EARLY MODERN HUMANS MIGRATE TO ASIA
The fact that some of earliest evidence of modern humans outside of Africa and the Middle East is in Australia suggests that the early man followed a coastal route through South Asia and Southeast Asia to Australia. It is believed that the migration was not a caravan-like journey but rather one in which some huts were set up on the beach and the migrants lived there for a while moving and then moved to a new location further to the east every couple of years. Traces of such a migration if it took place were covered in water and sediments when sea levels rose at the end of the Ice Age.
Around 40,000 years ago, it is thought, humans reached the steppes of Central Asia and pushed on into Siberia. There is evidence of human habitation on the northern Yana River in Siberia dated to 30,000 years ago.
Some genetic evidence indicates that a group of 4,000 modern humans left Africa between 75,000 and 50,000 years ago and ultimately populated Asia. All non-Africans share genetic markers (the M168 marker in particular) carried by these early immigrants. The descendants of these people replaced all earlier types of humans, notably Neanderthals. All-non Africans are descendants of these people. The Onge from the Andaman Islands in India carry some of the oldest genetic markers found outside Africa.
Many scientists believe the migration took place rather late and humans that took part in it spread very far, very quickly, This theory is backed in part by the features of skulls of ancient modern men found in Europe, Asia and even Australia with those of the Hofmeyr skull found in South Africa in the 1950s and dated to be 33,000 to 42,000 years old. This finding was reported in a January 2007 article in the journal Science by team led by Frederick Grine at State University of New York at Stony Brook.
The dating of the Hofmeyer skull has provided an important piece of the puzzle. Before it was dated no human fossil existed for the period between 15,000 and 70,000 years ago when the great migration out of Africa was taking place. The skull was dated by Richard Baily at Oxford University using a new technology that measures the amounts of radiation absorbed by sand grains that filled its braincase after burial. When the skull was found this technology did not exist and it was originally thought to be undatable because no other bones were found near it and its original resting place had been disrupted by river sediments.
Websites and Resources on Hominins and Human Origins: Smithsonian Human Origins Program humanorigins.si.edu ; Institute of Human Origins iho.asu.edu ; Becoming Human University of Arizona site becominghuman.org ; Talk Origins Index talkorigins.org/origins ; Last updated 2006. Hall of Human Origins American Museum of Natural History amnh.org/exhibitions ; Wikipedia article on Human Evolution Wikipedia ; Evolution of Modern Humans anthro.palomar.edu ; Human Evolution Images evolution-textbook.org; Hominin Species talkorigins.org ; Paleoanthropology Links talkorigins.org ; Britannica Human Evolution britannica.com ; Human Evolution handprint.com ; National Geographic Map of Human Migrations genographic.nationalgeographic.com ; Humin Origins Washington State University wsu.edu/gened/learn-modules ; University of California Museum of Anthropology ucmp.berkeley.edu; BBC The evolution of man" bbc.co.uk/sn/prehistoric_life; "Bones, Stones and Genes: The Origin of Modern Humans" (Video lecture series). Howard Hughes Medical Institute.; Human Evolution Timeline ArchaeologyInfo.com ; Walking with Cavemen (BBC) bbc.co.uk/sn/prehistoric_life ; PBS Evolution: Humans pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/humans; PBS: Human Evolution Library www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library; Human Evolution: you try it, from PBS pbs.org/wgbh/aso/tryit/evolution; John Hawks' Anthropology Weblog johnhawks.net/ ; New Scientist: Human Evolution newscientist.com/article-topic/human-evolution; Websites and Resources on Neanderthals: Wikipedia: Neanderthals Wikipedia ; Neanderthals Study Guide thoughtco.com ; Neandertals on Trial, from PBS pbs.org/wgbh/nova; The Neanderthal Museum neanderthal.de/en/ ; The Neanderthal Flute, by Bob Fink greenwych.ca. Websites and Resources on Prehistoric Art: Chauvet Cave Paintings archeologie.culture.fr/chauvet ; Cave of Lascaux archeologie.culture.fr/lascaux/en; Trust for African Rock Art (TARA) africanrockart.org; Bradshaw Foundation bradshawfoundation.com; Australian and Asian Palaeoanthropology, by Peter Brown peterbrown-palaeoanthropology.net. Fossil Sites and Organizations: The Paleoanthropology Society paleoanthro.org; Institute of Human Origins (Don Johanson's organization) iho.asu.edu/; The Leakey Foundation leakeyfoundation.org; The Stone Age Institute stoneageinstitute.org; The Bradshaw Foundation bradshawfoundation.com ; Turkana Basin Institute turkanabasin.org; Koobi Fora Research Project kfrp.com; Maropeng Cradle of Humankind, South Africa maropeng.co.za ; Blombus Cave Project web.archive.org/web; Journals: Journal of Human Evolution journals.elsevier.com/; American Journal of Physical Anthropology onlinelibrary.wiley.com; Evolutionary Anthropology onlinelibrary.wiley.com; Comptes Rendus Palevol journals.elsevier.com/ ; PaleoAnthropology paleoanthro.org.
Earliest Evidence of Modern Humans in Asia and Oceania
Country — Date — Place — Notes
China — 80,000–120,000 years before present — Fuyan Cave — Teeth were found under rock over which 80,000 years old stalagmites had grown.
India — 70,000 years before present — Jwalapuram, Andhra Pradesh — Recent finds of stone tools in Jwalapuram before and after the Toba supereruption, may have been made by modern humans, but this is disputed.
Indonesia —63,000-73,000 years before present — Lida Ajer cave — Teeth found in Sumatra in the 19th century
Philippines —67,000 years before present — Callao Cave — Archaeologists, Dr. Armand Mijares with Dr. Phil Piper found bones in a cave near Peñablanca, Cagayan in 2010 have been dated as ca. 67,000 years old. It's the earliest human fossil ever found in Asia-Pacific [Source: Wikipedia +]
Australia — 65,000 years before present — Madjedbebe — The oldest human skeletal remains are the 40,000-year-old Lake Mungo remains in New South Wales, but human ornaments discovered at Devil's Lair in Western Australia have been dated to 48,000 years before present and artifacts at Madjedbebe in Northern Territory are dated to ca. 65,000 Years before present.
Taiwan — 50,000 years before present — Chihshan Rock Site — Chipped stone tool similar to those of the Changpin culture on the east coast.
Japan — 47,000 years before present — Lake Nojiri — Genetic research indicates arrival of humans in Japan by 37,000 Years before present. Archeological remains at the Tategahana Paleolithic Site at Lake Nojiri have been dated as early as 47,000 Years before present. +
Laos — 46,000 years before present — Tam Pa Ling Cave — In 2009 an ancient skull was recovered from a cave in the Annamite Mountains in northern Laos which is at least 46,000 years old, making it the oldest modern human fossil found to date in Southeast Asia
Borneo — 46,000 years before present — (see Malaysia)
East Timor — 42,000 years before present — Jerimalai cave — Fish bones
Tasmania — 41,000 years before present — Jordan River Levee — Optically stimulated luminescence results from the site suggest a date ca. 41,000 Years before present. Rising sea level left Tasmania isolated after 8000 Years before present.
Hong Kong — 39,000 years before present — Wong Tei Tung — Optically stimulated luminescence results from the site suggest a date ca. 39,000 Years before present.
Malaysia — 34,000–46,000 years before present — Niah Cave — A human skull in Sarawak, Borneo (Archaeologists have claimed a much earlier date for stone tools found in the Mansuli valley, near Lahad Datu in Sabah, but precise dating analysis has not yet been published.) +
New Guinea — 40,000 years before present — Indonesian Side of New Guinea — Archaeological evidence shows that 40,000 years ago, some of the first farmers came to New Guinea from the South-East Asian Peninsula.
