Archaeological artifacts place the origin of humanity in eastern and southern Africa 50,000–90,000 years ago. Similar archaeological artifacts and human remains locate humans in the Levant (region occupied today by Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria) during the same date range. Mitochondrial and y-chromosomal DNA analysis dates the origin of humans at 10,000–300,000 years ago. Evidence for the earliest villages and towns, specialized agriculture and manufacture of household goods, and trade places the origin of civilization in the Persian Gulf region and Mesopotamia about 12,000–13,000 years ago. In addition to archaeological and DNA evidence, Antarctic and Greenland ice cores establish that the last ice age persisted from 12,000 to about 130,000 years ago.

In the date range 45,000–250,000 years ago, scientists lack a radioisotope decay dating method that they can apply to human remains and artifacts. In this date range, they have no recourse but to use dating methods that involve large known and unknown systematic errors. These systematic errors often shift dates to older values. For an explanation of these errors and their expected magnitudes see Errors in Human Origins Dates.

The biblical accounts of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and of Noah’s flood imply that humans were living in the Persian Gulf region and the environs of Mesopotamia during much of the last ice age.2 Genesis 2 declares that four known rivers (the Euphrates, Tigris, Pishon, and Gihon) flowing from different regions converge in the Garden of Eden. Evidence shows that the only place they come close together is in the southeastern part of what is now the Persian Gulf, presently more than 200 feet below sea level. However, during nearly the entire last ice age this location was above sea level.

Genesis 7 and 8 state that the waters of Noah’s flood quickly rose over a 40-day period and took nearly a year to recede. Such gradual receding would require a huge amount of melting ice and snow to replace the waters flowing out into the ocean. This quantity of ice and snow implies that Noah’s flood occurred at some time during the last ice age.  

New Evidence of Easy Migration Routes for Early Humans
In a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA a team of 13 paleontologists and ecologists led by Ignacio Lazagabaster reported on their discovery of subfossils of an extinct subspecies of the eastern African crested rat, Lophiomys imhausi maremortum, in the Levant.3 The specific location of the subfossil find was in a cliff cave near the Dead Sea. Previously, fossils of this particular species of rat had only been found in eastern Africa.

The dates for the newly discovered subfossils range from 42,000 to 103,000 years ago and possibly even earlier. As mentioned, measured dates in the range of 45,000–250,000 years ago are subject to potentially large systematic errors.

The discovery of portions of the skeletons of this crested rat species in the Levant establishes that an easy migration route for rodents must have existed between central-eastern Africa and the Levant at various times from 42,000 to 103,000 years ago. If it was easy for rodents to migrate from central-eastern Africa to the Levant, then it would have been even easier for humans to migrate back and forth between the two regions at that time.

The Fertile Crescent, a crescent-shaped soil-rich region in the Middle East, made for easy human migration between the Levant and the Persian Gulf region. Humans could have migrated virtually continuously between the Levant and the Persian Gulf region during the present interglacial and during the whole of the last ice age.

Discovery Implications
The discovery of subfossils of the rare crested rat in the Levant establishes that for the earliest humans there were at least two easy migration routes between the Persian Gulf region and eastern Africa. In addition to this Fertile Crescent route, in 2015 I discussed a passage from the Persian Gulf region across southern Arabia, along the Gihon River, and the land bridge that joined southwestern Arabia to eastern Africa.4

During the last ice age (12,000 to 130,000 years ago) humans would have had several opportunities to migrate rapidly back and forth between the Persian Gulf region and eastern Africa. The first migrations likely involved just a few individuals or families, so we should not be surprised at the lack of archaeological and DNA evidence for these first migrations. And yet, given the strong textual clues in Genesis that both the Garden of Eden events and Noah’s flood occurred during an ice age, there is every reason to conclude that the biblical, genetic, paleontological, and archaeological data on human origins and early history is fully compatible and self-consistent.

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

Endnotes

  1. Hugh Ross, “Did Arabia Provide a Migration Route for Early Humans?” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), May 28, 2015.
  2. Hugh Ross, Navigating Genesis (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2014), 72–75, 97–100, 150–152, 158–160.
  3. Ignacio A. Lazagabaster et al., “Rare Crested Rat Subfossils Unveil Afro-Eurasian Ecological Corridors Synchronous with Early Human Dispersals,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 118, no. 31 (August 3, 2021): e2105719118, doi:10.1073/pnas.2105719118.
  4. Ross, “Did Arabia Provide a Migration Route.”

About The Author

Dr. Hugh Ross

Reasons to Believe emerged from my passion to research, develop, and proclaim the most powerful new reasons to believe in Christ as Creator, Lord, and Savior and to use those new reasons to reach people for Christ. I also am eager to equip Christians to engage, rather than withdraw from or attack, educated non-Christians. One of the approaches I’ve developed, with the help of my RTB colleagues, is a biblical creation model that is testable, falsifiable, and predictive. I enjoy constructively integrating all 66 books of the Bible with all the science disciplines as a way to discover and apply deeper truths. 1 Peter 3:15–16 sets my ministry goal, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience." Hugh Ross launched his career at age seven when he went to the library to find out why stars are hot. Physics and astronomy captured his curiosity and never let go. At age seventeen he became the youngest person ever to serve as director of observations for Vancouver's Royal Astronomical Society. With the help of a provincial scholarship and a National Research Council (NRC) of Canada fellowship, he completed his undergraduate degree in physics (University of British Columbia) and graduate degrees in astronomy (University of Toronto). The NRC also sent him to the United States for postdoctoral studies. At Caltech he researched quasi-stellar objects, or "quasars," some of the most distant and ancient objects in the universe. Not all of Hugh's discoveries involved astrophysics. Prompted by curiosity, he studied the world’s religions and "holy books" and found only one book that proved scientifically and historically accurate: the Bible. Hugh started at religious "ground zero" and through scientific and historical reality-testing became convinced that the Bible is truly the Word of God! When he went on to describe for others his journey to faith in Jesus Christ, he was surprised to discover how many people believed or disbelieved without checking the evidence. Hugh's unshakable confidence that God's revelations in Scripture and nature do not, will not, and cannot contradict became his unique message. Wholeheartedly encouraged by family and friends, communicating that message as broadly and clearly as possible became his mission. Thus, in 1986, he founded science-faith think tank Reasons to Believe (RTB). He and his colleagues at RTB keep tabs on the frontiers of research to share with scientists and nonscientists alike the thrilling news of what's being discovered and how it connects with biblical theology. In this realm, he has written many books, including: The Fingerprint of God, The Creator and the Cosmos, Beyond the Cosmos, A Matter of Days, Creation as Science, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, and More Than a Theory. Between writing books and articles, recording podcasts, and taking interviews, Hugh travels the world challenging students and faculty, churches and professional groups, to consider what they believe and why. He presents a persuasive case for Christianity without applying pressure. Because he treats people's questions and comments with respect, he is in great demand as a speaker and as a talk-radio and television guest. Having grown up amid the splendor of Canada's mountains, wildlife, and waterways, Hugh loves the outdoors. Hiking, trail running, and photography are among his favorite recreational pursuits - in addition to stargazing. Hugh lives in Southern California with his wife, Kathy, and two sons.



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