Mount Toba Eruption – Ancient Humans Unscathed, Study Claims

At about 74,000 years ago, Mount Toba on the island of Sumatra erupted in a massive explosion that supposedly rocked the Middle Palaeolithic world to its very foundations, bringing contemporary human populations to their knees, reducing the global population level to around 15,000 individuals, thereby precipitating a so-called bottle-neck of human evolution, as proposed by Stanley Ambrose, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, discussed in this BBC News article from 1998, and in an essay at the Bradshaw Foundation, in the same year. However, recent discoveries made by Michael Petraglia, from the University of Cambridge, have now cast doubt on this theory…

(the team)…found the stone tools at a site called Jwalapuram, in Andhra Pradesh, southern India, above and below a thick layer of ash from the eruption of the Toba volcano in Indonesia — an event known as the Youngest Toba Tuff eruption.

The tools from each layer were remarkably similar, and Petraglia says that this shows that the huge dust clouds from the eruption didn’t wipe out the population of tool-using people. “Whoever was there seems to have persisted through the eruption,” he says.

This is the first archaeological evidence associated with the Toba super eruption, says Petraglia, and it contradicts theories that the eruption had a catastrophic effect on the area that its ash blanketed.

Following this eruption, a phase of dramatic global cooling ensued, evidenced by a 6-year global winter, which in turn was followed by the onset of the Würm glaciation event. Petraglia proposes that only modern humans could have survived such an event, giving as his evidence the supposed similarity of the lithic assemblage, and purported others, which he claims correspond with those found in Africa dating to around 100,000 bp, by which time modern anatomically modern humans had been extant there for some 100,000 years.

Petraglia thinks that modern humans — rather than Neanderthals or other hominins — are the only species that would have been able to persist through an event as dramatic as the Toba eruption. This theory will spur much debate, he admits, because modern humans were not thought to have reached India, from Africa, so long ago. “It’s controversial,” says Petraglia, “but it makes a lot of sense.”

Petraglia and his team compared the tools they found to others from Africa from different periods in this week’s edition of Science1. The Indian tools look a lot like those from the African Middle Stone Age about 100,000 years ago, when modern humans were thought to have lived, he says. “Whoever was living in India was doing things identical to modern humans living in Africa.” Neanderthal toolkits found in Europe are very different, he says. This is more evidence, he says, that the plucky ash-covered inhabitants of Jwalapuram were modern humans.

However, we know that modern humans weren’t the only individuals capable of withstanding sudden and extreme climate change, as Eurasian Neanderthals lived through the Riss glaciation which occurred from 180,000 bp – 130,000 bp, and they also survived the Mount Toba event, regardless of its supposed global impact. It’s possible too that Homo erectus lived on as late as 50,000 bp in Asia, and if Homo floresiensis turns out to be a genuine new species, they too survived this event (n.b. – but see this latest update from John Hawks, which I’ll attempt to address later)

Moreover, lithic assemblages, whether in India, Africa or Europe don’t always indicate exactly which species of Homo may or may not have been responsible for their manufacture, as pointed out by Stanley Ambrose…

(who) disagrees with Petraglia’s conclusions. “It is highly speculative to say the eruption had no impact,” he says. Ambrose argues that Petraglia’s sample size is too small to make proper comparisons with other tools. And, he adds, “stone artifacts cannot be used to differentiate Neanderthals from African moderns.”

…which raises the question of exactly which species of Homo would have been living in India at the time of the Toba event. At 74,000 years bp, it is generally assumed that anatomically modern humans were still resident only in Africa, from where they would emerge at around 50,000 bp to commence their purported total replacement of all other species across the globe, culminating in the extinction of the Neanderthals at around 24,500 bp.

However, we know this can’t be true, because as John Hawks points out in his post on this topic, Australia was populated by moderns by at least 50,000 bp, and quite possibly even earlier still, at around 60,000 bp, depending on one’s interpretation of the widely different/wildly conflicting dates given for Mungo Man. And if Homo erectus managed to navigate the open seas to Flores at 840,000 bp, it would appear that modern human behaviour is a great deal more ancient than in its comparatively youthful Middle and Upper Palaeolithic claimed origin, meaning that theoretically any species of human from Homo erectus up to and including early Homo sapiens could have prevailed in a post-Toba environment.

But even more crucially, there is evidence of modern and symbolic behaviours coming out of India at dates far earlier than these Middle Palaeolithic dates, as indicated by Robert Bednarik’s paper from here, in which he details what may be evidence of Indian palaeoart dating back to around 300,000 bp, making it roughly contemporary with ostrich shell disc beads from Lake Fezzan in Libya.

On a very generalised basis, it could be argued that there were constant pulses of emigration from Africa to Asia, dating back from the Acheulean, through the African Middle Stone Age, as indicated by the purported modern survivors of Mount Toba, followed by others at around the Middle/Upper Palaeolithic boundary of Eurasia, and especially western Europe, plus many other African exodus which have so far remained undetected.

On the other hand, others might argue that what we are seeing here is evidence for various multi-regional events, in which local populations in Asia and Africa evolved in some kind of parallel, possibly mediated by more or less frequent encounters and genetic exchange between the two populations over the course of hundreds of thousands of years.

But until fossil evidence is retrieved from sites like Jwalapuram, we will have no clue as to the true identity of the makers of the stone tools and other sites alluded to by Petraglia – even if, and when fossil remains are recovered, further clarification as to the geographical origin of those specimens may be in need of yet further clarification. (TJ)

see also: Early Indian Petroglyphs project

91 thoughts on “Mount Toba Eruption – Ancient Humans Unscathed, Study Claims

  1. It’s nice to see that anthropologists appear to be more willing to state publicly what has been obvious to the interested general public for many years now: The commonly presented model of early hominid/human migration patterns is overly simplistic in the extreme and in at least some respects completely wrong.

  2. Thanks Steve, although I should point out that I’m not anthropologist in the traditional sense as I’ve never studied the subject academically, so I can’t claim to speak for the profession as such – however, there is more data being published that indicates (to me at least) that the African exodus total replacement model of the Middle/Upper Palaeolithic, supposedly giving birth to modern mankind, does itself need to be replaced completely, and moreover the whole idea of archaic humans being inferior to ourselves, H.Sap, is seriously flawed.

    1. Thanks Tim, I come from an undefined zone that seems to exist between the physical and behavioral sciences and honestly appreciate those that are self-motivated to seek answers and think outside of the box. You are a true scientist.

      I am nearly 70 and have seen the “truth” about our human origin change at least 10 times. We appear to be closer to the answer. I even appreciate the “believers” (do not require any evidence) that have opposing views. It’s all good to me as long as we continue the search. Avoid those that claim to have the absolute truth about this issue…… they have quit searching. Best regards,
      Dr. Cal Harris

  3. From the studies I have seen, compare it to the Mt. Tambora eruption that was 28 times smaller than Mt. Toba. The destruction of archaic humans would be unavoidable. In 1816, the “year without summer” untold hundreds of thousands of humans died. The eruption would have wiped out all but a few thousand very tough Neanderthals.

    Mt. Toba dropped the planet into a 5 year winter, and continued with a 19,000 year ice age. Ancient archaic species that resembled us, and who at that time were hunter-gathers would have be wiped out.

    The Cambridge University study released on May 8th of this year confirmed that the DNA of the New Guinea and Australian people are all decedents of the North Africa group coming out at the end of the ice age about 55,000 years ago. The ending of the Mt. Toba ice age.

    The whole idea of archaic humans being inferior to ourselves is without doubt true. The modern humans coming out of Africa migrated as hunter-gathers down the sea coasts through to Asia. In 47,000 years we have gone from sitting in a cave around a fire to landing modern humans on the moon. The archaic humans had a much longer time frame than that to exist and never progressed farther nor improved their living habits as shown by their tools and living conditions.

    There is no convincing proof other than a few tools above the ash that any archaic humans survived the eruption.

    The archaics barely changed the way they made a tool in a hundred thousand years. We change clothing styles every year. There is no doubt they were inferior, that is made plain just by reading this computer.


