Thursday, March 20, 2008

Didn't We Already Know This?

A new study by Michael Schillaci indicates that, while it is known that there was a modern human migration out of Africa around 50 kya, there is evidence of a previous migration at around 100 kya. The story, in Discovery News, notes:

Schillaci, an assistant professor in the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Toronto, also found the earlier group of emigrants had some genetic similarity to Neanderthals, a hominid that left Africa much earlier, settling in Europe and parts of western and central Asia.

"This could be the byproduct of limited [interbreeding] with Neanderthals, or a shared more recent common ancestry with Neanderthals," he told Discovery News. "Humans and Neanderthals share a common Homo ancestor in Africa at around 500,000 years ago. However, Neanderthals evolved in Europe, while modern humans evolved in Africa."

There must be more to this story than meets the eye because we have had modern human remains in the Near East dated to around 100 kya for some time now (almost twenty years) and they had to come from somewhere. Add to that the North African Herto remains (mentioned in the news story) dated to around 160 kya and you have, what I think to be as close to a smoking gun as you can have in this business. A study done by Art Durband and myself that we are going to expand and publish when I am not up to my eyeballs in work, teaching and kids argues that the Skhul and Qafzeh remains from Israel that are dated to 90-100 kya express some non-Neandertal, general archaic characteristics that are likely north African in origin. I will have to get the article by Schillaci when it comes out in the Journal of Human Evolution.

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