Cro-Magnon skull
Prehistoric modern humans — previously known as Cro-Magnon men and scientifically labeled anatomical modern human — were essentially modern Homo sapiens. They would be unrecognizable if you saw them on the street today if they wore the same clothes as everybody else. Ancient modern humans created paintings and sculptures, wore jewelry, made musical instruments and used dozens of different kinds of implements including tools to make tools. Cro-Magnon men were named after a French rock shelter where their fossils were first discovered in 1868. Homo sapien means "wise man." [Source: Rick Gore, National Geographic, September 1997; Rick Gore, National Geographic, July 2000, John Pfieffer, Smithsonian magazine, October 1986]

Geologic Age 300,000 to 10,000 years ago. 300,000-year-old fossils found in Morocco. A modern human skull, dated to 160,000 years ago, found in Ethiopia in 1997. Footprints made 117,000 year ago 60 miles north of Capetown, South Africa appear to have been made by modern humans. A 100,000-year-old skull specimen found in a cave in Qafzeh Israel was dated using thermolumiscene and ESR.

Size : males: 5 feet 9 inches, 143 pounds; females: 5 feet 3 inches, 119 pounds. Brain Size and Body Features: the same as people today; Skull Features: slightly bigger teeth and slightly thicker skulls than people today.

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.

Early Modern Human Milestones

20120205-Cro Magnon bone.jpg
Cro-Magnon bones
400,000 years ago: when modern human is believed to have developed.

300,000 years ago: earliest evidence of modern humans, in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco.

195,000 years ago: earliest evidence of modern humans in East Africa, from Omo Ethiopia. 160,000 years ago, oldest modern human skull, found in Herto Ethiopia in 1997.

100,000 years ago: migration out Africa.

100,000 years ago: earliest evidence of burials.

60,000 years ago: earliest firm evidence of humans in Australia.

40,000 years ago: earliest firm evidence of humans in Europe.

30,000 years ago: earliest known cave paintings.

20,000 years ago: furthest extent of last ice age caused colder climate and abandonment of many northern sites.

13,000 years ago: earliest firm evidence of humans in the Americas.

10,000 years ago: most recent ice age ends.

Earliest Evidence of Modern Humans

Country — Date — Place — Notes
Morocco — 300,000 years before present —Jebel Irhoud —Anatomically modern human remains of eight individuals dated 300,000 years old, making them the oldest remains ever found.
Ethiopia — 195,000 years before present — Omo Kibish Formation — The Omo remains found in 1967 near the Ethiopian Kibish Mountains, have been dated as ca. 195,000 years old.

Jebel Irhoud skull

Palestine/Israel — 180,000 years before present — Misliya Cave, Mount Carmel — Fossil maxilla is apparently older than remains found at Skhyul and Qafzeh.
Sudan — 140,000–160,000 years before present — Singa — Anatomically modern human discovered 1924 with rare temporal bone pathology [Source: Wikipedia +]

United Arab Emirates — 125,000 years before present — Jebel Faya — Stone tools made by anatomically modern humans
South Africa — 125,000 years before present — Klasies River Caves — Remains found in the Klasies River Caves in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa show signs of human hunting. There is some debate as to whether these remains represent anatomically modern humans.
Libya — 50,000–180,000 years before present — Haua Fteah — Fragments of 2 mandibles discovered in 1953 +

Oman — 75,000–125,000 years before present — Aybut — Tools found in the Dhofar Governorate correspond with African objects from the so-called 'Nubian Complex', dating from 75-125,000 years ago. According to archaeologist Jeffrey I. Rose, human settlements spread east from Africa across the Arabian Peninsula.
Democratic Republic of the Congo — 90,000 years before present — Katanda, Upper Semliki River — Semliki harpoon heads carved from bone.
Egypt — 50,000–80,000 years before present — Taramasa Hill — Skeleton of 8- to 10-year-old child discovered in 1994 +