    1. There is the problem though of Cro-Magnon man and other archaic humans, that were in Europe at the time when modern humans supposedly arrived. The Cro-Magnon skeletons that have been discovered show that they were generally taller(some up to 6’5″) and much more robust in the body, and their brain size being generally 1600cc larger than ours are today. Does this suggest that Cro-Magnons were more intelligent and bigger and stronger than we are? Did they have increased mental abilities that could have been capable of feats of telepathy, telekinesis and other increased meta-pyschical traits, that studies show we also have but are lying dormant within us? There was a dramatic event around 9700BCE that brought about the end of the younger dryas glaciation period so abrubtly, possibly even overnight. It is being postulated by Dr. Robert M Schoch that this event was caused by the sun having a Coronal Mass Ejection(CME) and that the related pre-historic stories and legends of an advanced society, living in a Golden Age of Man were disastraciously destroyed in a great deluge of the earth, which if a massive plasma field had hit earth it would have instantly melted all the glaciers and submerged thousand of kilometres of habitable land, the possible changes in solar radiation could also have affected mankinds mental abilities. This postulation also fits in the time frame of Plato’s Atlantis and other ancient stories across the world of a great deluge and the end of mans golden age and the gods leaving the earth.

  4. Hey Ken. You say:

    The eruption would have wiped out all but a few thousand very tough Neanderthals.

    But Neanderthals lived miles away, in Europe. And yet pre-modern humans survived in Southeast Asia, much closer to the eruption. How do you account for that?

  5. What pre-modern humans are you speaking of? I know of no findings of an pre-modern humans camps or living areas found after the Toba eruption except for a few tools that are argued were pre-human above the ash. That is the only evidence I am aware of, and that is disputed. As I said, as a hunter-gather species with nothing to gather and no way to store food, the likelyhood of survival was almost non existent. If that were not so, the DNA findings would not indicate that every person alive today is decended from appox. 10,000 modern humans out of North Africa. It would confirm that Southeast Asia was empty as they migrated out of Africa and down the sea coasts. See the May 8th study finally released by Cambridge University on the DNA studies confirming that we all came out of Africa about 55,000 years ago. The 10,000 DNA combinations have been known for sometime. We are all kin.

  6. Actually, if you will look at the it will explain with much more numbers and facts than I can put on this post. Ken

  7. The new Toba discovery looks to be extremely important:

    1. If Petraglia et al are correct, it would appear to be the earliest archaeological evidence for modern humans in that part of the world and therefore a huge boost for “Out of Africa.”

    2. It also creates some problems, however, because some sort of bottleneck is needed to explain all sorts of things that need explaining — such as discontinuities in the genetic evidence — also human phenotypic (and cultural) diversity generally. If the Toba explosion failed to generate a catastrophe sufficient to produce such a bottleneck, then something else must have done the job — a Tsunami perhaps.

    3. If, as Hogan states, the eruption would have produced a truly monumental catastrophe, then perhaps the only logical explanation is that small amounts of exceptionally hardy individuals might have survived in scattered areas throughout Asia. That too would have produced a bottleneck. I guess we just need to wait and see what other types of evidence will be found associated with Toba tuff.

    4. As far as hominids surviving in East Asia is concerned, the prevailing winds appear to have been northwest, which might well have spared any humans east of Myanmar.

  8. Hi Victor – thanks for your comment – Mount Toba seems to be one of those ongoing mysteries, with no-one really sure about its actual impact on the human population – a few years ago it was thought that virtually the entire human race at the time was almost brought to its knees, causing the so-called bottle-neck, although people like John Hawks dispute this idea – plus, those who opt for the ‘Out of Asia’ paradigm could equally take heart from this story, claiming that the modern tools were part of a regional development – some fossil specimens in context of the site would certainly tell us a thing or two, though whether the picture would be conclusively clarified is anyone’s guess…

  9. I think we should put much more study into the effects on humans that Toba caused than has been done. We have basically three species of hominiods before Toba. After Toba, we have a species that arises that is similar to the others, but the brain is different. The species before us had hundreds of thousands of years to develop and simply didn’t. Some of them made their tools the same way for a hundred thousand years.

    In about 47,000 years, modern humans circle the globe, killing everything in their way that was dangereous. Giant Cave Bears, Saber-Tooths, Cave Lions, you name it, it’s gone. We let live the dangerous animals we do now out of guilt. Something the other species could not ever accomplish, or even attempt.

    50-55,000 years after coming out of Africa, the modern humans land a man on the moon. Something radical happened. What is what we should be looking for. Will we ever find out? Who knows? Not me, but it is the direction for the right people to be going to look closely at. If the Cambridge Univerisity study of May 8th is correct, every person living today came from those migrations. The total DNA combinations come from 10,000 modern adult humans, there is some explaining left to do. The studies I saw would not produce a bottleneck that changes our nature from them to us. We are not them. We adapt, we change, we wonder, we build, we kill our own species in quanity. Something no other species on Earth does. I wonder who is studying this, if anyone? Everyone has the grant money for the DNA studies, but still not understand how we became who we are. Ken

    1. All the land animals would be in the same 5-6 year winter that the humans were. Most would die from lack of forage. Now if humans moved along the coast they could still eat seafood. When the tide goes out dinner is served. There would be less seafood but less people to compete for it. The seafood would be a huge source of EPA/DHA which would trigger brain development.

      A reasonable idea and one I’ve come to favour.

      1. I agree that a lot more study should go into the few humans that were left after the eruption. It is hard to imagine only roughly 15000 people left on such a huge planet. Those who did survive must of been the elite of who were living at the time. Some how I think that if it happened again would any of us be strong enough to survive. We seem to of softened up over the last 70000 odd years

  10. Ken, you comment,

    “In about 47,000 years, modern humans circle the globe, killing everything in their way that was dangereous. Giant Cave Bears, Saber-Tooths, Cave Lions, you name it, it’s gone.”

    You leave out another thing they killed that may or may not have been dangerous: the other human species they ran into.

  11. Terry T,

    If you look at the last paragraph, I noted that we change, adapt, we wonder, we build, we kill our own (I meant humans here) species in quanity. You just missed it, or I wasn’t clear what I meant.

    That is what is interesting to me. We are the only species that kill their own in mass quanities. Why is that? What makes us do what other species will not do? Some fight when they mate, and sometimes, but not often it is fatal. But they don’t line up and kill each other in mass quanities like we do. There has never been a sentient being on this planet that we know of.

    Evolution has played a trick and produced a species that may wipe itself out because it is so much more intelligent than any other species known. Perhaps so intelligent it destroys itself. That doesn’t sound intelligent, but we are what we are. The most savage, cold blooded killers that have ever walked this Earth. We have no remorse, and for most or all of our history it was kill or be killed by other humans.

    We make the dinosaurs look like new born kittens. They just killed for food or grazed, mated and died. Up against us, they would with no doubt, have not a chance to live. We would kill each other for the chance to kill them all. We kill for many other reasons than food. How did we get to this point? Wouldn’t it be interesting to know those answers? Ken

  12. Ken. I just went onto your “Veritas” site. You list a few “truths” but a couple of them are actually wrong.

    “The only hominid species known to survive were the Neanderthal … All Homo erectus, Java man, and any others that might have been on Earth, all evidence of their continued existence was gone.”

    Java man is now thought to have survived until perhaps as recently as 40,000 years ago if not more recently. The so-called Hobbits also survived until even more recently. Humans also survived in Africa.

    “Approximately sixty thousand years ago, as the ice age was diminishing, there suddenly appeared ten thousand modern humans … We are, according to blood MtDNA comparisons, ALL, every human alive on this planet today, descended from those ten thousand modern humans.”

    That’s just the mitochondrial DNA, our mother line. Its common origin seems to be at least 150,000 years ago. The Y-chromosome, our father line, has a much more recent common origin. The two lines are fairly independent of each other. Therefore other DNA from previous species may easily still survive today.