Sri Lanka — 34,000 years before present — Fa Hien Cave — The earliest remains of anatomically modern humans, based on radiocarbon dating of charcoal, have been found in the Fa Hien Cave in western Sri Lanka.
Okinawa — 32,000 years before present — Yamashita-cho cave, Naha city — Bone artifacts and an ash seam dated to 32,000±1000 Years before present.
Tibetan Plateau — 30,000 years before present
Buka Island, New Guinea — 28,000 years before present — Kilu Cave — Flaked stone, bone, and shell artifacts +
Early Modern Human Migration Route to Asia
The route of the early migrants that populated the world is still a matter of speculation. They may have migrated out of Africa via the Red Sea and the Nile Valley to the Middle East or across the southern Red Sea, making their way across southern Arabia to the Persian Gulf. At that time an ice age narrowed the gap across the Res Sea between the Horn of Africa and Arabia to only a few kilometers. It was originally that these early migrants made their way eastward via the Sinai peninsula but many think they crossed the Bab el Mandeb Strait, separating Djibouti from the Arabian Peninsula.. The straits across the Persian Gulf between Arabia and west Asia was also shortened by the ice age.
The migrants seem to have stayed near the sea during much of the migration. That way they had acess to reliable sources of food in the form of fish and mollusks. Who knows they may have even used boats to follow the coast — a method many scientists theorize was used tens of thousands of years later to reach America. To reach Australia within the timeline of theory would have required an advance of about on kilometer a year.
The archaeological record indicates the migrants made it as far as India around 75,000 years ago. Tools found Jwalapuram, a 74,000-year-old site in southern India, match those used in Africa from the same period. Excavated by anthropologist Michael Petraglia of the University of Cambridge, the site until recently was the oldest known outside of Africa aside from Qafzeh and Skhul in Israel.
Migration of Early Modern Man Out of Africa
DNA studies of people living today indicate that modern humans migrated from Eastern Africa to the Middle East, then Southern and Southeast Asia, then New Guinea and Australia, followed by Europe and Central Asia. Perhaps they didn't enter Europe because that region was dominated by Neanderthals. According to research by geneticist at the University of Cambridge in the mid 2000s all modern humans descend from a small number of Africans that left Africa between 55,000 and 60,000 years ago. Another less reliable DNA study determined that an intrepid group of 500 hominids marched out of Africa about 140,000 years ago and they are the ancestors to all modern people today. [Source: Guy Gugliotta, Smithsonian magazine, July 2008]
These studies are based on genetic variations found in different population groups. People in sub-Saharan Africa have more genetic variation than non-Africans. The number of people and the date for the 140,000 year figure was arrived by studying genetic variations in 34 populations around the world, coming up with a rate of genetic change and extrapolated back in time. The fact that people in sub-Saharan Africa have more genetic variation than non-Africa indicated humans that have lived in Africa have lived there longer than other people have lived in their homelands.
The earliest known mutation to spread outside Africa is M168, which developed about 50,000 years ago. It is found in all non-Africans. M9 is a marker common in Eurasians. It appeared in the Middle East or Central Asia about 40,000 years ago. M3 is a marker that developed among Asian people around 10,000 years ago and reached the Americas.
Based on genetic evidence gathered by National Geographic magazine and scientists from around the globe it has been determined that modern humans originated in southern Africa around 200,000 years ago and made to West Africa about 70,000 years ago and the Middle East about 50,000 years ago, advancing rapidly through southern and southeast Asia and reaching Australia also around 50,000 years ago but not reach East Asia and Siberia until 30,000 years ago and southern Europe until 20,000 years. From Siberia modern humans reached North America about 15,000 years ago and migrated southward reaching South America between 13,000 and 15,000 years ago. The group living today with the closest links to our 200,000-year-old ancestors in southern Africa are the Khoisan hunter-gatherers of southern Africa. [Source: National Geographic, November, 2009]
Some scientists feel the migration out of Africa was also accompanied by revolutions in behavior and technology such as more developed social networks and advanced tools and sophisticated language that gave them ability to prosper in new lands and in some cases drive out hominids that already lived there.
Migration Routes Out of Africa
Modern humans first arose at least 300,000 years ago in Africa. When and how they dispersed from there has been controversial and a topic of fierce debate in the academic community, with geneticists suggesting the exodus started between 40,000 and 70,000 years ago but fossils, artifacts and archaeological evidence saying they left much earlier than that. The currently accepted theory backed up archaeological evidence is that the exodus from Africa followed the “southern route” along Arabia's shores, or possibly through its now-arid interior. Genetic evidence — and some archaeological evidence — supports the “northern route” theory that they traveled through modern-day Egypt, Israel-Palestine to Europe and Asia.
Charles Q. Choi wrote in Live Science: “Scientists had suggested two routes for the exodus from Africa. One, known as the northern route, has humans exiting through what is now Egypt and Sinai. The other, the southern route, brought humans through what is now Ethiopia and Arabia. The available evidence for either migratory path remains inconclusive”. [Source: Charles Q. Choi, Live Science, May 28, 2015]
The northern route as the preferred way from Africa is supported by the fact that all non-Africans possess DNA from Neanderthals, who were present along the northern route in the eastern Mediterranean at the time. This new finding is also in agreement with the recent discovery of modern human fossils in Israel close to the northern route that date to about 55,000 years ago. Although there is genetic and archaeological evidence that some people did take the southern route out of Africa, perhaps those people got no farther than Arabia, or left no genetic trace in modern Eurasians.”
Saioa López, Lucy van Dorp and Garrett Hellenthal of University College London wrote:“ The consensus view is that if modern humans did exit Africa via a single dispersal, there were two possible routes (not mutually exclusive) at the time: a Northern route, through Egypt and Sinai, and a Southern route, through Ethiopia, the Bab el Mandeb strait, and the Arabian Peninsula. So far, neither archeological nor genetic evidence has been able to resolve this question with confidence.” [Source: Saioa López, Lucy van Dorp and Garrett Hellenthal of University College London, “Human Dispersal Out of Africa: A Lasting Debate,” Evolutionary Bioinformatics, April 21, 2016]
Northern Route Out of Africa
Saioa López, Lucy van Dorp and Garrett Hellenthal of University College London wrote: “Some of the earliest remains of Anatomically modern humans anywhere outside of Africa, the Skhul and Qafzeh hominins, were found in the Levant (present-day Israel) and dated to 120 and 100,000–90,000 years ago, respectively. It has been suggested that these fossils represent an early exit of modern humans approximately 120,000 years ago, traveling across the Sinai Peninsula to the Levant. The next human remains found in the region include the Manot1 cranium, which was dated to around 55,000 years ago, demonstrating a considerable gap in the fossil record of Anatomically modern human occupation in the Levant. This, in conjunction with climatic records, indicating a global glacial period 90,000 years ago, has led some authors to suggest that if the first humans did exit early via the Levant they did not survive, and that the Skhul and Qafzeh hominins are the remnants of this failed exodus. Other authors emphasize the possibility that this group could have already left the Levant before the glacial period 90,000 years ago. That said, the recent presentation of archeological material, primarily stone tools and assemblages dated to 100,000–80,000 years ago, from an empty corner of the Arabian Peninsula suggests early settlements may have been widely distributed and that even if Skhul and Qafzeh do represent a failed exodus, it was broader and more complex than previously thought. [Source: Saioa López, Lucy van Dorp and Garrett Hellenthal of University College London, “Human Dispersal Out of Africa: A Lasting Debate,” Evolutionary Bioinformatics, April 21, 2016 ~]
