London: The Garden of Eden, a strip of land off Africa's southern coast, had provided shelter to a handful of humans who survived mass extinction on earth during the ice age, say scientists.
Researchers believe the small patch of land at 384 km east of Cape Town was the only place that remained habitable during the devastating ice age 195,000 years ago when sudden change in earth's temperature wiped out many species.
Some scientists believe the population of human race may have fallen to a few hundred who managed to survive in one location, according to Daily Mail.
Curtis Marean of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University discovered ancient human artifacts in the isolated caves around an area known as Pinnacle Point, South Africa. Marean said the caves contain archaeological remains dating back to at least 164,000 years.
"Shortly after homo sapiens first evolved, the harsh climate conditions nearly extinguished our species," said Professor Marean.
"Recent finds suggest the small population that gave rise to all humans alive today survived by exploiting a unique combination of resources along the southern coast of Africa."
Humans would have been able to survive because of rich vegetation in the area. The sea would have also been a good source of food as currents carrying nutrients would have passed by the shore, bringing with them a plentiful supply of fish, the experts said.
Chris Stringer, a human origins expert at the Natural History Museum in London, said he agreed with Marean's views on the early evolution of intelligence. But he said he was not convinced by the argument that one band of humans were the origin of modern man.
"However, I no longer think that there was ever a single small population of humans in one region of Africa from whom we are all uniquely descended. We know, for example, that there were early modern humans in Ethiopia 160,000 years ago and others in Morocco, and populations like those may also have contributed to our ancestry."
Many researchers believe that modern humans are thought to have evolved about 195,000 years ago in East Africa, and within 50,000 years had spread to other parts of the continent.
Curtis Marean said: "The command of fire, documented by our study of heat treatment, provides us with a potential explanation for the rapid migration of these Africans across glacial Eurasia.
"They were masters of fire and heat and stone, a crucial advantage as these tropical people penetrated the cold lands of the Neanderthal."
First Published: Tuesday, July 27, 2010, 09:57