Wednesday, January 17, 2007
New evidence supports out-of-Africa migration ~50,000 BC
One more nail in the coffin of the traditional
Garden-of-Eden,Tower-of-Babel, etc literalism. PM
New signposts on the path of early human migration
19:00 11 January 2007
NewScientist.com news service
An old South African skull and an ancient settlement along the Don
River in Russia lend crucial support to the idea that modern humans
spread from Africa across Eurasia only 50,000 years ago.
African fossils show that modern humans had evolved by 195,000 years
ago. Yet the only evidence of modern humans outside of Asia for the
next 150,000 years is a couple of sites about 100,000 years old in
Israel, which appear to have been abandoned as the Ice Age grew more
It had been a mystery what our ancestors were doing before the first
evidence of their presence in Australia 45,000 to 50,000 years ago,
and about 35,000 years ago in Europe.
Genetic studies suggest that modern humans did not emerge from Africa
until about 50,000 years ago, but that late date has been
controversial. Now, two new studies support the genetic evidence, says
Ted Goebel at the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas
A&M University, US.
Originally found in a dry riverbed in 1952, the South African skull
was unsuitable for radiocarbon dating. One of the new studies has
dated the sediment encased inside the skull to 36,000 years ago, and
says the skull resembles the first modern humans who lived in Europe
at about the same time.
Citing that resemblance, the team led by Frederick Grine of Stony
Brook University in New York concludes that the South African fossil
and its European contemporaries shared a recent common ancestor, and
that modern humans had therefore arrived in Europe not long before.
(Science, vol 315, p 226).
The Paleolithic site in Russia is between 42,000 and 45,000 years old,
predating early human finds in central and eastern Europe. The only
human fossils are teeth that cannot be identified by species, but the
artifacts – including possible art and shells imported from more than
500 kilometres away – look like they were made by early modern humans,
argue Mikhail Anikovich of the Institute of the History of Material
Culture in St. Petersburg, Russia, and colleagues (Science vol 315, p
The location suggests that modern humans may have arrived from further
east in Eurasia than in the classic depiction, in which Cro-Magnon man
passed through Turkey into Europe, says Goebel.
Much more remains to be learned about modern human migration, but
Goebel says the crucial sites will probably be in "places like Iran or
Afghanistan, where European and US archaeologists haven't been able to
work for decades."