“In addition to the evidence from the archeological and climatic record, genetic studies have also suggested some support for a Northern route. A study of Y chromosome haplogroup distributions together with 10 microsatellite loci and 45 binary markers in different African and Near Eastern populations found that the Levant was the most supported route for the primary migratory movements between Africa and Eurasia. In a more recent paper, Pagani et al sequenced the genomes of 100 Egyptians and 125 individuals from five Ethiopian ethnic groups (Amhara, Oromo, Ethiopian Somali, Wolayta, and Gumuz).64 After attempting to mask West Eurasian genetic components inherited via recent non-African admixture within the last 4,000 years ago, they showed that modern non-African haplotypes were more similar to Egyptian haplotypes than to Ethiopian haplotypes, thus suggesting that Egypt was the more likely route in the exodus out of Africa migration, assuming the efficacy of their masking procedure. However, as noted earlier, one limitation of such studies that analyze modern DNA is that extant populations may not be good representatives of past populations due to factors such as population replacement, migrations, admixture, and drift.” ~
Oldest Known Human Fossil Outside Africa Discovered in Israel
Hannah Devlin wrote in The Guardian: “A human upper jawbone fossil with several teeth and stone tools, dated to between 177,000 and 194,000 years old, were found in a cave in Israel, meaning that modern humans left Africa far earlier than previously thought, prompting scientists to rethink theories about earllu human migration. The fossil is almost twice as old as any previous Homo sapiens remains discovered outside Africa. [Source: Hannah Devlin, The Guardian, January 25, 2018 |=|]
“The fossil, a well-preserved upper jawbone with eight teeth, was discovered at the Misliya cave, which appears to have been occupied for lengthy periods. The teeth are larger than average for a modern human, but their shape and the fossil’s facial anatomy are distinctly Homo sapiens, an analysis of the fossil in the journal Science concludes. |=|
“Sophisticated stone tools and blades discovered nearby suggest the cave’s inhabitants were capable hunters, who used sling projectiles and elegantly carved blades used to kill and butcher gazelles, oryx, wild boars, hares, turtles and ostrich. The team also discovered evidence of matting made from plants that may have been used to sleep on. Radioactive dating places the fossil and tools at between 177,000 and 194,000 years old. “Hershkovitz said the record now indicates that humans probably ventured beyond the African continent whenever the climate allowed it. “I don’t believe there was one big exodus out of Africa,” he said. “I think that throughout hundreds of thousands of years [humans] were coming in and out of Africa all the time.” |=|
“Reconstructions of the ancient climate records, based on deep sea cores, show that the Middle East switched between being humid and extremely arid, and that the region would have been lush and readily habitable for several periods matching the age of the Misliya fossil.” |=|
177,000-Year-Old Israeli Human Fossils and Out of Africa Theory
Hannah Devlin wrote in The Guardian: “Until recently, several converging lines of evidence – from fossils, genetics and archaeology – suggested that modern humans first dispersed from Africa into Eurasia about 60,000 years ago, quickly supplanting other early human species, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, that they may have encountered along the way. |=|
“However, a series of recent discoveries, including a trove of 100,000 year-old human teeth found in a cave in China, have clouded this straightforward narrative. And the latest find, at the Misliya cave site in northern Israel, has added a new and unexpected twist. “What Misliya tells us is that modern humans left Africa not 100,000 years ago, but 200,000 years ago,” said Prof Israel Hershkovitz, who led the work at Tel Aviv University. “This is a revolution in the way we understand the evolution of our own species.”
“The discovery also raises intriguing questions about the fate of the earliest modern human pioneers. Genetic data from modern-day populations around the world strongly suggest that everyone outside Africa can trace their ancestors back to a group that dispersed around 60,000 years ago. So the inhabitants of the Misliya cave are probably not the ancestors of anyone alive today, and scientists can only speculate why their branch of the family tree came to an end. |=|
“Prof David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard University and an expert in population genetics and ancient DNA, said: “It’s important to distinguish between the migration out of Africa that’s being discussed here and the “out-of-Africa” migration that is most commonly discussed when referring to genetic data. This [Misliya] lineage contributed little if anything to present-day people.” “These early exits are sometimes termed ‘unsuccessful’ or ‘failed’,” said Stringer. “Some of these groups could have gone extinct through natural processes, through competition with other humans, including later waves of modern humans, or they could have been genetically swamped by a more extensive 60,000 year old dispersal.” |=|
177,000-Year-Old Israeli Human Fossils and Multiple Migrations Out of Africa
Hannah Devlin wrote in The Guardian: “The find suggests that there were multiple waves of migration across Europe and Asia and could also mean that modern humans in the Middle East were mingling, and possibly mating, with other human species for tens of thousands of years. |=| “Misliya breaks the mould of existing scenarios for the timing of the first known Homo sapiens in these regions,” said Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London. “It’s important in removing a long-lasting constraint on our thinking.” [Source: Hannah Devlin, The Guardian, January 25, 2018 |=|]
“The idea of multiple dispersals is supported by recent discoveries such as the teeth unearthed in China, human fossils in Sumatra from around 70,000 years ago, archaeological evidence from Northern Australia at 65,000 years and fossils previously discovered near Misliya dating to 90,000-120,000 years ago. The scenario also raises the possibility that the eastern Mediterranean may have acted as a crossroads for encounters between our own ancestors and the various other human species, such as Neanderthals, who had already reached Europe. “We’re like a train station that everyone’s passing through,” said Hershkovitz. |=|
“Scientists have already shown that interbreeding with Neanderthals, whose lineage diverged from our own 500,000 years ago, occurred some time in the past 50,000 years.As a legacy, modern-day Eurasians carry 1-4 percent of Neanderthal DNA. However, a recent analysis of DNA taken from a Neanderthal leg bone found in a German cave hinted at much earlier encounters between the two species, dating back more than 200,000 years. The new fossil adds plausibility to this theory. “It means modern humans were potentially meeting and interacting during a longer period of time with other archaic human groups, providing more opportunity for cultural and biological exchanges,” said Rolf Quam, Binghamton University anthropology professor and a co-author of the study.” |=|
DNA Study Supports Humans Leaving Africa Via Egypt on the Northern Route
DNA from Ethiopians and Egyptians suggests modern humans left Africa through Egypt. Charles Q. Choi wrote in Live Science: “To see which route the ancestors of all humans outside of Africa might have taken, the researchers sequenced the genomes of 225 people from northeast Africa — 100 Egyptians and 125 Ethiopians. They then compared this data with DNA from East Asians, South Asians and Europeans — specifically, Han Chinese, Gujarati Indians and Tuscan Italians, respectively. They also compared this data with DNA from modern West Africans from south of the Sahara, which should generally reflect the ancient sub-Saharan gene pool. [Source: Charles Q. Choi, Live Science, May 28, 2015]
“The scientists noted that both modern Egyptians and Ethiopians have recently experienced migrations from outside Africa, and the interbreeding that resulted might increase their genetic similarity with those migratory people. To account for this, the researchers removed any genetic sequences that might have come from these recent migrations. . The scientists detailed their findings online today (May 28) in the American Journal of Human Genetics.
“If the southern route was the main path out of Africa, Ethiopians should be more genetically similar to Eurasians. Instead, the researchers found that Egyptians were more genetically similar to Eurasians, suggesting the northern route was the predominant way out of Africa. The researchers estimated that Eurasians genetically diverged from Egyptians 55,000 years ago, Ethiopians 65,000 years ago and West Africans 75,000 years ago. "The most exciting consequence of our results is to have unveiled an episode of the evolutionary past of all Eurasians, therefore potentially improving the knowledge of billions of people on their deep biological history,"study lead author Luca Pagani, a molecular anthropologist at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge in England, told Live Science.”
