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Once Green and Lush, Prehistoric Arabia Drew Early Humans From Africa

Jordan's Azraq Wetland Reserve

Jordan's Azraq Wetland Reserve

Photographer: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images

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Washington (AP) -- Huw Groucutt passes rolling sand dunes as far as his eye can see when traveling to archaeological sites in the northern Arabian Peninsula. But the same desert regions were once intermittently lush and green, attracting early humans and large animals such as hippopotamuses migrating out of Africa to linger at ancient lakes, new evidence suggests.

Until a decade ago, the Arabian Peninsula was a blank spot on the map for scientists trying to reconstruct the story of early human evolution and movements out of Africa. Much more is known about early human settlements in the Levant region — modern-day Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and parts of Syria — where extensive archaeological research has been carried out for more than a century.