    “The problem confronting everyone is that at the time, there were no hominids on the planet alive except for Neanderthal. We simply appeared as we are today out of ‘thin air’ so to speak.”

    Human ancestors have survived continuously in Africa since we first separated from other apes. Changed through selection over the ages of course, but there’s actually no sudden change within Africa we can use as a cutoff point to define modern humans.

  13. Terry,

    Thanks for looking at the website. I should have updated it by now and have not. The information I had five years ago has changed. We still believe that 10,000 modern humans are all the combinations we decended from. I have since seen some sites in far eastern asia that could be survivors of the Toba eruption. So a small number could have survived the eruption, but it takes a minumum of 500 different DNA combinations to keep the group from having serious genetic problems and dying out. (Some claim 5,000) We don’t know how long they would have lasted. The Amish are going through some of those problems now. The study of Picarn Island, where the H.M.S. Bounty landed is a really sad tale of not enough combinations. There seems to be no tell tale signs of continued pre-modern humans after the eruption, even in Africa until about 15,000 years after the eruption. Except of course the Neanderthals until I saw the tool finds in Asia above the ash. That debate is still going on. There were no dated material that I could find at the time. I did look and asked everywhere. Nothing. Things do change though, and those statements could be wrong.

    What I do stand by is the conclusion that we all decended from those 10,000 adult modern humans, and that they were for some reason either much more intelligent (I believe that) and/or they were much more violent to each other and anything they felt was a threat. You have to remember what I wrote is fiction, and all “facts” are subject to change as we continue to study the evidence. It is just a story, but I used the “facts” available to me at the time. I should update my website. We did apparently appear out of thin air, simply because none of the other species could do what we do. There is no sign of gradual improvements in humans. These 10,000 appeared just as we are today. It is a big mystery as to where they came from and why all of a sudden. In the blink of the eye of time so to speak. Thanks for pointing those things out and I will update my site to reflect the new findings that have been made. Just remember, underlying all that, it is just a fiction book. I meant it to be a interesting alternative to creationism and evolution. We are here for a reason, just not what we have come to believe we are here for. The books reveals there is a very good reason we have no contact with other world civilizations. It’s just a story.



  14. Petraglia’s team finding does not prove that YTT did not have a devastating effect as suggested by Professor Ambrose. It only tells us that the population that settled in that area made the same tools or similar tools as the population before the YTT event. Why are people so skeptical about the YTT theory? Mass extinction due to volcanic eruption has happen before. One such example is the Siberian Traps that is thought to have caused the Permian mass extinction 250 millions ago. But Ken posed a different question. How did we come to be a species that kills its own kind on a large scale? On that count, humans is not unique. We can see that ant colonies wage war over territory. It may be between different species of ants but they fight to the end nevertheless. But with the level of intelligence humans possess, the destructive nature of our specie can be extreme. New technology and old habits is a devastating mixture. Ken also ask another question, how did the human specie remain unchanged in the stone age for hundreds of thousands of years and in a relatively short time in geologic terms got to the moon? This may sound outlandish but there seem to be evidence that this planet may have had extraterrestrial visitors in the past. If we are to consider Darwin’s theory as true. Then, we must ask, what biological advantage is there in the evolution of golden hair and bright blue irises?

  15. I won’t comment on the “extraterrestrial” angle, but do want to add a few more cents worth of commentary regarding the Toba findings. The evidence Petraglia found by no means tells us that the eruption of ca. 70,000 years ago would not have had a devastating effect on any humans living in India at the time. We are talking, after all, about an 8 foot thick layer of volcanic ash spread over many thousands of square miles! If Petraglia found very similar stone implements both above and below that ash, what that tells us (assuming he didn’t get sloppy) is that SOME humans in that place somehow managed to survive the catastrophe. Hawks wants to believe these findings put the bottleneck theory to rest, but they most certainly do not. An event of that magnitude would certainly have led to population annihilations and/or bottlenecks in all parts of the affected region. The very meaning of a bottleneck requires at least a few survivors, after all.

    What Petraglia’s findings seem to indicate, if his comparisons with African artefacts are to be taken seriously, is that “modern” humans were in that area during the time of the eruption. If his interpretation is correct, then “bottleneck” theorists like Oppenheimer must be taken very seriously indeed.

    What Ambrose wants to believe is that the Toba eruption precipitated some important and fundamental change among humans living in Africa, a change responsible for the Out of Africa exodus and the morphological diversity we see among humans in various parts of the world today. I’ve never been able to make much sense out of that. First of all, Toba is nowhere near Africa. Secondly, all the characteristics of modern humans, including language, are found equally througout both Africa and the rest of the world, so it would seem rather pointless to associate some sort of fundamental intelligence spurt with the Out of Africa migration. Finally, if human morphological diversity originated in Africa, why do we find so much of it outside of Africa?

    If Toba precipitated modern human diversity, then modern humans would have had to be living downwind of the eruption when it occured and would thereby have been affected by at least one and possibly more bottlenecks. Humans living to the east of Toba would NOT have been so affected — and would still resemble Africans, which so many indigenous groups in SE Asia and Melanesia in fact do.

    Petraglia’s findings reinforce such a theory, contrary to what individuals such as Hawks might want to believe.

  16. Victor wrote, “What Petraglia’s findings seem to indicate … is that “modern” humans were in that area during the time of the eruption”. This puts modern humans in India by 70,000 years ago. This makes an occupation of Australia by 60,000 years possible but contradicts many dates given for a single out of Africa origin. In fact the greatest difficulty with the theory is that no-one can come up with any real evidence for a date. A date of 40,000 years seems consistent with a possible movement INTO Africa though. And we know from fossils that modern-looking humans had reached the Middle East by about 90,000 years ago. They were then replaced there by Neanderthals until about 60,000 years ago, so perhaps the single origin theory should be more like a double origin theory.

    Free Citizen wrote, “what biological advantage is there in the evolution of golden hair and bright blue irises?” It would pay us to remember that there characteristics are usually associated with pale skin. In fact people with that pale skin become darker under the influence of summer sun. How would we explain any other creature that changed from white to brown with the seasons and had pale coloured eyes? Do we perhaps assume humans obey a different set of biological rules to the rest of nature?

  17. The first paragraph of Petraglia’s report ends with this sentence, “Its impact on Earth’s atmosphere and climate (5–7) and on local animal and plant populations remains a matter of contention.” Note how a biased view was exhibited before the piece began to describe the findings at the site? The report offers no explanation to counter the evidence of ice core oxygen isotope indicating that after the YTT event, the earth did experience the coldest temperatures in the last glacial period for a thousand years. The piece also does not state with a higher degree of accuracy how much immediately after the YTT it is implied that humans were present in the area. That was and still is tropical area. Flora and fauna would have recovered relatively quickly after the ash had settled. It would take no more than a few generations for humans to reach there from Africa. But if Petraglia’s team were to find stone tools in the ash layer itself, that would reinforce his argument further. However, that is not the case. So, his findings proves nothing.

    As regard to TerryT assertion about association with pale skin, this argument doesn’t hold much water. If skin can have pigment that turns darker with the summer sun, why does the hair not turn darker too during summer? Unlike humans, polar bear hair do change from white to yellowish during summer but the skin is black all the time and the eyes certainly isn’t blue. What makes humans so unique that it should have a different evolutionary trait apart from other animals? There shouldn’t be and there is no satisfactory answer to explain the need for golden hair and blue eyes.

    When General MacArthur landed on some remote island in the Pacific with his fleet, the aborigines thought he was god. Is it so hard to imagine that some time in our ancient past, similar things could have happened?

  18. TerryT wrote: “In fact the greatest difficulty with the theory is that no-one can come up with any real evidence for a date.”

    It’s true that there has been no tangible evidence for an “Out of Africa” migration date — until now. Petraglia’s research does in fact provide us with evidence consistent with the presence of “modern” humans in India at the time of the Toba explosion. He could be wrong, of course, and the tools he found could be the product of some type of homo erectus or neaderthal population. If he is right, however, then the stone tools found beneath the Toba ash would represent the first solid evidence of “modern” humans in that region at such an early date.