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.) +

Fuyan Cave teeth

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 +

Earliest Evidence of Modern Humans in Europe

Greece — 45,000 years before present — Mount Parnassus — Geneticist Bryan Sykes identifies 'Ursula' as the first of The Seven Daughters of Eve, and the carrier of the mitochondrial haplogroup U. This hypothetical woman moved between the mountain caves and the coast of Greece, and based on genetic research represent the first human settlement of Europe.
Italy — 43,000–45,000 years before present — Grotta del Cavallo, Apulia — Two baby teeth discovered in Apulia in 1964 are the earliest modern human remains yet found in Europe.
United Kingdom — 41,500–44,200 years before present — Kents Cavern — Human jaw fragment found in Torquay, Devon in 1927 [Source: Wikipedia +]

Germany — 42,000–43,000 years before present — Geißenklösterle, Baden-Württemberg — Three Paleolithic flutes belonging to the early Aurignacian, which is associated with the assumed earliest presence of Homo sapiens in Europe (Cro-Magnon). It is the oldest example of prehistoric music.
Lithuania — 41,000–43,000 years before present — Šnaukštai (lt) near Gargždai — A hammer made from reindeer horn similar to those used by the Bromme culture was found in 2016. The discovery pushed back the earliest evidence of human presence in Lithuania by 30,000 years, i.e. to before the last glacial period.
Romania — 37,800–42,000 years before present —Pe tera cu Oase — Bones dated as 38–42,000 years old are among the oldest human remains found in Europe. +

France — 32,000 years before present — Chauvet Cave — The cave paintings in the Chauvet Cave in southern France have been called the earliest known cave art, though the dating is uncertain.
Czech Republic — 31,000 years before present — Mladeč caves — Oldest human bones that clearly represent a human settlement in Europe.
Poland — 30,000 years before present — Obłazowa Cave — A boomerang made from mammoth tusk
Russia — 28,000-30,000 years before present — Sungir — Burial site
Portugal — 24,500 years before present — Abrigo do Lagar Velho — Possible Neanderthal/Cro-Magnon hybrid, the Lapedo child
Sicily — 20,000 years before present — San Teodoro cave — Human cranium dated by gamma-ray spectrometry +

Pedra Furada, Brazil

Earliest Evidence of Modern Humans in America

Brazil — 41,000–56,000 years before present — Pedra Furada — Charcoal from the oldest layers yielded dates of 41,000-56,000 BP.

Canada — 25,000–40,000 years before present — Bluefish Caves — Human-worked mammoth bone flakes found at Bluefish Caves, Yukon, are much older than the stone tools and animal remains at Haida Gwaii in British Columbia (10-12,000 BP) and indicate the earliest known human settlement in North America.

United States — 16,000 years before present — Meadowcroft Rockshelter — Stone, bone, and wood artifacts and animal and plant remains found in Washington County, Pennsylvania. (Earlier claims have been made, but not corroborated, for sites such as Topper, South Carolina.)

Chile — 18,500-14,800 years before present — Monte Verde — Carbon dating of remains from this site represent the oldest known settlement in South America.

Paleolithic Period

Paleolithic Period (about 3 million years to 10,000 B.C.) — also spelled Palaeolithic Period and also called Old Stone Age — is a cultural stage of human development, characterized by the use of chipped stone tools. The Paleolithic Period is divided into three period: 1) Lower Paleolithic Period (2,580,000 to 200,000 years ago); 2) Middle Paleolithic Period (about 200,000 years ago to about 40,000 years ago); 3) Upper Paleolithic Period (beginning about 40,000 years ago). The three subdivisions are generally defined by the types of tools used — and their corresponding levels of sophistication — in each period. The period is studied through archaeology, the biological sciences, and even metaphysical studies including theology. Archaeology supplies sufficient information to provide some insight into the minds of Neanderthals and early Modern humans (i.e. Cro Magnon Man) who lived during this time.

