First migration of modern humans out of Africa: The fossil evidence
Katerina Harvati
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

The current modern human origins debate centers on the possibility and degree of admixture between indigenous archaic humans and modern human populations migrating out of Africa into Europe and Asia in the Late Pleistocene (approx. the last 120 thousand years). In the last few decades genetic evidence from living human populations around the world has indicated that our species originated in sub-Saharan Africa fairly recently (100-200 thousand years ago), and dispersed out of Africa to colonize the rest of the Old World as recently as 65 to 25 thousand years ago. Most genetic data (from living people as well as from ancient DNA) show no contribution from archaic populations, such as Neanderthals, in our gene pool, suggesting that very little admixture occurred between migrating modern humans and the archaic populations that they met as they dispersed into Eurasia. Nonetheless, not all genetic studies are consistent with this scenario, with a few findings suggesting non-African contributions to the gene pool of living humans.

This presentation reviews the fossil record of early modern humans from across the Old World. The fossil evidence for an African origin of modern humans is presented and the proposed morphological evidence for hybridization between Neanderthals and early modern humans is assessed.

Further References:

Grine F. E., Bailey R.M., Harvati K., Nathan R.P, Morris, A.G., Henderson G.M., Ribot I. and Pike A.W.G. 2007. Late Pleistocene Human Skull from Hofmeyr, South Africa and Modern Human Origins. Science 315:226-229.

Gunz P. and Harvati K. 2007. The Neanderthal “chignon”: Variation, integration and homology. Journal of Human Evolution, 52:262-274.

Harvati K., Frost S.R. and McNulty K.P. 2004. Neanderthal taxonomy reconsidered: Implications of 3D primate models of intra- and inter-specific differences. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 101:1147-1152.

Stringer, C.B. 2002. Modern human origins: progress and prospects. Phil Trans R Soc Lond B 357,563-579.

Trinkaus, E.T. 2005. Early modern humans. Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 34,207–30.

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