Southern Route Out of Africa
Saioa López, Lucy van Dorp and Garrett Hellenthal of University College London wrote: “In contrast, mtDNA studies have traditionally favored a Southern route across the Bab el Mandeb strait at the mouth of the Red Sea. From there, modern humans are thought to have spread rapidly into regions of Southeast Asia and Oceania. For example, two studies have concluded that individuals assigned to haplogroup L3 migrated out of the continent via the Horn of Africa. Furthermore, Fernandes et al. analyzed three minor West-Eurasian haplogroups and found a relic distribution of these minor haplogroups suggestive of ancestry within the Arabian cradle, as expected under a Southern route. That being said, many mtDNA studies, including these, are based on the premise that haplogroup L3 represents a remnant Eastern African haplogroup. Groucutt et al have recently theorized that L3 does not provide conclusive evidence for a shared African ancestor, given human demographic history is likely to be less “tree-like” than has been consistently assumed by mtDNA analyses. As an example, they showed that L3 could have arisen inside or outside of Africa if gene flow occurred between the ancestors of Africans and non-Africans following their initial divergence. [Source: Saioa López, Lucy van Dorp and Garrett Hellenthal of University College London, “Human Dispersal Out of Africa: A Lasting Debate,” Evolutionary Bioinformatics, April 21, 2016 ~]
“Short Tandem Repeats (STR) and analysis of LD decay in combination with geographic data have also been used to support a Southern route via a single wave serial bottleneck model. Under this model, it is thought that a group crossed the mouth of the Red Sea and traveled along the Southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula toward India as “beachcombers,” exploiting shellfish and other marine products. Migrations then continued in an iterative wave as populations dispersed and expanded into uninhabited areas. This is consistent with a glacial maximum occurring during this time period, which caused sea levels to fall allowing potential passage across the mouth of the Red Sea. ~
“From an archeological perspective, evidence indicative of maritime exploitation is extremely limited. The discovery of artifacts from the Abdur Reef Limestone in the Red Sea and archeological sites in the Gulf Basin that indicate long-standing human occupation earlier than 100, 000 years ago may offer some evidence; however, whether these represent the activities of the ancestors of modern-day human groups is still an open question. Furthermore, Boivin et al caution that while coastal regions may have been important, a coastal-focused dispersal would still have been problematic and not necessarily conducive to rapid out of Africa dispersal.” ~
100,000-Year-Old Modern Human Fossil in the United Arab Emirates
In January 2011, a team led Simon Armitage from Royal Holloway, University of London announced in the journal Science that had found an early modern human “toolkit” on the Arabia peninsula that was at least 100,000 years old. Discovered at the archaeological site in the United Arab Emirates, the toolkit includes relatively primitive hand-axes along with a variety of scrapers and perforators — tools that resemble tools used by early humans in east Africa but not display the craftsmanship that emerged later from the Middle East. The age of the stone tools was calculated using a technique known as luminescence dating and determined to be about 100,000 to 125,000 years old. [Source: ScienceDaily; Science, January 28, 2011]
Scientists say: 1) the dates imply that modern humans first left Africa much earlier than researchers had expected; 2) the contents of the toolkit imply that technological innovation was not necessary for early humans to migrate onto the Arabian Peninsula; and 3) the location of the find implies early modern humans migrated eastward directly from Africa rather than via the Nile Valley or the Near East. [Ibid]
Researchers led by Hans-Peter Uerpmann from Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen, Germany analyzed sea-level and climate-change records for the region during the last interglacial period, approximately 130,000 years ago. They determined that the Bab al-Mandab Strait, which separates Arabia from the Horn of Africa, would have narrowed due to lower sea-levels, allowing safe passage prior to and at the beginning of that last interglacial period. At that time, the Arabian Peninsula was much wetter than today with greater vegetation cover and a network of lakes and rivers. Such a landscape would have allowed early humans access into Arabia and then into the Fertile Crescent and India, according to the researchers. [Ibid]
Tools in Arabia Imply an Early African Migration Using the Southern Route
Stone tools found in United Arab Emirates, dated to between 125,000 and 55,000 years ago, resembles African artifacts from around the same time, suggesting that early humans left Africa earlier than thought. Mary Beth Griggs wrote in Discover:. According to project archaeologist Anthony Marks of Southern Methodist University, southern Arabia would not have been a forbidding destination at the time. “We now know that 130,000 years ago, the Indian Ocean monsoons pushed farther north, and Arabia became grassland,” says Marks, who thinks the shifting climate opened new territory for human exploration. Although some researchers suspect that earlier hominins, not modern humans, made the stone tools, Marks is hopeful that future digs in Arabia, Iran, and western India will unearth still more evidence of humanity’s bold, early route out of Africa. [Source: Mary Beth Griggs, Discover, December 22, 2011]
Ian Sample wrote in The Guardian: “A spectacular haul of stone tools discovered beneath a collapsed rock shelter in southern Arabia has forced a major rethink of the story of human migration out of Africa. The collection of hand axes and other tools shaped to cut, pierce and scrape bear the hallmarks of early human workmanship, but date from 125,000 years ago, around 55,000 years before our ancestors were thought to have left the continent. The artefacts, uncovered in the United Arab Emirates, point to a much earlier dispersal of ancient humans, who probably cut across from the Horn of Africa to the Arabian peninsula via a shallow channel in the Red Sea that became passable at the end of an ice age. Once established, these early pioneers may have pushed on across the Persian Gulf, perhaps reaching as far as India, Indonesia and eventually Australia. [Source: Ian Sample, The Guardian January 27, 2011 |=|]
“A team led by Hans-Peter Uerpmann at the University of Tübingen in Germany uncovered the latest stone tools while excavating sediments at the base of a collapsed overhang set in a limestone mountain called Jebel Faya, about 35 miles (55km) from the Persian Gulf coast. Previous excavations at the site have found artefacts from the iron, bronze and neolithic periods, evidence that the rocky formation has provided millennia of natural shelter for humans. The array of tools include small hand axes and two-sided blades that are remarkably similar to those fashioned by early humans in east Africa. The researchers tentatively ruled out the possibility of other hominins having made the tools, such as the Neanderthals that already occupied Europe and north Asia, as they were not in Arabia at the time. |=|
“The stones, a form of silica-rich rock called chert, were dated by Simon Armitage, a researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London, using a technique that measured how long sand grains around the artefacts had been buried. Another strand of the archaeologists' work, described in Science, focused on climate change records and historical sea levels in the area. They show that between 200,000 and 130,000 years ago, a global ice age caused sea levels to fall by up to 100 metres, while the Saharan and Arabian deserts expanded into vast, inhospitable wastelands. But as the climate warmed at the end of the ice age, fresh rains fell on Arabia, opening up the region to human occupation. "The previously arid interior of Arabia would have been transformed into a landscape covered largely in savannah grasses, with extensive lakes and river systems," said Adrian Parker, a researcher at Oxford Brookes University and co-author of the paper. |=|
“The revival of Arabia coincided with record lows in sea level, which left only a shallow stretch of water about three miles wide at the Bab al Mandab Straits separating east Africa and the Arabian peninsula. Uerpmann said early humans may have walked or waded across, but added: "They could have used rafts or boats, which they certainly could make at that time." The new arrivals would have found good hunting grounds at the end of their journey, with plentiful wild asses, gazelles and mountain ibex, Uerpmann said. |=|
“The discovery has sparked debate among archaeologists, some of whom say much stronger evidence is needed to back up the researchers' claims. "I'm totally unpersuaded," Paul Mellars, an archaeologist at Cambridge University, told Science. "There's not a scrap of evidence here that these were made by modern humans, nor that they came from Africa." Chris Stringer, a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in London, said: "The region of Arabia has been terra incognita in trying to map the dispersal of modern humans from Africa during the last 120,000 years, leading to much theorising in the face of few data. "Despite the confounding lack of diagnostic fossil evidence, this archaeological work provides important clues that early modern humans might have dispersed from Africa across Arabia, as far as the Straits of Hormuz, by 120,000 years ago." |=|
90,000-Year-Old Human Middle Finger Bone Found in Saudi Arabia
In 2016, archaeologists in Saudi Arabia announced the discovery of a human fossil bone — the middle section of the middle finger — which was dated to be 90,000 years old, the oldest evidence modern humans on the Arabian Peninsula, an official from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage told Al-Arabiya. The Saudis claimed it was the oldest human bone ever found. [Source: Jack Moore, Newsweek, August 19, 2016 -]
Jack Moore wrote in Newsweek: “Researchers from a joint Saudi-U.K. project, which included the Saudi archaeologists and University of Oxford experts, made the find at the Taas al-Ghadha site near to the northwestern Saudi city of Tayma. The project is an extension of the Green Arabia Project, which is studying sites near ancient lakes in the Nafud desert. Archaeologists began digging in the area in 2012. -
“Its historic discovery suggests that human life dated back as far as 325,000 years, head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage Ali Ghabban said. He did not elaborate on why the find of a 90,000-year-old bone led to this assumption. The Board of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, said that the discovery is “considered an important achievement for the Saudi researchers who participated in these missions and one of the most important outcomes of Prince Sultan’s support and care for the archaeology sector in the Kingdom.” -
While the Saudis are claiming to have found the oldest ever human bone, the oldest bone ever discovered belonging to the lineage that developed into human beings, the Homo genus, is a jaw bone found in Ethiopia in 2015. It is dated to 2.8 million years ago. The oldest modern human discovered at that time was a 195,000-year-old fossil from Ethiopia. Since then 300,000-year-old modern human fossils have been found in Morocco.