Earliest modern humans in Africa

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica: “The onset of the Paleolithic Period has traditionally coincided with the first evidence of tool construction and use by Homo some 2.58 million years ago, near the beginning of the Pleistocene Epoch (2.58 million to 11,700 years ago). In 2015, however, researchers excavating a dry riverbed near Kenya’s Lake Turkana discovered primitive stone tools embedded in rocks dating to 3.3 million years ago—the middle of the Pliocene Epoch (some 5.3 million to 2.58 million years ago). Those tools predate the oldest confirmed specimens of Homo by almost 1 million years, which raises the possibility that toolmaking originated with Australopithecus or its contemporaries and that the timing of the onset of this cultural stage should be reevaluated. “Throughout the Paleolithic, humans were food gatherers, depending for their subsistence on hunting wild animals and birds, fishing, and collecting wild fruits, nuts, and berries. The artifactual record of this exceedingly long interval is very incomplete; it can be studied from such imperishable objects of now-extinct culture. [Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica ^]

“At sites dating from the Lower Paleolithic Period (2,580,000 to 200,000 years ago), simple pebble tools have been found in association with the remains of what may have been some of the earliest human ancestors. A somewhat more-sophisticated Lower Paleolithic tradition known as the Chopper chopping-tool industry is widely distributed in the Eastern Hemisphere and tradition is thought to have been the work of the hominin species named Homo erectus. It is believed that H. erectus probably made tools of wood and bone, although no such fossil tools have yet been found, as well as of stone.^

“About 700,000 years ago a new Lower Paleolithic tool, the hand ax, appeared. The earliest European hand axes are assigned to the Abbevillian industry, which developed in northern France in the valley of the Somme River; a later, more-refined hand-ax tradition is seen in the Acheulean industry, evidence of which has been found in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Some of the earliest known hand axes were found at Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania) in association with remains of H. erectus. Alongside the hand-ax tradition there developed a distinct and very different stone tool industry, based on flakes of stone: special tools were made from worked (carefully shaped) flakes of flint. In Europe the Clactonian industry is one example of a flake tradition. ^

“The early flake industries probably contributed to the development of the Middle Paleolithic flake tools of the Mousterian industry, which is associated with the remains of Neanderthals. Other items dating to the Middle Paleolithic are shell beads found in both North and South Africa. In Taforalt, Morocco, the beads were dated to approximately 82,000 years ago, and other, younger examples were encountered in Blombos Cave, Blombosfontein Nature Reserve, on the southern coast of South Africa. Experts determined that the patterns of wear seem to indicate that some of these shells were suspended, some were engraved, and examples from both sites were covered with red ochre. [Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica ^]

Early Modern Humans in Africa

20120205-Cro-Magnon 2.jpg
Modern human skull
The first modern humans are thought to have evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago. Omo Kibish on the Omo River in southwestern Ethiopia is regarded by some as the oldest modern human site. Modern human bones found there in the 1960s — including part of two skulls and some skeleton — were initially dated to 130,000 years but later redated to 195,000 years ago using the latest dating techniques. Some question the dates and the dating method. Bone fragments dated to 120,000 have been found southern Africa. Other modern fossils dated aroudn 100,000 years ago have been found.

Arid conditions in Africa beginning 200,000 years ago during an ice age may have forced humans into isolated pockets near water sources. Separated by mountain ranges and deserts, the theory goes, individual populations of archaic “Homo sapiens” developed independently. By the time the glaciers receded and plant food and water was more plentiful, “ Homo sapiens” had emerged.

Genetic studies estimate that modern human emerged about 200,000 years ago. Genetic markers that are thought to date back to the origins of modern humans are most common among the San people (Bushmen) of southern Africa, the Biaka pygmies of central Africa and some east African tribes. The San and two of the East African tribes speak clicks languages, which some surmised might be the world’s oldest languages.

