But another expert has disputed their proposal, saying there is still too little evidence to say for certain how humans dispersed into the region.

Using a combination of genetic and archaeological evidence, scientists led by University of Cambridge archaeologist Professor Paul Mellars and geneticist Professor Martin Richards, from the University of Huddersfield, say modern humans left eastern Africa sometime after 70,000 years ago and dispersed along the coast to the region south of the Himalayas.

The research, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science , is the latest volley in a heated debate about how, and when, humans spread around the globe.

The controversy has been particularly intense when it comes to the southern part of the Asian continent, the authors say.

Some scientists think modern humans arrived in the region 50,000 to 60,000 years ago having originated as a small group who left Africa and expanded around the coastlines of southern and southeast Asia.