Oman Artifacts Suggest Early Humans Traveled Inland in Arabia Rather Along the Coast
Charles Q. Choi wrote in Live Science: “More than 100 newly discovered sites in the Sultanate of Oman apparently confirm that modern humans left Africa through Arabia long before genetic evidence suggests. Oddly, these sites are located far inland, away from the coasts. "After a decade of searching in southern Arabia for some clue that might help us understand early human expansion, at long last we've found the smoking gun of their exit from Africa," said lead researcher Jeffrey Rose, a paleolithic archaeologist at the University of Birmingham in England. "What makes this so exciting is that the answer is a scenario almost never considered." [Source: Charles Q. Choi, Live Science, November 30, 2011 *]
“The international team of archaeologists and geologists made their discovery in the Dhofar Mountains of southern Oman, nestled in the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula. "The coastal expansion hypothesis looks reasonable on paper, but there is simply no archaeological evidence to back it up," said researcher Anthony Marks of Southern Methodist University, referring to the fact that an exodus by the coast, where one has access to resources such as seafood, might make more sense than tramping across the desert.. *\
“The 100-to-200 artifacts they found there were of a style dubbed Nubian Middle Stone Age, well-known throughout the Nile Valley, where they date back about 74,000-to-128,000 years. Scientists think ancient craftsmen would have shaped the artifacts by striking flakes off flint, leading to distinctive triangular pieces. This is the first time such artifacts have been found outside of Africa. *\
“Subsequent field work turned up dozens of sites with similar artifacts. Using a technique known as optically stimulated luminescence dating, which measures the minute amount of light long-buried objects can emit, to see how long they have been interred, the researchers estimate the artifacts are about 106,000 years old, exactly what one might expect from Nubian Middle Stone Age artifacts and far earlier than conventional dates for the exodus from Africa. *\
“Finding so much evidence of life in what is now a relatively barren desert supports the importance of field work, according to the researchers. "Here we have an example of the disconnect between theoretical models versus real evidence on the ground," Marks said. However, when these artifacts were made, instead of being desolate, Arabia was very wet, with copious rain falling across the peninsula, transforming its barren deserts to fertile, sprawling grasslands with lots of animals to hunt, the researchers explained. "For a while, South Arabia became a verdant paradise rich in resources — large game, plentiful fresh water, and high-quality flint with which to make stone tools," Rose said. *\
“Instead of hugging the coast, early modern humans might therefore have spread from Africa into Arabia along river networks that would've acted like today's highways, researchers suggested. There would have been plenty of large game present, such as gazelles, antelopes and ibexes, which would have been appealing to early modern humans used to hunting on the savannas of Africa. "The genetic signature that we've seen so far of an exodus 70,000 years ago might not be out of Africa, but out of Arabia," Rose told LiveScience. *\
“So far the researchers have not discovered the remains of humans or any other animals at the site. Could these tools have been made by now-extinct human lineages such as Neanderthals that left Africa before modern humans did? Not likely, Rose said, as all the Nubian Middle Stone Age tools seen in Africa are associated with our ancestors. It remains a mystery as to how early modern humans from Africa crossed the Red Sea, since they did not appear to enter the Arabian Peninsula from the north, through the Sinai Peninsula, Rose explained. "Back then, there was no land bridge in the south of Arabia, but the sea level might not have been that low," he said. Archaeologists will have to continue combing the deserts of southern Arabia for more of what the researchers called a "trail of stone breadcrumbs." The scientists detailed their findings online November 30, 2011 in the journal PLoS ONE.” *\
Early Humans Reached China 80,000 Years Ago, Before They Reached Europe?
Earliest evidence of modern humans in China — 80,000–120,000 years before present — Fuyan Cave — Teeth were found under rock over which 80,000 years old stalagmites had grown. [Source: Wikipedia +]
In 2015, Chinese scientists announced they discovered 47 teeth from modern humans in Fuyan Cave in southern China's Hunan province that date back at least 80,000 years. Charles Q. Choi wrote in Live Science, “Teeth from a cave in China suggest that modern humans lived in Asia much earlier than previously thought, and tens of thousands of years before they reached Europe, researchers say...Modern humans first originated about 200,000 years ago in Africa. When and how the modern human lineage dispersed from Africa has long been controversial. Previous research suggested the exodus from Africa began between 70,000 and 40,000 years ago. However, recent research hinted that modern humans might have begun their march across the globe as early as 130,000 years ago. [Source: Charles Q. Choi, Live Science, October 14, 2015]
“One place that could shed light on the spread of humanity is southern China, which is dotted with fossil-rich caves. Scientists analyzed modern human teeth that they unearthed in Fuyan Cave in southern China's Hunan province, which is part of a system of caves more than 32,300 square feet (3,000 square meters) in size. Excavations from 2011 to 2013 yielded a trove of 47 human teeth, as well as bones from many other extinct and living animals, such as pandas, hyenas and pigs. The scientists detailed their findings in the Oct. 15 issue of the journal Nature.
“The researchers found these teeth are more than 80,000 years old, and may date back as far as 120,000 years. Until now, fossils from southern China confirmed as older than 45,000 years in age that can be confidently identified as modern human in origin have been lacking. "Our discovery, together with other research findings, suggests southern China should be the key, central area for the emergence and evolution of modern humans in East Asia," the study's co-lead author, Wu Liu, of China's Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, told Live Science.
“These newfound teeth are smaller than counterparts of similar ages from Africa and elsewhere in China. Instead, they more closely resemble teeth from contemporary modern humans. This suggests different kinds of humans were living in China at the same time — archaic kinds in northern China, and ones more like modern humans in southern China.The researchers said these findings could shed light on why modern humans made a relatively late entry into Europe. There is currently no evidence that modern humans entered Europe before 45,000 years ago, even though they made it as far as southern China at least as early as 80,000 years ago. The investigators suggested that Neanderthals might have prevented modern humans from crossing into Europe until after Neanderthals began dying off." The main thing holding scientists back from making further conclusions is that archaeological evidence is lacking from Fuyan Cave and other sites from that period in China.
First Modern Humans in India: 70,000 Years Ago or 50,000 Years Ago?