Herto Man

The skulls of two adults and a child found in 1997 near the village of Herto, 225 kilometers northeast of Addis Ababa, in the Middle Awash Afar region of Ethiopia, have been dated to be between 160,000 and 154,000 years old — 60,000 years older than the previously confirmed oldest known modern human fossils. With a few minor exceptions these skulls are exactly like the skulls of modern humans that live today: the midfaces are broad and the brow ridges are less prominent than in older hominins. Berkeley’s Tim White is among those that say it is the oldest modern human yet found. [Source: Jamie Shreeve, National Geographic, July 2010]

Herto skull

A remarkably complete large skull was found by a team led by Giday WoldeGabriel, an Ethiopian who is a geologist at Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico. The skull and bones were dated using pumice and obsidian and other volcanic rocks found with the fossils. The skull is some of the best evidence that modern humans first evolved around 200,000 years ago.

The large skull had a volume of 1,450 cubic centimeters, which makes it larger than the average skull of humans living today. A second less complete skull found later at the site might be even larger. The discovery was announced in 2003. One reason the announcement came so late was that many of the bones were found in fragments and they took years to assemble.

Large cleavers and other flaked stone tools used to butcher hippos and other animals were found with the Herto human fossils. Many animal bones at the site had cut marks from tools. The presence of snail shells and beach sand indicates the animals were butchered near a lake and because no evidence of fire was found at these places it is surmised they lived elsewhere.

The skull of the child found in Hero in 1997 was defleshed after death. Cut marks on the skull indicate the the skin, muscles and blood vessels were removed and lines were scraped on the skull, probably with an obsidian tool. The cut marks indicate that the bone was still fresh when it was done. This and the careful way it was done suggests that there was something more going on than mere cannibalism. The surface of the skull has a polished surface, which suggests repeated handling. Perhaps it was a greatly treasured relic. It was found with no other bones, possibly because it was separated from the body and buried in some kind of special funeral rite.

Those that argue Herto Man is not modern human point to its long face and various traits found in back of the skull that are like those found in older “Homo” species. They also point out that the stone tools he used were not much different from those used 100,000 years earlier. Additionally there is no evidence of beads, or artwork or other advances that have characterized other early modern human sites.

117,000-Year-Old Modern Human Footprints in South Africa

There is evidence of human habitation at Klassies River Mouth in South Africa, dated to 120,000 years ago. Footprints made 117,000 year ago at Langebaan Lagoon (about 60 miles north of Capetown, South Africa) appear to be made by a modern human.

The prints were left on a sand dune during a driving rain storm. The sand dried out and was preserved under layers of sand. After it solidified into sandstone it was exposed by erosion and discovered by South African paleoanthropologist Lee Berger.

The modern humans who made these prints are thought to have subsisted on shellfish, a rich, easy-to-collect source of protein. Some scientists have speculated that they spent a great amount of time in the water and the reason modern humans today have layers of fat like seals — in addition to sweat glands which are useful to creatures that live in out of water — is that the fat helped them stay warm during long periods of time spent in the water.

Spreading homo sapiens

Early Modern Humans at Blombos Cave in South Africa

There is some evidence that modern humans lived in Blombos, 185 miles from Capetown in South Africa, 80,000 to 95,000 years ago. The early humans who used Blombos Cave knew how to exploit their environment. Bones from hundreds of reef fish have been found. Since no fish hooks were discovered the scientists speculate that the fish may have been lured or directed into rock inlets and then speared. Many of the bones came from black musselcracker, a fish that still lives in waters near the cave.

A team led by Christopher Henshilwood of the State University of New York and Judith Sealy of the University of Capetown have found interesting , well-preserved 70,000-year-old artifacts in Blombos Cave thought to have been produced by modern humans. The cave was used off and on by groups of modern humans for tens of thousands of years, then sealed shut for 70,000 years, only opening up again about 3,000 years ago, which explains why the objects found inside are so well preserved. [Source: Rick Gore, National Geographic, July 2000]

The artifacts include awls of a kind that doesn’t appear for another 40,000 years in Europe and objects thought to be spearheads that are serrated and crafted with skill that doesn't appear in Europe until 22,000 years ago. The points — made of a kind of quartzite found 10 to 20 miles from Blombos Cave — are so beautifully crafted Henshilood theorizes they may have had some symbolic or religious significance.