    As far as the earlier presence of modern humans in the Middle East, ca. 90,000 bp, the genetic evidence indicates that this lineage did not survive. There may indeed have been several “Out of Africa” excursions, but apparently none of the lineages survived — and only one left tangible evidence, in the form of fossil bones.

    The preponderance of genetic evidence tells us there was one and only one Out of Africa migration that produced the Asiatic, European, Oceanic and American populations extant today. As for the date of that excursion, it’s hard for me to understand why so many anthropologists have been so conservative with their dates. 40,000 bp is way too late to account for either Europe or Australia. 50,000 bp is still too close to the dates for the earliest occupation of Australia. 60,000 bp could be right. But Petraglia’s evidence suggests an even earlier date. Why would that be so difficult to accept?

  19. Victor askes, “Why would that be so difficult to accept?” It’s not. But even earlier is even easier to accept. After all just because the Y-chromosomes outside Africa probably go back no more than 60,000 doesn’t say anything about mitochondrial DNA. In spite of popular beliefs the two lines are remarkably independent. Mitochondrial DNA outside Africa could easily go back more than 80,000 years, close to “the earlier presence of modern humans in the Middle East, ca. 90,000 bp”.

    I’m afraid it’s impossible to conceive of any sort of genetic evidence that could prove “there was one and only one Out of Africa migration that produced the Asiatic, European, Oceanic and American populations extant today.”

    Free Citizen asked, “What makes humans so unique that it should have a different evolutionary trait apart from other animals?” That was my point. The explanation for seasonal colour change is likely to be the same for humans as for any other animal or bird from the same region. Not necessarily the same mechanism of course. Hence the hair needn’t change colour. Polar bears live much further north than humans would have been able to until they had invented warm clothing.

  20. Terry — it’s important to realize that the dating of genetic markers is extremely iffy and vague, so the 60,000 bp figure for Y may well be off by a considerable amount. mtDNA can be traced much farther back, apparently, but that has no bearing on Out of Africa. African “Eve” was born in Africa sometime between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago, apparently. And the “founding’ markers for Eurasia are also located in Africa way back when. Forget about the Middle Eastern migrants, their line seems to have come to dead end, there’s no evidence of it anywhere else.

    And yes there IS evidence supporting the “one and only one” Out of Africa migration. At least as far as mtDNA is concerned, I’m not sure about Y. All the mtDNA of all living non-Africans can apparently be traced to a single individual. If multiple OOA lineages had survived, the human mtDNA genome would look different. That’s my understanding, at least.

    As far as blond, blue-eyed, and like that, I see no reason why these have to be adaptations. They could also represent mutations that survived and then prevailed purely by chance, as the result of a severe population bottleneck, most likely in Europe, maybe due to Ice Age conditions. I see no advantage in blondeness or blue-eyedness. Black people survive very well in all parts of Europe as do light skinned people in Africa. Humans are remarkably adaptable and always have been.

  21. Victor. I was thinking about this mtDNA and Y-chromosome problem today. Now, we are fairly sure Y-chromosome line C for example evolved in Asia, probably the Iranian plateau but I’m not prepared to place a large amout of money on that. But the mutation must have occurred in a single individual. He must have had male children but they would have only half his autosomal or nuclear DNA. His grandsons in turn would only have one quarter of his genes, his greatgrandsons one eighth, and so on. Of course they may have been breeding with close relations so there may have been many shared genes but, say, members of the C Y-chromosome line moved a small way they would have had children with women who were even more different. The genes would even more rapidly become diluted. We do know Y-chromosome C’s descendants eventually reached Australia. I think we can presume that neither the individual with the original Y-chromosome mutation, nor even his grandchildren actually took part in that movement. It would have been a slow migration across Asia, picking up resident genes as it moved. Therefore, in effect, we can say the Y-chromosome itself moved independently of the autosomal DNA or genes. Resident elements of these genes could easlily remain in spite of the expansion of Y-chromosome C. The same thing with mtDNA. But mtDNA is replaced less readily than Y-chromosome, therefore even though “the dating of genetic markers is extremely iffy and vague” mtDNA’s root is more ancient than the Y-chromosome root. The root of both is in Africa but there is no reason at all why they might go back to a single migration, led by a Moses perhaps?

    A similar process has been assumed to account for many more modern Y-chromosome and mtDNA expansions but the probability it has been happening continuously throughout our evolution is usually conveniently overlooked. It seems people have an emotional need to believe we can point to a particular time and place for our origin. This need probably derives from beliefs we grow up with. We always have to fit new information with what we already believe.

    I agree “As far as blond, blue-eyed, and like that, I see no reason why these have to be adaptations.” However, whenever such things have happened in any other species we have assumed they are adaptations. Why the different approach?

  22. Well, first of all – Petraglias findings may be very interesting in and of themselves, but they do not prove that it was the same people living before and after YTT, as already pointed out. (Assuming so on the basis of what evidence Petraglia’s article cites seems terribly flawed to me. What it says is that the people that lived before and after, were on the same technological level.) The evidence doesn’t even say conclusively that they were of the same species.

    The stone tool manufacturing techniques that are indentified in the findings as Middle Paleolithic, spans some 300,000 years. That is a time period / level of technology that comprise both Homo Neanderthaliensis and Homo Sapiens (and maybe other coexistent species as well). In what sense then should this be intrepreted as remnants of “modern man” (in the sense most commentators here seem to mean)?

    It may well be that the pre-YTT deposits were made by later extinct individuals of Homo Neanderthaliensis and the post YTT-deposits were made by individuals of Homo Sapiens, living on a similar technological level. (Or both may be from cultures of Homo Neanderthaliensis, who were later replaced by Homo Sapiens.)

    Stone age technology at this level is just to uniform in complexity to prevent an accurate identification of who deposited the material i all but some cases. Look at figure 3 in the article – it doesn’t prove what the article seem to imply (continuity)…

    The technological spread indicated by functions 1 and 2 – the dimensions in the plot – show a very pronounced grouping (South African MSA). A kind of “mainstream” with variations, that completely dominates all findings.

    That means that, as far as these functions may be used to differentiate between different “strands” of stone age technology, only those that occupy a position outside of the main group can be used as conclusive evidence of continuity! Why? Because when the finds are all within the mainstream, they may originate from two wholly different sources who are both also within the mainstream. So we may have two cultures – both of whom belong within the mainstream technology – leaving behind evidence that we cannot tell appart.

    That would have been highly unlikely if both the pre-YTT and post-YTT deposits belonged to a smaller subgroup – and almost unthinkable if they showed some unique characteristics. (If they do, I can’t find any evidence of that in the article.)

    As far as i know, much of the variation in stone tool manufacturing techniques is attributed to “physiological” reasons, such as what resources – types of stone et.c. – are available at the location, more then “cultural” reasons.

    Two very different cultures in the same environment would tend to produce more or less the same tools in the same manner, because banging stones together can be done in only so many different ways…

    Secondly, even if the evolutionary development that is assumed to occur during the bottleneck is a necessary cause of the later developement is not in itself a sufficient cause.

    The first humans (Homo Sapiens) after the divide would still be on the same technological level as their predecessors. Therefore nearly indistinguishable from them (in these kind of material deposits). Even if the technological evolution picked up a tremendous speed later on, it was still a slow start. It would still be consistent with the findings.

    Oh, and thirdly – blondness IS an adaptation; to lack of sunlight. Less pigmentation allow for more effective synthesis of vitamin D in the skin (by ultraviolet rays). In a sun-rich environment that is no problem. (But sunburn is a big problem, hence pigmentation.) But close to the arctic circle the production of vitamin D is severely hampered. (It is recomended that people of darker skin adjust their diet if they live in northern Sweden for example, for this very reason.)

    Blonde hair and blue eyes are – as far as I know – two traits that have no function but can be explained anyway, since they are the result of deficient DNA. Exclude certain protein encoding alleles, and the hair and irises loose pigmentation. These traits are recessive – in any large population they would eventually disapear. But the population that adapted to the cold climate was small enough for them to “catch a ride” with other and more valuable genes.