Earliest evidence of modern humans in India — 70,000 years before present — Jwalapuram, Andhra Pradesh — Recent finds of stone tools in Jwalapuram before and after the Toba supereruption, may have been made by modern humans, but this is disputed. [Source: Wikipedia +]
Tony Joseph wrote in The Hindu: “When did our species, Homo sapiens, first set foot in India? There are two competing versions of the answer: let’s call them the ‘early version’ and the ‘late version’. The ‘early version’ says they arrived 74,000 to 120,000 years ago from Africa through the Arabian peninsula with Middle Stone Age tools such as scrapers and points that helped them hunt their prey, gather food, or make clothes. The ‘late version’ says they arrived much later, around 50,000 to 60,000 years ago, with upgraded technology such as microlithic (tiny stone) tools that might have been used to give sharp tips to arrows and spears. A geological event separates the two versions: the supervolcanic eruption at Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia, about 74,000 years ago, dumped tonnes of ash all over South-east Asia and South Asia, causing much stress to all life in the region. The ‘early version’ says migrants reached India before Toba; the ‘late version’ says the opposite.” [Source: Tony Joseph, The Hindu, September 5, 2017 |^^|]
Until fairly recently it seemed like late version had the most support. But two studies, published in July and August, 2017 may have changed that. “The first study, led by Professor Chris Clarkson of the University of Queensland, established that modern humans were in Australia by between 59,300 and 70,700 years ago, or, if you take the midpoint, 65,000 years ago. That is about 15,000 years earlier than previous estimates. Prof. Clarkson and his colleagues used the latest techniques to date things left behind by humans at the Madjedbebe caves in Australia’s Northern Territory: mortars and pestles, ground-edge axes, and painting material. |^^|
“The second study, led by archaeologist Dr. Kira Westaway of the Macquarie University, palaeontologist Dr. Julien Louys of the Australian National University, and others had equally remarkable results. They reinvestigated two teeth that had been found in the Lida Ajer caves in Indonesia’s Sumatra island more than a century ago, but whose dating and provenance were disputed. Using the latest multidisciplinary techniques, they have confirmed that the teeth belonged to modern humans who lived 63,000-73,000 years ago, thus pushing back the dates for modern human occupation of South-east Asia by about 20,000 years.
The Sumatra and the Madjedbebe findings point in the same direction, says Dr. Louys: that Out of Africa (OOA) migrants made it into South-east Asia before 60,000 years ago. In fact, he says, they could have been in the region for much longer because “it is incredibly likely we’re not sampling the very first humans in Sumatra and Australia.” But if people were already in Australia and South-east Asia by 65,000 years ago, then they would have had to have left Africa and reached India much earlier (India having been a key corridor for the OOA migration). And that would put the ‘late version’ in jeopardy. Professor Ravi Korisettar of the Karnatak University, a well-known archaeologist who has worked extensively on early modern human migrations in South Asia, concurs. “These findings support our argument for an earlier migration,” he says.
The first settlers of India are our direct ancestors: about 50% to 60% of Indian genetic ancestry today comes from the first settlers, with the rest contributed by later migrants from West Asia, East Asia, and Central Asia. So, the deeply held belief that only tribals (about 8.6% of the population) carry the ancestry of the original settlers couldn’t be more wrong. The first settlers of India are, indeed, the bedrock of our population and civilisation. Without getting their story right, we cannot get the rest of our history right.
Jwalapuram Site in Andhra Pradesh
Tony Joseph wrote in The Hindu: “Prof. Korisettar was instrumental in discovering the Jwalapuram site in Andhra Pradesh, which posed the first big challenge to the ‘late version’. Jwalapuram lies in the Jurreru river valley and its significance is in the fact that the river basin holds layers of volcanic ash left behind by the Toba eruption. [Source: Tony Joseph, The Hindu, September 5, 2017 |^^|]
“The archaeologists who excavated Jwalapuram more than a decade ago, including Prof. Korisettar and Prof. Michael Petraglia, then of Cambridge University, found something remarkable at the bottommost layer: Middle Stone Age tools dated to around 77,000 years ago and were made by what they believe were modern humans. Those findings created a stir because they frontally challenged the ‘late version’. Prof. Korisettar and Prof. Petraglia, in fact, went on to argue that modern humans could have been in India as early as 100,000-120,000 years ago. “Ever since our paper was published in Science magazine in July 2007, we have been suggesting pre-Toba expansion,” says Prof. Korisettar. |^^|
“The Jwalapuram findings did not go uncontested, though. Middle Stone Age tools were made by both modern humans and archaic hominins such as Homo erectus and are, therefore, difficult to assign to one or the other. And India has had archaic hominins at least from about 1.5 million years ago. But Prof. Korisettar argues that the Jwalapuram artefacts are remarkably similar to those made by Middle Stone Age modern humans in Africa. That argument now finds strong support from Dr. Louys who says “it makes sense” to think modern humans were in Asia before the Toba eruption. |^^|
DNA Studies Say Modern Humans Arrived in India 50,000 to 60,000 Years Ago
Tony Joseph wrote in The Hindu: “The problem is that this suggestion bumps up against genetics. All humans belong to haplogroups or lineages (Y-DNA haplogroups for males, and mitrochondrial or mtDNA haplogroups for females), and by studying current populations using genetic markers and mutation rates, geneticists can create global family trees and estimate the age at which two haplogroups shared a common ancestor. These techniques have improved by leaps and bounds, so it’s no surprise that there’s now near-consensus about the history of human migrations. It goes something like this: Homo sapiens originated in Africa over 200,000 years ago, started range expansions into the Levant and West Asia between 120,000-100,000 years ago, and started on a colonising journey of the world around 70,000 years ago, reaching South Asia by 60,000 years, Australia by 50,000 years, and Europe by 45,000 years ago. [Source: Tony Joseph, The Hindu, September 5, 2017 |^^|]
“All non-African populations in the world, therefore, are descendants of a single, small group of migrating Africans (perhaps numbering no more than a thousand). Because of this bottleneck, the entire non-African world population belongs to just three mtDNA super-haplogroups M, N, and R (and C, D, and F in the case of non-African Y-DNA). The common ancestor of M, N, and R is a parent haplogroup called L3, which still has many lineages in Africa. Given this, it is reasonable to conclude that OOA migrations could not have happened earlier than the emergence of L3. And genetic studies say the earliest possible date for the emergence of L3 is 70,000 years ago. In other words, there is no way that an OOA migration could have happened before the Toba eruption of 74,000 years ago! |^^|
“Those who argue this also put forward other reasons why the ‘early version’ cannot hold. One of them is that genetic records show that the first migrants had spread across South Asia, South-east Asia, and Australia within a brief period of time before too many mutations could accumulate. And that means it must have been quite a sprint, in historical terms. The only way this could have been accomplished is if they took a coastal route from West Asia to India to South-east Asia and then, finally, Australia. A coastal route meant two things: one, the beach-hopping migrants could use the same skill sets to survive on marine resources such as fish and crustaceans all along their journey. Two, their march got an unintended directionality, taking them inexorably towards Australia. |^^|
“What lends support to this chronology is that at least from about 35,000 years ago, there is incontrovertible evidence of modern humans in South Asia, while evidence for earlier presence is circumstantial. The earliest modern human fossil in the region is from the Sri Lankan cave of Fa Hien, dated to 33,000-30,000 years ago. (Sri Lanka was then linked to the Indian landmass, as sea levels were lower). In India too, there is abundant evidence of microlithic tools from around the same time.” |^^|
100,000-Year-Old Modern Human Fossil in China?
A 100,000- year-old fossil human jawbone discovered in southern China has raised serious questions about when the modern humans migrated out of Africa. The mandible, unearthed by paleontologists in Zhiren Cave in Guanxi Province in southern China in 2007, sports a distinctly modern feature: a prominent chin. The fossil was called "the oldest modern human outside of Africa" by Erik Trinkaus, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, and author of article on the finding in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Source: Rachel Kaufman, National Geographic News, October 25, 2010]
The discovery of such an ancient example of a modern human in China drastically alters the time line of human migration. The find may also mean that modern humans in China were mingling — and possibly even interbreeding — with other human species for 50,000 or 60,000 years.
