First migration of modern humans out of Africa: The fossil evidence
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.
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