    Although cross breeding with both aliens and Neanderthals have been suggested as the source, there’s absolutely no need for so fanciful explanations…

    1. All people alive today outside of Africa share the same DNA and the people within Afica do not have this same genetic make up. Also it has been shown that through the MtDNA, that we out of Africa humans, have between 1-4% DNA derived from Neanderthal origins. This suggests that the group of humans that left Africa around 60,000 years ago, initially met groups of Neanderthal and either only Neanderthal males mated with modern human females or that the male modern humans couldn’t produce any offspring from the union with Neanderthal females due to the species being too divergent from their common ancester. This admix of Neanderthal DNA with the African homo sapiens DNA could be the trigger that has resulted in the rapid advancement in intelligience and ingenuity that has led to this new line of Homo Sapiens Sapiens exclusively dominating the world today.

  23. I’m neither a geneticist nor archaeologist, so not in a position to argue strongly with regard to either of the above posts. Terry, the point of your argument regarding Y and autosomal markers eludes me. While it’s true that the autosomal markers from any individual are going to get diluted over time, the assumption, as I understand it, is that the overall statistics for relatively static populations will remain fairly stable over time. I’m not sure what the significance of Y chromosome line C is, but if it wound up in Australia and started in or around Iran, then it could have originated via a bottleneck event somewhere in S. Asia, very possibly due to the Toba explosion, no?

    What I do know something about is the musical evidence, which tells me that there is a huge stylistic gap between Africa and SE Asia and Melanesia, that could be traced to something that happened during the original OOA migration. We find an African musical signature only north and east of Toba, nowhere west of it, until we reach Africa itself, of course. We find most of the populations with an African DNA signature north and east of Toba as well. That, plus the need to explain human morphological and genetic differences, makes a strong case for a Toba bottleneck. If not that, then possibly some sort of huge Tsunami at a somewhat later time perhaps.

    Australian aboriginal music is also remarkably different from anything African, suggesting that the aborigenes could have originated somewhere in S. Asia as a result of the same bottleneck. That would explain morphological similarities with certain “Australoid” tribal peoples of S. India.

    Sapient — What Petraglia is saying is that the stone tools he found under the Toba ash were very similar to stone implements found in homo sapien sites in Africa. AND different from earlier types of tools employed by pre-homo sapien populations. If that turns out to be the case, then modern humans were indeed in S. Asia during the Toba explosion. He could also be wrong and the tools could have been produced by Homo Erectus or Neanderthals.

    My point about “white” skin, blonde hair, etc. was that such traits could also be explained as the result of a population bottleneck in Europe that had nothing to do with adaptation. Just because a trait could have been the result of adaptation doesn’t mean it had to have been. Paleosiberians and Eskimos are not caucasian and do not have blonde hair, despite their living close to the Arctic Circle.

  24. Sapient: “Less pigmentation allow for more effective synthesis of vitamin D in the skin (by ultraviolet rays) … close to the arctic circle the production of vitamin D is severely hampered.

    Two problems. How long ago did humans get close enough to the Arctic Circle for lack of sunlight to be a problem, and didn’t they have clothes by then? As Victor says, “Paleosiberians and Eskimos … do not have blonde hair, despite their living close to the Arctic Circle.”

    So what does that do to the lack of vitamin D theory? And why is the possibility of hybrids between Neanderthals and humans of African origin part of “so fanciful explanations”. Their separation probably had much the same cause as the separation between modern Europeans and the different humans they have ran into over the last few hundred years.

  25. Petraglia may of course be right – but I cannot see that the article proves that. I find their conclusion under-determined by the facts presented. Maybe I was a bit wordy an unfocused in my critique, so I’ll try to sum it up tighter:

    We have two contradictory hypothesis:
    A) Continuity between pre- and post-Toba cultures in this locale
    B) A bottleneck (due to the Toba-event) cause a global repopulation/OoA

    The artifacts found from before and after YTT, are more or less similar in technological level, composition, manufacture et.c. At least enough so that the findings are compatible with hypothesis A. But it is not enough to rule out competing hypothesis B.

    The material finds – as I read the article – could be the result of two wholly different populations, that just happened to leave similar enough material deposits. (Because both their origins had similar enough technology – i.e. were part of the “mainstream” group in figure 3, in the article.)

    Maybe I’m missing something, but I can’t find that the article presents enough data on the tool-findings that are at the same time supporting continuity between pre- and post-Toba cultures, yet distinguishes them from other possible sources.

    Yes, there are some distinguishing characteristics, but I don’t think that they are strong enough to rule out the possibility of parallel origins since a great part of them may very well be the result of adapting the same general technology (shared by many cultures) to the material circumstances at hand (what I called ” ‘physiological’ reasons” in my first post). Therefore the conclusion is underdetermined.

    As to the other issue, the adaptive value of pale skin, lack of blonde hair et.c. among innuites and paleosibirian populations, doesn’t constitute a counterexample to my argument.

    The mutations that give rise to the differences of, on the one hand, eye and hair coloration, and on the other skin tone, are separate and independent.

    There exists a marked evolutionary pressure to adapt skin coloration to the level of UV lighting. The correlation between skin coloration of indigenous populations and level of UV-light, can be described with a very neat equation.

    Innuite and some closely related peoples are exceptions – who don’t have suficiently light skin to correlate to the latitude of their habitats. But the reason for that is in their diet. The vitamin D insufficiency that produces the need of adaptation in the first place, is not a risk for them since their traditional diet is very rich on vitamin D.

  26. Sapient wrote, “We have two contradictory hypothesis:” Surely the easiest way to decide between them is to examine extinction in the wider mammalian comunity. Were there other extinctions in India associated with the Toba eruption? If so the bottleneck looks likely, if not it’s unlikely.

    As for “The vitamin D insufficiency that produces the need of adaptation in the first place, is not a risk for them since their traditional diet is very rich on vitamin D.” So why do they have an eyefold, greatly reduced facial hair and extra keratin in their skin? Presumably nothing to do with the environment they evolved in?

    1. if you are talking about the mongaloids the reason why they have a fold over there eyes is becuase of the snow glare there bodys made it to where they wouldent go blind from the glare.

  27. TerryT wrote: “So why do they have an eyefold, greatly reduced facial hair and extra keratin in their skin? Presumably nothing to do with the environment they evolved in?”

    Yes, precisely that. But not the environment they live in NOW, they were pre-existent. The arctic environment don’t select for these traits. (As far as we know, anyway. And we probably would.) But neither are they a problem – there’s no evolutionary “encumberance” in carrying these traits so they stay in their genome.

    About comparison to animal taxa before and after the Toba-event. Yes, that could be one way. Maybe someone will try it (either trying to draw conclusions from what data may already exist or by making new examinations).

    But it may not prove anything. There’s no way to know what kind of animal fossils there “should be”. And even if we don’t find what we expect, that doesn’t necessarily prove that animals of that kind didn’t live in the indian subcontinent anyhow. Maybe they didn’t but without leaving any fossil remains… Or, if they left remains, we might not find it because we look in the wrong place.

    That’s the problem with archaeology. Absence of evidence, isn’t evidence of absence.

  28. Sapient wrote: “Absence of evidence, isn’t evidence of absence.” I’ve only ever heard that argument from creationists and IDers. Am I correct in my conclusion in this case?

  29. As I see it, an 8 foot thick layer of volcanic ash is all the evidence anyone should need of the devastating effects of the Toba eruption. It may not have been so devastating as to cause major extinctions, but it would certainly have produced genetic bottlenecks. The real mystery is not whether a bottleneck could have been produced, but whether or not modern humans were in the area at the time. If Petraglia’s analysis of the stone artefacts is correct, they were. And if they were, it’s hard to see how they could not have been profoundly affected by the Toba eruption.

  30. TerryT wrote: “I’ve only ever heard that argument from creationists and IDers. Am I correct in my conclusion in this case?”