The find also seems to suggest that anatomically modern humans arrived in China long before the species began acting human. For example, symbolic thought is a distinctly human trait that involves using things such as beads and drawings to represent objects, people, and events. The first strong evidence for this trait doesn't appear in the archaeological record in China until 30,000 years ago, Trinkaus said.
So far, genetic evidence largely supports the traditional timing of the "out of Africa" theory. But the newly described China jawbone presents a strong challenge, said anthropologist Christopher Bae of the University of Hawaii, who was not associated with the find. "They actually have solid dates and evidence of, basically, a modern human," he said.
Still, the jaw and three molars were the only human remains retrieved from the Chinese cave, and the jaw is "within the range" of Neanderthal chins as well as those of modern humans, added paleoanthropologist John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "If this holds up, we have to reevaluate" the human migration time line, he said. "Basically, I think they're right, [but] I want to see more evidence," Hawks added. "I really, really hope that there can be some sort of genetic extraction from this [fossil]."
Humans in the Arctic 45,000 Years Ago?
Ann Gibbons wrote in Science: “In August of 2012, an 11-year-old boy made a gruesome discovery in a frozen bluff overlooking the Arctic Ocean. While exploring the foggy coast of Yenisei Bay, about 2000 kilometers south of the North Pole, he came upon the leg bones of a woolly mammoth eroding out of frozen sediments. Scientists excavating the well-preserved creature determined that it had been killed by humans: Its eye sockets, ribs, and jaw had been battered, apparently by spears, and one spear-point had left a dent in its cheekbone—perhaps a missed blow aimed at the base of its trunk. [Source: Ann Gibbons, Science, January 14, 2016 ^]
“When they dated the remains, the researchers got another surprise: The mammoth died 45,000 years ago. That means that humans lived in the Arctic more than 10,000 years earlier than scientists believed, according to a new study. The find suggests that even at this early stage, humans were traversing the most frigid parts of the globe and had the adaptive ability to migrate almost everywhere. ^
“Most researchers had long thought that big-game hunters, who left a trail of stone tools around the Arctic 12,500 years ago, were the first to reach the Arctic Circle. These cold-adapted hunters apparently traversed Siberia and the Bering Straits at least 15,000 years ago (and new dates suggest humans may have been in the Americas as early as 18,500 years ago). But in 2004, researchers pushed that date further back in time when they discovered beads and stone and bone tools dated to as much as 35,000 years old at several sites in the Ural Mountains of far northeastern Europe and in northern Siberia; they also found the butchered carcasses of woolly mammoths, woolly rhinoceros, reindeer, and other animals. The Russian boy’s discovery—of the best-preserved mammoth found in a century—pushes back those dates by another 10,000 years. A team led by archaeologist Alexei Tikhonov excavated the mammoth and dubbed it “Zhenya,” for the child, Evgeniy Solinder, whose nickname was Zhenya. ^
“The big surprise, though, is the age. Radiocarbon dates on the collagen from the mammoth’s tibia bone, as well as from hair and muscle tissue, produce a direct date of 45,000 years, the team reports online today in Science. This fits with dating of the layer of sediments above the carcass, which suggest it was older than 40,000 years. If correct, this means the mammoth was alive during the heyday of woolly mammoths 42,000 to 44,000 years ago when they roamed the vast open grasslands of the northern steppe of the Siberian Arctic, Pitulko says. Researchers also have dated a thighbone of a modern human to 45,000 years at Ust-Ishim in Siberia, although that was found south of the Arctic at a latitude of 57° north, a bit north (and east) of Moscow. “The dating is compelling. It’s likely older than 40,000,” says Douglas Kennett, an environmental archaeologist who is co-director of the Pennsylvania State University, University Park’s accelerator mass spectrometry facility. However, he would like the Russian team to report the method used to rule out contamination of the bone collagen for dating—and confirmation of the dates on the bone by another lab, because the date is so critical for the significance of this discovery. ^
“Mammoths and other large animals, such as woolly rhinoceros and reindeer, may have been the magnet that drew humans to the Far North. “Mammoth hunting was an important part of survival strategy, not only in terms of food, but in terms of important raw materials—tusks, ivory that they desperately needed to manufacture hunting equipment,” Pitulko says. The presence of humans in the Arctic this early also suggests they had the adaptive ability to make tools, warm clothes, and temporary shelters that allowed them to live in the frigid north earlier than thought. They had to adapt to the cold to traverse Siberia and Beringia on their way to the Bering Strait’s land bridge, which they crossed to enter the Americas. “Surviving at those latitudes requires highly specialized technology and extreme cooperation,” Marean agrees. That implies that these were modern humans, rather than Neandertals or other early members of the human family. “If these hunters could survive in the Arctic Circle 45,000 years ago, they could have lived virtually anywhere on Earth,” says Ted Goebel, an archaeologist at Texas A&M University, College Station.” ^
The find also indicates that early Siberians were 4,660 kilometers (2,895 miles) from what was then a land bridge between modern Russia and Alaska. According to the Siberian Times: “A long distance, for sure, but far from insurmountable, opening the possibility that Stone Age Siberians colonised the Americas at this early point.” [Source: Anna Liesowska siberiantimes.com May 30, 2016]
North-South Genetic Divide Among Native Populations in East Asia
Chinese researchers Feng Zhang, Bing Su, Ya-ping Zhang and Li Jin wrote in an article published by the Royal Society: “East Asia is one of the most important regions for studying evolution and genetic diversity of human populations. Its importance is associated with the extensive presence of humans and their claimed ancestors over the last 2 million years, and with being the crossroads connecting America and the Pacific Islands. [Source: “Genetic studies of human diversity in East Asia” by 1) Feng Zhang, Institute of Genetics, School of Life Sciences, Fudan University, 2) Bing Su, Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Evolution, Kunming Institute of Zoology, 3) Ya-ping Zhang, Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-resource, Yunnan University and 4) Li Jin, Institute of Genetics, School of Life Sciences, Fudan University. Author for correspondence (firstname.lastname@example.org), 2007 The Royal Society ***]
“China, one of the centres of human civilization, comprises most of the geographical span, ethnic groups and languages of East Asia. In the past two decades, much effort has been made by researchers in China and their international collaborators to characterize the structure of genetic diversity of human populations in China. The most significant progress of such studies started with the observation of genetic distinction between the southern and the northern East Asian populations (Zhao et al. 1987). ***
In recent years researchers in China have made substantial efforts to collect samples and generate data especially for markers on Y chromosomes and mtDNA. The hallmark of these efforts is the discovery and confirmation of consistent distinction between northern and southern East Asian populations at genetic markers across the genome. With the confirmation of an African origin for East Asian populations and the observation of a dominating impact of the gene flow entering East Asia from the south in early human settlement, interpretation of the north–south division in this context poses the challenge to the field. Other areas of interest that have been studied include the gene flow between East Asia and its neighbouring regions (i.e. Central Asia, the Sub-continent, America and the Pacific Islands), the origin of Sino-Tibetan populations and expansion of the Chinese. ***
Genetic Markers and the Study Native Populations in East Asia
Chinese researchers Feng Zhang, Bing Su, Ya-ping Zhang and Li Jin wrote in an article published by the Royal Society: Genetic markers are the tools in studying genetic variations. The most important genetic markers in human genetic diversity research (Du 2004) are: (I) blood groups that can be detected in red blood cells, including ABO, Rh and MNSs, (ii) human lymphocyte antigens and immunoglobulins, including Gm, Km and Am, (iii) isozyme markers, (iv) classic DNA polymorphisms using restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP), and (v) contemporary DNA markers, including short tandem repeat (STR or microsatellite) and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). However, it is the introduction of mtDNA and Y chromosome markers that has made a profound impact on our understanding of the genetic diversity of human populations (Wallace et al. 1999; Jobling & Tyler-Smith 2003; Pakendorf & Stoneking in press). ***
