Thursday, January 09, 2020

EarthSky: Twenty years of discoveries changing story of human evolution

EarthSky has an interesting article that summarizes twenty years of human evolution discoveries.  They write:
Perspectives on our own species have also changed. Archaeologists previously thought Homo sapiens evolved in Africa around 200,000 years ago, but the story has become more complicated. Fossils discovered in Morocco have pushed that date back to 300,000 years ago, consistent with ancient DNA evidence. This raises doubts that our species emerged in any single place.
This century has also brought unexpected discoveries from Europe and Asia. From enigmatic “hobbits” on the Indonesian island of Flores to the Denisovans in Siberia, our ancestors may have encountered a variety of other hominins when they spread out of Africa. Just this year, researchers reported a new species from the Philippines.
All of these discoveries point to the idea that there was considerable population mixing throughout the Middle to Late Pleistocene not just in Africa but throughout the Old World. We know that it took place in China around 120,000 years ago by the evidence from Linjing.  These particular hominins have characteristics found in modern humans, Neandertals and Homo erectus.

Interestingly, the idea that our species did not originate in any single place was an idea pursued by Rachel Caspari almost two decades ago, at a paper given at one of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists conventions.  At the time, it was still thought that the “Out of Africa” replacement model was still the best explanation for modern human origins.We now know that it is not.

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