Refers to a strait of water located between modern-day Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula and the African countries of Djibouti and Eritrea.
The Bab-el-Mandeb Strait is primarily used with regard to modern times as a means to transport large amount of oil via its connection to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. According to the African origin of modern human’s hypothesis, the Bab-el-Mandeb holds a significant role of importance in the dispersal from Africa.
The Bab-El-Mandeb Strait and its Evolutionary Importance
In order to understand the importance of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, it is imperative to have a basic understanding of the African origin of modern humans. The African origins theory, also referred to as the “Out of Africa Theory,” states that the early migration of modern humans, otherwise known as Homo sapiens, evolved and eventually the African continent. According to So and so, “Currently available genetic and archaeological evidence is generally interpreted as supportive of a recent single origin of modern humans in East Africa. However, this is where the near consensus on human settlement history ends, and considerable uncertainty clouds any more detailed aspect of human colonization history” (Liu et al. 2006). There are three primary variations of this theory, including the “Strong Garden of Eden,” or the “African Eve,” model which posits that after modern humans first emerged in Africa between 200–150 kya, they dispersed to other parts of the world after 100 kya and replaced all archaic hominins without any genetic admixture (Beyin 2011). The second potential variation is the “Weak Garden of Eden” which asserts that anatomically modern humans evolved in a restricted area of Africa sometime after 200 kya and dispersed to separate regions around 100 kya replacing all archaic forms. According to the latter model, each human population is thought to have passed through a bottleneck in their respective destinations and then recovered after favorable conditions returned. (Beyin 2011). The third and final variation of this theory “argues for multiple dispersals of early modern humans out of Africa. Originally posited by Lahr and Foley, this hypothesis recognizes three dispersal events in the Upper Pleistocene, and perhaps a fourth one recently proposed by Armitage” (Beyin 2011).
Regardless of which variation actually occurred, the first wave of dispersal took place around 130,000–150,000 years ago, while the second wave took place around 70,000 years ago. The second wave of migrants crossed the Red Sea via the Bab-el-Mandeb Straits. Although at the present time the Strait is approximately 20 km (12 miles) wide, 50,000 years ago the sea levels were significantly lower, thus making the Strait much narrower. If this theory was able to be proven, the Bab-el-Mandeb Straits would have seen the first major migration of modern humans. Furthermore, via its connection to the rest of the world, it would have allowed modern humans to spread to essential anywhere.
In conclusion, the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait should be considered a place of high evolutionary importance. If the previously mentioned theories are able to be proven true, then the Strait will have been the gateway for the spread of modern humanity.
- Beyin, A. (2011). Upper Pleistocene human dispersals out of Africa: A review of the current state of the debate. Retrieved 18 Jan 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3119552/.
- Liu, H., Prugnolle, F., Manica, A., & Balloux, F. (2006). A geographically explicit genetic model of worldwide human-settlement history. Retrieved 18 Jan 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1559480/.