    You could not be further from the truth. I am as far as possible from a creationist point of view.

    The maxim – although sometimes abused by religious appologists – is one of the fundamental laws of scientific reasoning.

    But it IS possible to abuse it, of course. In this “catchy” wording, it is not very elaborate – it avoids one crucial thing that I find many creationists are ignorant about (or just don’t care about); the issue of positive or negative hypotheses.

    There are times when abscense of evidence IS evidence in itself. If you say “there is a coin in my pocket” and we investigate that without finding any evidence to support your claim, that disproves it. But only as long as our investigation would reasonably find evidence if there was a coin in your pocket.

    If, on the other hand, I say “you don’t own any coins!” I cannot prove that by saying “Look, I’ve checked your pants and there were no coins in the pockets” because you may own coins without keeping them in your pockets.

    The difference between the hypoteses demands radically different methods of proof.

    To make a very streched analogy to Petraglias article – he reports having found two coins, but that doesn’t prove that they were owned by the same person.

  31. Sorry for the insult Sapient. As soon as I posted it I looked back at your comments and realised I was totally wrong. Again, humblest apologies.

    Some time back Victor wrote: “the point of your argument regarding Y and autosomal markers eludes me”. The point I was making is that we can’t assume the presence of a particular Y-chromosome or mtDNA line says too much about population migrations. A single gene can move through a population without being intimately associated with a suite of genes.

  32. According to Sapient:

    “We have two contradictory hypothesis:
    A) Continuity between pre- and post-Toba cultures in this locale
    B) A bottleneck (due to the Toba-event) cause a global repopulation/OoA”

    I don’t see A and B as contradictory. A bottleneck is consistent with continuity, not extinction. If the tools found under and over the Toba ash were products of the same culture, as Petraglia claims, that does not mean no bottleneck occurred — even if there were only a few survivors in that locale, they would still have been making and using the same type of tools. Considering the 8 foot thick layer of ash it’s hard to understand how there could not have been a bottleneck.


    “Sapient wrote, “We have two contradictory hypothesis:” Surely the easiest way to decide between them is to examine extinction in the wider mammalian comunity. Were there other extinctions in India associated with the Toba eruption? If so the bottleneck looks likely, if not it’s unlikely.”

    According to a recent paper, “Big Cat Genomics” (, there could have been at least one:

    “Tiger genetic diversity dates back to only 72,000–108,000 years ago, when a founder effect established an ancestry for all modern tigers (Table 2). The dates correspond roughly with the catastrophic eruption of the Toba volcano in Sumatra about 72,500 years ago (82).” (p. 418)

  33. The Toba event made people wonder and the wandering ended up on the moon. This … until they found out that they were from Africa themselves.

  34. Victor, thanks for that. I’ve only just noticed your reply. The link doesn’t come through here but I’ll google it.

  35. Very interesting Victor. Thanks. I notice that Asian leopards didn’t suffer a bottleneck at that time, which is surprising, although the authors mention Asian elephants did.

  36. Terry, it would be important to know where in Asia each of these species was centered at the time of the Toba blast. It would have affected those west of Toba but not anywhere else, as the prevailing winds were apparently toward the west — or northwest. Note that many indigenous peoples now living east and southeast of Toba tend to have African morphology and genetics and also share certain important cultural traits with Africa (including what I call the “African signature” in their music) while those living to the west, including the Indian “tribals” apparently do not.

  37. Sapient –

    I simply had to let you know that I very much enjoyed reading over your extremely reasonable and completely logical arguements. You solidly clarified in so many words on a simple blog things that I have been desperately trying to explain to one of my extremely knowledgeable but damn stubborn professors for the most of my semester thus far! Even while that Terry T. fellow was trying to pick a fight you very confidently and indubitably provided explanations and the like. You sound like a seasoned debater to be honest!

    I myself am technically a Christian creationist (not all Creationists’ ideas go along with the scriptures in a literal sense) and a very religious one at that. I appreciate the value of symbolism in the scriptures that most religious persons do not. I do not quite understand how or why suggesting that an individual is a creationist would be considered an insult (frankly I can only assume that an individual would only qualify such an idea as an insult out of complete ignorance and bias). Nonetheless, the assertion that you yourself were a creationist made me laugh. Once again, I wholly appreciate your obvious insight on the studies of the paleoanthropological world… even the ideas – though they may be few – presented in your response to this article. By the by, sorry if this sounds like a nonsensical ranting compliment – it’s almost 5am over here and I haven’t gotten any sleep!

    1. The problem with people who view the creationist theory as simply stupid when compared to the fossil record is that the creationist view is still valid in the area of the origins and abilities of so called dormant proteins and amino acids combining to become DNA and then going on to begin replicating themselves and eventually evolving to become all the different forms of life as determined by the make up of the environment they develop in. If Creationists were to exclude any theories about evolution from their argument and stick to the one thing that cannot be explained by natural selection or random coincidence or in any of the laws of genetics or physics, we are still left with the question…who or what created DNA? Because, of all possibilities of the original creation of life, can only be explained back to the point of entry of DNA into the equation. Lets face it, there can be no other explanation for the formation of DNA, which is nothing more than a biological computer program, than it being created by some force outside of nature itself.

  38. Rebbecca K wrote, “that Terry T. fellow was trying to pick a fight”. Not really. I was merely drawing attention to the fact that the difference between humans pre- and post- Toba may not have been that great. There is actually nothing we can use to categorically distinguish “modern” humans from “ancient” humans. That brings up the question of when were humans “created”?

  39. It is pretty difficult to refute the “out of Africa” hypothesis when you look at the physical evidence. Humans were running sophisticated mining operations in the Lebombo Mountains of South Africa 100,000 to 80,000 year ago. These mines include tunnels worked by thousands of miners who dug tons or red ochre. The oldest known counting device was also found in these mountains: the Lebombo Bone, which represents a binary calendar. The Toba eruption, while later, does not seem to have effected populations in Africa directly, but it doubtless did contribute to teh global climate changes that would led to the Guirian Wet Period (likely the time of Noah’s flood). For more on this see:

  40. So Noah’s flood has now shifted to Chad? I thought it was in the Black Sea. Or in Mesopotamia. I suppose that’s the advantage of myth, it’s very flexible. Noah’s flood can be anytime you choose.

    And the Toba eruption was long before what your link claims as a date for the Gurian Wet period.

  41. One of my pet questions is we are obviously no relation to Neanderthal, but no one will come out and flatly say it. That has been proved over and over. They are at least 28 markers different from us. Apes are that close, but the physical differences, such as the contruction of the hips were so different. They were, to say the least, slow. They were made for forest, and mountain. Modern humans because they were fast, were made to operate on the steppe, in forest, about anywhere, as we do today. The intelligence difference is obvious, as the true modern human is only known to be in existence for 60,000 years. The difference between the other species and us include a serious shortening of the face, the fury that our particular species showed. Such as the deliberate extinction of the Giant Cave Bears, that no other species could accomplish. We literally came out of nowhere to take over the Earth, and Toba had to have great influence by reducing the populations of similar species.
    Tambora in 1815 erupted in about the same area and it caused the 1816 “year without summer” People in New England went hungry, it was a disaster in Europe, it’s always a disaster in Africa. Toba was 28 times as powerful as Tambora and caused a horrific drop in temperature for a 1,000 years before the ice age dropped in. With Tambora, hundreds of thousands of people all over the world died from hunger, weather changes, diseases, from the comparatively small Tambora, how could Toba not have been 28 times worse? Though I am a agnostic, I still come up with we are not from here, and though some people actually get upset at the thought of that being real. The possibility of that being true gets closer as time goes by and continuing studies keep coming up with the same question. Why are we so different, and how did we appear as we are today with the exception of climate, and survival changes over 60,000 years so suddenly? Even with the passing of 60,000 years, we can all trace our origin back to a very small group of modern humans (estimate 10,000 DNA adult combinations). Have any of you seen the skeletons of the so-called humans in the 100,000 to 80,000 years B.C.E.? They all have the thick jawbones, elongated faces, heavy brows of the other species. They may have mined, I don’t know, but I know they don’t look anything like us, but suddenly about 60,000 years ago, we appeared as we are DNA wise and have changed very little. We dominate the world like no one creature has ever dominated it, and we are the only sentinent being ever known on this planet. So many questions, and only half-answers, or no answers. We have a lot of work to do. As for the person who looked at my website, I still have not updated it, as there are some studies being done at the moment, and I will update it when they are finished. They should be more solidly conclusive than the Cambridge University/Stanford study released in April of 2007 as they are an extention of the results. Another interesting thing, do any of you see any of this in normal news? I don’t see anything and it is one of the most controversial questions of our time. One of the reasons it is so important is because about 99% of what we thought we knew, we now know is wrong. That makes it one of the most important questions of our time.
    Other than should we have let them hang Saddam, or threaten to let him loose? Well, the other would be why are they spending our Social Security money over there, and who is going to pay it back. So, those are two more important questions I guess, but as I said, we have a lot of explaining left to do. I wrote the novel as I did as a wake-up because no one whats to come out and say that Darwin was right, right up to modern humans, and we seem to be the exception for reasons still unknown. The truth of our origin is still not right, and we may never know, at least in our lifetimes, that is why I took my guess at it.
    Ken Hogan
    “Truth does not give a damn what we conceive. We survive or perish according to our ability to discern the truth correctly and act upon it.” – Ken