Zhao et al. (1987) and Zhao & Lee (1989) studied the Gm and Km alleles (or allotypes) in 74 Chinese populations and found that there is an obvious genetic distinction between the southern and northern Chinese. By analysing a comprehensive dataset comprising 38 classical markers, Du & Xiao (Du et al. 1997) validated the genetic differentiation of southern and northern Chinese and showed that they are separated approximately by the Yangtze River. Chu et al. (1998) showed that such a north–south division can also be observed in Chinese populations using DNA markers (i.e. microsatellites). This genetic division is also consistent with multidisciplinary evidence in archaeology, physical anthropology, linguistics and surname distribution (Du et al. 1991, 1992; Jin & Su 2000). Furthermore, the results from Chu et al. (1998) demonstrated that the north–south division is not limited to Chinese populations and is in fact a reflection of a north–south division of East Asian populations. In the last few years, genetic data on mtDNA and Y chromosomes have been accumulated at an unprecedented pace for East Asian populations. Again, a north–south division of East Asians was observed not only with Y chromosome markers (Su et al. 1999; Shi et al. 2005), but also with mtDNA data (Kivisild et al. 2002; Yao et al. 2002). These observations provided convincing evidence of a north–south division in East Asian populations. *** However, this well-established fact was not accepted without being challenged. Karafet et al. (2001) did not observe the north–south division in East Asians using a set of Y chromosome markers that are less polymorphic in East Asian populations and that over-represent the lineages brought in by recent admixture. In a different study, Ding et al. (2000) examined mtDNA, Y chromosome and autosomal variations and failed to observe a major north–south division. The southern populations in their study (Ding et al. 2000) are primarily the Tibeto-Burman (TB) populations, which have a recent northern origin, and therefore would blur the north–south distinction (Shi et al. 2005). A more extensive study of mtDNA lineages provided a much higher resolution and consequently a strong north–south division emerged (Yao et al. 2002). ***
The north–south division raises the question of whether the southern and northern East Asians (NEAS) are descendants of the same ancestral population in East Asia or originated from different populations that arrived in East Asia via different routes. To date, three main hypotheses have been brought forward on the entry of modern humans into East Asia: (I) entry from Southeast Asia followed by northward migrations (Turner 1987; Ballinger et al. 1992; Chu et al. 1998; Su et al. 1999; Yao et al. 2002; Shi et al. 2005), (ii) entry from northern Asia followed by southward migrations (Nei & Roychoudhury 1993), and (iii) southern and NEAS are derived from different ancestral populations, i.e. southern populations from Southeast Asia and northern populations from Central Asia (Cavalli-Sforza et al. 1994; Xiao et al. 2000; Karafet et al. 2001). Therefore, to understand the mechanism of genesis and maintenance of the north–south division, much needs to be learnt about the origin and migration of the East Asians. ***
'Denisovans,' New Human Species?
Research involving DNA seems to indicate there may have been an identified human ancestor living in Siberia at the same time as early modern humans. DNA markers found by scientists don’t match those of modern humans or Neanderthal and appears to have belonged to species that split off from the branches leading to modern humans and Neanderthal a million or so years ago. A lot questions about the finding remain and scientists that announced it have been cautious about making any bold claims about it.
The research was published online in the journal Nature in March 2010 by Johannes Krause and Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. The research decoded the complete set of DNA from mitochondria. If the research does hold up it suggests a migration out of Africa around 1 million years ago. Scientists are now low looking for similarities between the DNA of the “Siberian ancestor” and that of Neanderthal. Neanderthals, Homo erectus and homo heidelbergensis.
The existence of a new human relative was first revealed in early 2010 from a sampling of DNA recovered from a finger bone discovered in the Denisova Cave in southern Siberia. Researchers gave the new humans the informal name Denisovans. [Source: Malcolm Ritter, AP, December 22, 2010 ***]
The genome, recovered from the finger bone, showed that Denisovans are more closely related to Neanderthals than to modern humans. That indicates that both they and Neanderthals sprang from a common ancestor on a different branch of the evolutionary family tree than the one leading to modern humans. There's not enough evidence to determine whether Denisovans are a distinct species, the researchers said.*** Scientists have no idea what Denisovans looked like, David Reich, a Harvard University researcher and an author of the paper, told AP. Apart from the genome, the researchers reported finding a Denisovan upper molar in the cave. Its large size and features differ from teeth of Neanderthals or early modern humans, both of which lived in the same area at about the same time as the Denisovans. Neither the finger bone nor the tooth can be dated directly, but tests of animal bones found nearby show the Denisovan remains are at least 30,000 years old, and maybe more than 50,000 years old, Reich said. Yet, archaeologists have reported virtually no sign of the Denisovans, no tools or other indications of how they lived. Maybe that's because sites in Asia haven't been studied as systematically as Neanderthal sites in Europe, he said. ***
See Separate Article on Denisovans
DNA Says 'Denisovans' Roamed Widely In Asia
In 2010, AP reported, The Denisovan DNA code indicates they "roamed far from the cave that holds its only known remains. By comparing the DNA to that of modern populations, scientists found evidence that these "Denisovans" from more than 30,000 years ago ranged all across Asia. They apparently interbred with the ancestors of people now living in Melanesia, a group of islands northeast of Australia. There's no sign that Denisovans mingled with the ancestors of people now living in Eurasia, which made the connection between Siberia and distant Melanesia quite a shock.[Source: Malcolm Ritter, AP, December 22, 2010 ***]
"Scientists found evidence that in the genomes of people now living in Melanesia, about 5 percent of their DNA can be traced to Denisovans, a sign of ancient interbreeding that took researchers by surprise. "We thought it was a mistake when we first saw it," Reich said. "But it's real." And that suggests Denisovans once ranged widely across Asia, he said. Somehow, they or their ancestors had to encounter anatomically modern humans who started leaving Africa some 55,000 years ago and reached New Guinea by some 45,000 years ago. It seems implausible that this journey took a detour through southern Siberia without leaving a genetic legacy in other Eurasian populations, Reich said. It makes more sense that this encounter happened much farther south, indicating Denisovans ranged throughout Asia, over thousands of miles and different climate zones, he said. ***
Todd Disotell of New York University told AP he and colleagues were "blown away" by the unexpected Melanesia finding, with its implication for where Denisovans lived. "Clearly they had to have been very widespread in Asia," and DNA sampling of isolated Asian populations might turn up more of their genetic legacy, he said. Rick Potts, director of the human origins program at the Smithsonian Institution, said the new work greatly strengthens the case that Denisovans differed from Neanderthals and modern humans. Still, they may not be a new species, because they might represent a creature already known from fossils but which didn't leave any DNA to compare, such as a late-surviving Homo heidelbergensis, he said. ***
Potts also said the Melanesia finding could mean that the Melanesians and the Denisovans didn't intermix, but simply happened to retain ancestral DNA sequences that had been lost in other populations sampled in the study. But he stressed he doesn't know if that's a better explanation than the one offered by the authors. "I am excited about this paper (because) it just throws so much out there for contemplation that is testable," Potts said. "And that's good science." ***
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons except Saudi finger bones, CNN, Zhiren Cave fossils, Science Daily, Middle East migration routes, researchgate
Text Sources: National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Nature, Scientific American. Live Science, Discover magazine, Discovery News, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Time, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, AP, AFP and various books and other publications.
Last updated September 2018