The earliest people in Faynan: 500,000–12,000 years ago
The earliest traces of human activity within Faynan are likely to date to at least 500,000 years ago. Our human ancestors evolved in Africa, and the first people to disperse from Africa, around two million years ago, were a species known as Homo erectus, a type of human that looked much like us today but with a significantly smaller brain. They lived by hunting and scavenging, and gathered a wide range of plants. These people reached Asia and Europe by travelling through the Levant. They used stone tools, which are often the only trace of these people that now exist.
Following the initial human dispersal into the Levant, there was a complex flow of people and animals back and forth from Africa. New species evolved, notably Homo heidelbergensis, and then Homo neanderthalensis, several of which have been found buried in caves within the Levant. These people made new types of stone artefacts, using flint as a raw material because of its sharp edges and ease of working. Our own species, Homo sapiens evolved in Africa around 200,000 years ago and came into the Levant about 70,000 years ago, soon becoming the only type of human living on the planet.
These people lived during the geological period known as the Pleistocene, or Ice Age. As the climate began to warm and rain became more frequent, Faynan would have become an attractive place for hunter-gatherer communities.
The people who lived during the last few thousand years of the Pleistocene are known as Epipalaeolithic hunter-gatherers. Traces of these people are found throughout the Levant, identified by scatters of their stone tools, and sometimes by remnants of their dwellings and burials. Epipalaeolithic hunter-gatherers hunted mainly gazelle, lived in larger communities and made more permanent settlements than the people who came before them.