    1. Two points not brought up:
      1. If it has happened before, it will happen again. According the ice core data going back 800,000 years there have been regular and sharp climate changes. We are now in a hot period. Therefore I suggest we will soon have a climate change to a cold period.
      2. What are we to do about a sudden climate change. We need to prepare to mitigate the losses. We need to move people from the far north closer to the equator and change to root crops. In the Little Ice Age, Germans ate potatoes and lived, the French refused to eat potatoes and starved.

    2. Ken, you have so many anomolies and misconceptions in your story and it seems that you are pre-disposed to a set point of view about modern humans being so unique.
      First; all humans from outside Africa have 1-4% Neanderthal MtDNA within our genetic make up, back to the aprox. 60,000 year ago migration out of Africa.
      Second; Homo Sapiens that remained in Africa evolved aprox. 200,000 years ago, they were anatomically the same as us modern humans, we didnt change anatomically at the time of migration out of Africa.
      Third; We are not the only sentient beings to have roamed the planet. Homo Erectus was making tools, using spears and had tamed fire and migrated around the earth long before Homo Sapiens appeared, they evolved aprox. 1.8 million years ago. Other Archaic human species including Neanderthals also displayed these abilities as well as evidence of conceptual art and reverence for the dead, suggesting a belief in an afterlife. That means they were sentient beings just like us.

  42. Well, this discussion seems to have died so I am probably only satisfying my ego by posting here.
    However, as a non-scientist and a very ignorant person all round I keep wondering about those stone tools found on each side of the Toba ash layer. Could it not have been that Mr Flintstone was working away outside when he became aware of the darkening sky and ash starting to fall in a most unusual manner, dropped his tools and ran home. When the ash stopped falling, maybe a day or two later, he climbed out of his cave and started to do something about getting his next meal for which he needed some tools. So he made some more tools but found there were no animals to kill so put them down and went home.
    That is why the same type of tools are found on both sides of the Toba ash layer. They were made by the same person.
    Or is that too simplistic?
    Any of you academic types willing to sort out this ignoramus?

  43. @ Ken Hogan
    Hi Ken,
    I agree on the concept, that humans in 75000 BC were hunter gatherers and as such would die of famine almost immediately, when a unforeseen winter hits as was with Toba. But there is one parameter that you did not look at (on the Veritas homepage likewise). Toba lies just in the northern hemisphere. One of the basic rules in our climate systems are the winds, that blow volcanic fallout around the globe. Scientist can prove, that high atmospheric winds near equator in the northern hemisphere always will blow north and west then turn north and eventually turn east. The low atmospheric winds all go northerly directions as well. So fallout will be blow north and west north west only to start with, later turn north and east. The logic is: The northern Hemisphere probably went “dead” within a very short period. But in Africa, south of equator, the fallout in the first 6 years was by far not as bad and also the sun must have been far more visible and stronger. There our ancestors could have survived. I can not solve the point where my brain comes from, but the possibility of survival for Crom Magnom was surely there.
    BTW, I am buying your book, idea strikes me!

  44. Blond hair & blue eyes can easily be explained in an artic climate, or atleast blue eyes.

    People get so hung up on natural selection that they forget the other half of Darwin… sexual selection. There are some birds that for no practical reason show a preferencen for mating with a bird with a particular color (blue) or some such on its feathers.

    I did hear a study that showed that blue-eyed men showed a preference for blue-eyed women (but women blue-eyed or otherwise had no eye color preference in men) The presumption was that such a preference would evolve in men since blue-eyed couples should not have brown-eyed children, there would have been abandonment by men of children that CAN’T be theirs. Natural selection of paternal abandonment characteristics do not imply the necessity of CONSCIOUSLY being aware of genetics and recessive characterstics.

    In artic climates, blond hair would seem to let more sunlight in to the scalp than dark hair, which does raise the question of north Asia, but Scandanavia is more geographically isolated than Asia.

  45. It is such a refreshing pleasure to read comments from intelligent people, who can discuss and debate without bickering and insulting each other. I’m not an anthropologist, but this is all incredibly fascinating. All I ask is please define the first use of an acronym or abbreviation in your comments.

  46. Has anyone else wondered if the Toba Catastrophe might not have evolved into a story about an angel with a flaming sword keeping Adam’s descendants from returning to Eden? An event of that magnitude, with consequences of that duration, might easily spur enough speculation among survivors to have an effect on the gene pool – sexual selection on the basis of demonstrated superior intellect (e.g., who can come up with the most entertaining myth)?

  47. ladies & genleman,

    thanks a lot for your interesting discussion. One little request: Do you have any idea how many individuals of h. sapiens could or should have lived before the toba eruption?

    F. W.

  48. A couple of nights ago I saw a television special on the Toba disaster. The claim that all of us are descended from only 5000 women some 70,000 years ago was truly amazing. I find it more amazing since my major life hobby is genealogy. I am wondering here however not about the past and which of those 5000 women I am descended from but the implications of a future Toba. All of the rant from environmentalists about how man is destroying the environment “irrepairably” seems plain silly when we realize another big blow from the earth itself could drive us back into premodern days. The question remains how to we protect our posterity from this very real possibility. Modern society is built not on independence but by growing interdependence. The fresh squeezed grapefruit juice I buy (at a high price) in a super market in Shanghai came from Florida only a few days earlier. The Chinese in fact argued fanatically in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s about NOT depending upon foreign food imports. There memory of course was about the starvation that accompanied the Great Leap Forward and the collapse of agriculture in the late 1950’s. To me then the implications of Toba are on the necessity of reordering our own society to withstand the unknown that could be a comet from the sky (goodbye, dino) to another Toba. For all of you, this discussion has been really good and I appreciate the obvious effort of all to be civil and to provide so much careful, rational analysis to the problem.

  49. Interesting discussion about our ancestors. Perhaps as DNA analysis becomes more sophisticated, we’ll have more answers, but surely an event like Toba would have placed an enormous amount of pressure on the natural selection process, with only the fittest surviving to pass on their genes, and putting a premium on adaptability, which might help explain the technological explosion over the last 60,000 years. As to modern humans being the only ones to kill in massive quantities, it’s probably because earlier versions lacked the ability to do so. Even American Indians were known to drive entire herds of buffalo over cliffs just to harvest their tongues (a delicacy).

  50. Pre-toba eruption anatomically modern humans were 4 times as genetically diverse as fully modern humans are, while the genetic diversity within fully modern mankind is one THIRD of the difference between modern humans and neanderthals. That means neanderthals did not become phyliogenetically distinct from our own ancestors until the latter was decimated in the Toba eruption, so I call them homo diversus instead.