Finds in the cave, some scientists say, also hint to the first signs of human reasoning, cognition and art . The team found ocher that may have been used for drawing or body painting. Some pieces contained cross-hatched designs that may be indications of some kind of symbolic thinking. Scientists have speculated that some type of language with syntax must have been devised to communicate the ideas necessary to come up with these advancements.

Maba Man: Evidence of Foul Play and Caring Among Ancient Man?

A cracked skull found in China may be the oldest known evidence of interpersonal aggression among modern humans, Archaeology magazine reported. A CT scan of the skull, which is around 130,000 years old and known as Maba Man, revealed evidence of severe blunt force trauma, possibly from a clubbing. Remodeling of the bone around the injury, however, shows that he survived the blow and possibly was well cared for after his injury — for months or even years. [Source: Archaeology magazine, March-April 2012, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Science]

20120205-Homo_sapiens_fossilis_Francia_milano 2.JPG
Modern human skull
Jennifer Welsh wrote in LiveScience: “The Maba Man skull pieces were found in June 1958 in a cave in Lion Rock, near the town of Maba, in Guangdong province, China. They consist of some face bones and parts of the brain case. From those fragments, researchers were able to determine that this was a pre-modern human, perhaps an archaic human. He (or she, since researchers can't tell the sex from the skull bones) would have lived about 200,000 years ago, according to researcher Erik Trinkaus, of Washington University in St. Louis. [Source: Jennifer Welsh, LiveScience, November 21, 2011, based on study published November 21, 2011 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences]

Decades after the skull bones were discovered, researcher Xiu-Jie Wu at the Chinese Academy of Sciences took a close look at the strange formations on the left side of the forehead, using computed tomography (CT) scans and high-resolution photography. The skull has a small depression, about half an inch long and circular in nature. On the other side of the bone from this indentation, the skull bulges inward into the brain cavity. After deciding against any other possible cause of the bump, including genetic abnormalities, diseases and infections, they were left with the idea that Maba somehow hit his head. The certainties stop there, though. The researchers suggest that all they really know is the ancient human suffered a blow to the head.

"What becomes much more speculative is what ultimately caused it," Trinkaus said. "Did they get in an argument with someone else, and they picked something up and hit them over the head?" Based on the size of the indentation and the force needed to cause such a wound, it's possible it was another hominin, Trinkaus said. "This wound is very similar to what is observed today when someone is struck forcibly with a heavy blunt object," said study researcher Lynne Schepartz, from the school of anatomical sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, adding that it "could possibly be the oldest example of interhuman aggression and human-induced trauma documented." Another possibility: Maba might have had a run-in with an animal. A deer antler would be about the right size to make the forehead mark, though the researchers don't know if it would be forceful enough to crack Maba's skull.

After the whack on the head, Maba shows considerable healing, suggesting he survived the hit. It could have been months or even years later that he would have died, of some other cause. These hominins lived in groups and Maba would have been taken care of by his group mates. Though nonlethal, the injury likely would have given Maba some memory loss, the researchers said. "This individual, which was an older adult, received a very localized, hard whack on the head," Trinkaus said. "It could have caused short-term amnesia, and certainly a serious headache."

"Our conclusion is that most likely, and this is a probabilistic statement, [the injury] was caused by another person,” Trinkaus told LiveScience. “People are social mammals, we do these kinds of things to each other. Ultimately all social animals have arguments and occasionally whack another and cause injury...It's another case of long-term survival of a pretty serious injury.”

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. |=|

Qafzeh skull from Israel

“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.” |=|

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.