  51. What happens when an event like this occurs again? Somjething of this magnitude will happen again and will spell the end of the greatest age of man ever known. Will our knowledge be remembered?

  52. Michael Petraglia’s view is highly selective, incorrect, for the reasons Stanley Ambrose and others have stated. Petraglia’s view amounts to yet another British attempt to “blacken” India– Petraglia’s and other such attempts are racist nonsense.

  53. Modern genetic analysis actually show that our ancestors were rare all the time. That means they did not have to compete against each other. That may have been crucial to the evolution of language and culture since competition over places, status and ultimately resources causes deception, and there is no point in being able to talk when everybody is lying all the time. So-called “human vices” are probably the result of global overpopulation today. Humanity may be in danger of losing its ability of language and culture due to the latter. Google “the anti-congestion argument” for more information.

  54. Hi Ken,
    The argument you put over is absolutely incredible. What you speak about is something that has fascinated me for years and comes close to answering a lot of questions I have wondered about. There has to of been an outside involvement for people as we are today to of survived such a devastating blow as Toba and who knows what other calamities. As you say before Toba the inhabitants did nothing for 100000 years then after Toba we have achieved so much in such a little time. I am not much of a book reader but I will be trying to find yours and give it a read.
    Regards Robert

  55. you all are missing the point witch is there is no wasy of knowing 100% of any thing befor the toba event every thing is just speculation very well thought out speculation but speculation just the same.

  56. More than ever, it has become obvious to me that modern people have so thoroughly botched their account of the historical record that it must be regarded as almost meaningless. I have heard such far better extrapolation from enthusiasts on the internet than the official defenders of the orthodoxy for so many years I have to consider anyone who waves a degree as being the only hominid we can definitely regard as markedly inferior to ourselves.

    The Neodarwinists keep insisting it’s all just upward and ascending, displaying a clear size envy of our forebears. The evidence shows that there is a line of human parentage going back into antiquity so far we may never know our true origins. The evidence also shows that rather than marking anyone as inferior, we need to regard their circumstances and success in that environment before we judge them on any of their accomplishments.

    Sapiens has given the world the atomic bomb and highly quality streaming porn. The Neanderthals domesticated cattle, horses, developed a lactose gene, conjoined the dog into his family and mastered the art of taking shelter in caves from catastrophe. Looking at the two records objectively, Homo Sapiens can be easily judged a loud, obnoxious screaming Oompa-Loompa who has never done much of anything of record or lasting value. The reason we are listening to him yelling about how superior he is all the time is that he killed everybody else who was more modest and less expansionist.

    Go on, shake your midget penis again and bawl about how many hominids you have carpet bombed. Sapiens is all noise and fury and nothing much good has ever come of this rude camp unless you regard bodycounts as achievement.

  57. When Mount St. Helens erupted in Washington we thought that the destructive effects would be long term. However, the land self-restored with 2 years.

    Noah’s homeland was the region of Lake Chad. This is the only place on earth that claims to be his homeland – Bor-no, meaning Land of Noah. Further, Abraham’s ancestors came from the Sahara and Nile region and are today referred to as “Kushites.” That is their ethnicity.

    1. Victor, do you know the estimated physical size of the 72ka tigers? Is it likely that they were a small rainforest leonid (fishing cat/lynx size) that survived just east of Toba and enlarged as they moved northward to India and east to Amur but stayed small in the Indonesian rainforests? Interesting that tigers and elephants changed, leopards didn’t.

      TerryT, the 80ka pygmy arm bone found in the Narmada River valley may indicate the OOA2 preceded Toba only for some to backtrack westward. Stone tools found both above and below the Toba wash layer (accumulated tuff 8′ high only in flood plain) shows that older tools from tributaries washed down on top of the newer tools, not evidence of continued technology post-toba.

      Alice, please separate unsupported claims based on storytelling from scientific evidence. Bornu (Noah), Genoa (Noah, Jonah), Borneo (Noah), Manila (Noah, Moses) etc. Cultic tales explain tribal histories. Scientific theory explains natural history.

      1. DDedan,

        Glad to see you are still out there. Miss your provocative comments at Just Genesis. Here is a response to something we touched on last year related to the Kushite expansion:

        I never heard back from you about my research connecting the Nilotic Ainu and the Ainu of Japan. I hoope that my “storytelling” didn’t put you off.

        1. Alice, deleting my comments resulted in my departure.

          Ainu/Utari people of Japan & east Amur R. region, had dogs A(r)i-inu(t)ari
          Canaan/can-ain/ (ein/ain = wellspring, water-finding Beduin dogs)
          Egypt: Anubis, abu(bowwow)
          ken (Japn dog) /cane(Lat)/kuon(PIE)
          ken-ari/kuon-aris Canary Island guard dogs: bardino = atwin/arduino(brave) + inu/(d)in(gu)o
          ari/ati(atimwa(Cree), komatic(Eskimo)/anjing(Malay)/gou(Chin)=arindjo/dingo
          ari: Hottentot ridgeback dog (ridgebacks were first curled-up-tail dogs due to heterozygous mutation, homozygous mutation is lethal), India dog “ari”, “pariah” is from use of dogs to carry/ferry freight in pulku/parical/coracle (oval sled-boat), dogpaddling pair of dogs’ upright tails held by yeoman in front while one in back punted/pushed with punt stick/levered(origin of spoked/paddle wheel) forward, later collars & har(i)nesses developed dogsled teams.

        2. Elucidation of story telling vs science telling:

          AL: “While the similarity of humans to primates may suggest a common origin”

          DD: Humans are primates/mammals/eukaryotes…(comment deleted at Just Genesis)

          AL: “Chimpanzees flex their ankles 45 degrees from normal resting position. This makes it possible for apes to climb trees with great ease. While walking, humans flex their ankles a maximum of 20 degrees. The human ankle bones are quite distinct from those of apes, and apparently have been from the beginning”

          DD: See similarities: “For Twa men (n = 7 individuals; filled circles), maximum dorsiflexion ranged from 34.4 to 47.0° during vertical climbing (photograph by
          George H. Perry, reproduced with permission). The average maximum dorsiflexion
          of wild chimpanzees occurred at a mean angle of 45.5°”

  58. All people alive today outside of Africa share the same DNA and the people within Afica do not have this same genetic make up. Also it has been shown that through the MtDNA, that we out of Africa humans, have between 1-4% DNA derived from Neanderthal origins. This suggests that the group of humans that left Africa around 60,000 years ago, initially met groups of Neanderthal and either only Neanderthal males mated with modern human females or that the male modern humans couldn’t produce any offspring from the union with Neanderthal females due to the species being too divergent from their common ancester. This admix of Neanderthal DNA with the African homo sapiens DNA could be the trigger that has resulted in the rapid advancement in intelligience and ingenuity that has led to this new line of Homo Sapiens Sapiens exclusively dominating the world today. There is one anomoly and that is that Cro-Magnon man was larger, taller and stronger than us and his brain size was 1600cc larger as well.

    1. Keleb/v (kennel/kept/ken/cable(leash-lasso-halter))/carabiner) were common dogs (“unclean”), al hor were noble dogs.

        1. Yes.

          “Dar-Gaza means “crown of God” and refers to the Sun.” “The principle deity was Shamash whose emblem was the Sun. Shamash means “throne of the Sun” in Arabic”
          You need to know that Shamash (the 9th candle of the Jewish Menorah) was a lighter/spider/sparkler/spindle/firedrill used by neanderthals, the sacred thread (Aztec cipachtli/Hebrew tzitallit/Malay sipactali kickstarter see my blogpost Bakar-Dade at the Arc.

  59. Two different fossil pygmies found in Central India, one dated to 80ka, other maybe 200ka; I’d guess both actually date from 72ka, spoke proto-Bambuti and their groups went east/north/SE (Flores hobbit), while another group that spoke Mbar/k/twa went south at the Narmada River mouth to the Andamans, Sri Lanka, Queensland and Tasmania.

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