Population Trends Beginning About 100,000 Years Ago

100,000 Years Ago: Michael Balter wrote in Discover: Artistic Behavior Appears: Most researchers date the origins of Homo sapiens to between 200,000 and 160,000 years ago in Africa. Yet for their first 100,000 years, modern humans behaved like their more archaic ancestors, producing simple stone tools and showing few signs of the artistic sparks that would come to characterize human behavior. Scientists have long argued about this gap between when humans started looking modern and when they began acting modern. University College London archaeologist Stephen Shennan has proposed that cultural innovations were likely due to increased contact among humans as they began living in ever-larger groups. Shennan adapted Henrich’s Tasmanian model to much earlier human populations. When he plugged in estimates of prehistoric population sizes and densities, he found that the ideal demographic conditions for advancement began in Africa 100,000 years ago—just when signs of modern behavior first emerge.” [Source: Michael Balter, Discover October 18, 2012]

65,000 “Years Ago: Stone Tools Spread: Population size could explain why the same stone tool innovations show up at the same time across wide geographic regions. Lyn Wadley, an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, has worked at the Middle Stone Age site of Sibudu in South Africa, where she found evidence of two sophisticated tool traditions dating to 71,000–72,000 years ago and 60,000–65,000 years ago. Similar tools pop up all across southern Africa at around the same time. Wadley says early humans did not have to migrate long distances for this kind of cultural transmission to take place. Instead, increasing population densities in Africa may have made it easier for people to keep in contact with neighboring groups, possibly to exchange mating partners. Such meetings would have exchanged ideas as well as genes, thus setting off a chain reaction of innovation across the continent.”

45,000 Years Ago: “Homo Sapiens Takes Europe: A bigger population may have helped H. sapiens eliminate its chief rival for domination of the planet: the Neanderthals. When modern humans began moving into Europe about 45,000 years ago, the Neanderthals had already been there for at least 100,000 years. But by 35,000 years ago, the Neanderthals were extinct. Last year Cambridge University archaeologist Paul Mellars analyzed modern human and Neanderthal sites in southern France. Looking at indicators of population size and density (such as the number of stone tools, animal remains, and total number of sites), he concluded that modern humans—who may have had a population of only a few thousand when they first arrived on the continent—came to outnumber the Neanderthals by a factor of ten to one. Numerical supremacy must have been an overwhelming factor that allowed modern humans to outcompete their larger rivals.”

25,000 Years Ago: “Ice Age Exerts A Toll: By 35,000 years ago, H. sapiens appears to have had the planet to itself, with the possible exception of an isolated population of H. floresiensis—the “hobbit” people of Southeast Asia—and another newly discovered hominin species in China. But according to work led by University of Auckland anthropologist Quentin Atkinson, human population growth, at least outside of Africa, began to slow down around then, possibly due to the climate changes associated with a new ice age. In Europe, total human numbers may actually have declined as glaciers began to cover much of the northern part of the continent and humans retreated farther south. But population levels never dropped enough for humans to start losing their technological and symbolic innovations. When the Ice Age ended, about 15,000 years ago, population began to climb again, setting the stage for a major turning point in human evolution.”

11,000 Years Ago: “Farming Sparks a Boom: Farming villages first appeared in the Near East during the Neolithic period, about 11,000 years ago, and soon afterwards in many other parts of the world. They marked the beginning of a transition from the nomadic hunting and gathering lifestyle to a settled existence based on cultivating plants and herding animals. That transition helped catapult the world’s population from perhaps 6 million on the eve of the invention of agriculture to 7 billion today. Archaeologist Jean-Pierre Bocquet-Appel has surveyed cemeteries across Europe associated with early settlements and found that with the advent of farming came an increase in the skeletons of juveniles. Bocquet-Appel argues this is a sign of increased female fertility caused by a decrease in the interval between births, which probably resulted from both the new sedentary life and higher-calorie diets. This period marks the most fundamental demographic shift in human history.”

First Great Human Population Explosion: 60,000-80,000 Years Ago

Contrary to what had been previously thought the first human population explosion occurred with hunter-gatherers 60,000-80,000 years ago, not with the first farmers around 10,000-12,000, a genetic study suggested. Popular Archaeology reported: “The prevailing theory is that, as humans transitioned to domesticating plants and animals around 10,000 years ago, they developed a more sedentary lifestyle, leading to settlements, the development of new agricultural techniques, and relatively rapid population expansion from 4-6 million people to 60-70 million by 4,000 B.C. [Source: Popular Archaeology, September 24, 2013 \=/]

“But hold on, say the authors of a recently completed genetic study. Carla Aimé and her colleagues at Laboratoire Eco-Anthropologie et Ethnobiologie, University of Paris, conducted a study using 20 different genomic regions and mitochondrial DNA of individuals from 66 African and Eurasian populations, and compared the genetic results with archaeological findings. They concluded that the first big expansion of human populations may be much older than the one associated with the emergence of farming and herding, and that it could date as far back as Paleolithic times, or 60,000-80,000 years ago. The humans who lived during this time period were hunter-gatherers. The authors hypothesize that the early population expansion could be associated with the emergence of new, more sophisticated hunting technologies, as evidenced in some archaeolocal findings. Moreover, they state, environmental changes could possibly have played a role. \=/

“The researchers also showed that populations who adopted the farming lifestyle during the Neolithic Period (10,200 – 3,000 B.C.) had experienced the most robust Paleolithic expansions prior to the transition to agriculture. “Human populations could have started to increase in Paleolithic times, and strong Paleolithic expansions in some populations may have ultimately favored their shift toward agriculture during the Neolithic,” said Aimé. The details of the study have been published in the scientific journal, Molecular Biology and Evolution, by Oxford University Press.” \=/

Why Did Modern Humans Survive and All Other Hominin Die Out

Why did our close relatives — namely Neanderthals, the recently discovered Denisovans and the hobbit people of Indonesia—die out while we went on to rule the world.Paleoanthropologist Rick Potts, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Human Origins Program, argues that it is because unique adaptability of Homo sapiens. [Source: Jill Neimark. Discover, February 23, 2012]~||~

Potts told Discover magazine: “My view is that great variability in our ancestral environment was the big challenge of human evolution. The key was the ability to respond to those changes. We are probably the most adaptable mammal that has ever evolved on earth. Just look at all the places we can live and the way we seek out novel places to explore, such as space. The classic view of human evolution doesn’t emphasize adaptability. It focuses more on the idea that we were inevitable: that famous march from ape to human. It’s a ladder of progress with simple organisms at the bottom and humans at the top. This idea of inevitability runs deep in our societal assumptions, probably because it’s comforting—a picture of a single, forward trajectory, ending in modern humans as the crown of creation. ~||~

“The tremendous fossil discoveries of late have given us a lot more knowledge about the diversity of human experiments, and diversity is the theme that needs to be underlined. Yet in spite of the great variety in earlier human species, we are the only one that remains of a diverse family tree. That might seem to indicate something special about us, but in fact even we barely made it. Between 90,000 and 70,000 years ago, our own species almost bit the dust. Several genetic studies show a bottleneck back then, a time when the total number of Homo sapiens was tiny. So we, too, were an endangered species.~||~

“You can go back more than 3 million years to Australopithecus afarensis [the famous “Lucy” species], which over time maintained the ability to walk on two legs and to climb in trees. That’s a primal adaptable feature near the root of our evolutionary tree, and it allowed this species to make its way between areas of woodland and open savannas to find food. Stone tools, which first emerged 2.6 million years ago, are another feature of our adaptability. When it comes to acquiring and processing food, a hammerstone is better than a big molar, and a knapped flint is sharper than a pointed canine. All manner of foods opened up to the genus Homo with stone tools. ~||~

“The emergence of a large brain, with complex connectivity among neurons, suggests that the brain itself is an organ of adaptability. It allows us to take in information about the environment, organize, form social alliances, and raise the probability of survival in difficult times. You can see in the archaeological record that our early ancestors transported food from the place it was found to another place where members of the social group would meet. We modified the shapes of stones, we carried food, made fire and protective shelters, and we eventually began to cultivate crops and manipulate the environment in order to grow them. All of these small ways of altering the immediate surroundings strike me as reasonable adaptations to the instability of habitats.” ~||~

Modern Humans Adaptability to Climate Change in the Past

In the discussion of how human adaptability helped us dominate the world, paleoanthropologist Rick Potts, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Human Origins Program, told Discover magazine: “I first got interested in this idea during my excavations in southern Kenya, where the changes in different layers of sediment, indicating different habitats at different times, were really obvious. Every layer suggested a change in vegetation as well as moisture, the kinds of other animals that were around, and the survival challenges faced by our ancient predecessors. I wondered if our lineage thrived precisely because our ancestors could adjust to those changes. I called this hypothesis variability selection—the idea that change itself was a selective pressure. Repeated, dramatic shifts in the environment challenged many species and may have actually selected for the features that have come to typify Homo sapiens, especially our ability to alter our immediate surroundings. [Source: Jill Neimark. Discover, February 23, 2012 ~||~]

“In the classic view, it was thought that we emerged on the savanna as conditions dried and cooled. We imagined our earliest ancestors in a backdrop of dry and grassy plains that basically forced the emergence of walking upright, tool use, and a larger brain, ultimately leading to language and culture and global success. ~||~

“Now, it’s certainly true that there has been marked global cooling and drying over the last 70 million years. But during the period of human evolution [since the appearance of our first direct ancestors in Africa], there were actually very pronounced fluctuations between warm and cool, between moist and arid. One way you can tell is by looking at different oxygen isotopes in the fossilized skeletons of ocean microorganisms. A heavier isotope is present during cooler periods, and a lighter one in warmer periods. I plotted out the variability in million-year intervals and found that about 6 million years ago, that variability went off the charts and kept increasing. That struck me as really strange, because that’s the time when the human story begins. African environments showed especially strong shifts between arid and moist climates during the past 4 million years. ~||~

“Our ancestors had to survive all these settings. I started to think, What if all that variability is not noise in the overall cooling and drying trend, but a very important test of the capacity of a creature to survive? This idea helps explain how we started out as a small, apelike, herbivorous species 6 million years ago in tropical Africa, and after a history of origin and extinction of species, what’s left today is us: a single species all over the planet with an astonishing array of abilities to adjust.” ~||~

Accelerated Evolution

The conventional wisdom for a long time was that humans had mastered their environments so well starting around 10,000 years ago, when agriculture was invented, it was no longer necessary to evolve. University of Michigan paleoanthropologist Milford Wolpoff told the Los Angeles Times, “People thought that with technology and culture there’d be no reason for physical things to make any difference. If you can ride a horse, it doesn’t matter if you can runs fast.”

But it turns nothing could be further from the truth: the speed of evolution for mankind is speeding up not slowing down, with some scientists estimating the pace is 100 times more than it was 10,000 years ago if no other reason than that there are many more people living in the world today. Wolpoff said, “When there’s more people, there are more mutations. And when there’s more mutations there’s more selection.”

In 2007, scientists compared 3 million genetic variants in the DNA of 269 people of African, Asian, European and North American descent and found 1,800 genes had been widely adopted in the last 40,000 years. Using more conservative methods, researchers came with 300 to 5000 variants, still a significant numbers. Among the changes that have occurred in the last 6,000 to 10,000 has been the introduction of blue eyes. That long ago nearly every one had brown eyes and blue eyes were non existent. Now there are half a billion people with them.

Siberian Ancestor: a New Homo Species That Lived at the Same Time as Modern Humana?

Research involving DNA seems to indicate there may have been an identified human ancestor living in Siberia at the same time as early modern human. 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 finging 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.

See Denisovans

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons except Earliest modern humans in Africa from Science magazine

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

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