Were the first Europeans fom Asia?

Okay, so I’ve got kinda sorta a good news/bad news situation. The good news, more informative news is coming out about the big fossil tooth study that I shared with’ya last night. National Geographic is covering it better than anyone else, so until the publication comes out (tomorrow, hopefully — and that’s the bad news), all we got is what they have to share.

First and foremost, the sample size of this study is pretty remarkable. 5,000 teeth were studied. Hominin JawsThe analysis started way back from 2 mya Australopithecines to modern Homo and each tooth was scrutinized to over 50 different measurements and observations.

Paraphrased from National Geographic, what they found is that European teeth were more similar to Asian teeth than they were to African teeth. They conclude that Europe’s first early human colonizers were from Asia, not Africa. I’ve asked this before, why teeth? I’ll answer it again, the shape of the teeth offered clues about each species’ genetic lineages because teeth change shape very little once they are formed, and their shape is strongly influenced by genetics.

Lead author, Marcos Martinón-Torres, commented on these results,

“This finding does not necessarily imply that there was not genetic flow between continents… Just because people had come out of Africa didn’t mean that they couldn’t turn around and go back again.”

I think a much more safe conclusion to make is that it appears as if the current fossil record of hominid teeth is showing us that human ancestors spread in many directions before arriving in Europe. I wonder if and how does the genetic, archaeological, and linguistic evidence supplement this?

Here is a set of some of the human evolution publications that Martinón-Torres has been a part of:

10 thoughts on “Were the first Europeans fom Asia?

  1. Most of the genetic studies I’ve seen place the origin of the first Europeans somewhere in west India, so what’s the big deal? If Africans migrated to India sometime between 90,000 and 60,000 years ago, with their descendants finding their way to Europe between 50,000 and 40,000 ya, then there’d have been plenty of time for their teeth to adapt in all sorts of ways, I’d imagine. I guess the real question here is: what to these folks mean by “Asiatic”? That’s an awfully big continent, with all sorts of teeth rattling around on it.

  2. OK, I read the Geographic article and have a better idea of what is being claimed. Since teeth apparently evolve more slowly than other bones, the implication is that European teeth are like Asiatic teeth from homo erectus Asiatics, not “Out of Africa” Asiatics. This study is therefore being interpreted (by its authors) as supporting multiregionalism. What’s interesting is that the study is making claims about the genetic history — on the basis of TEETH — while the REAL genetic evidence — on the basis of DNA — points to an origin of modern Europeans in modern Africa, NOT homo erectus.

    This is an old story. The tooth people have always had problems with the replacement theory, going back to the distinction they’ve found between Sinodonts and Sundadonts, which tells them that modern Chinese and Indonesians must be descended from homo erectus with similar teeth.

    First of all, if you look around you when people smile, you’ll see that teeth evolve a LOT more quickly than is being claimed since there seems to be a awful lot of VERY different looking teeth just on the people you see around you every day. And that’s AFTER all the orthodontics and bridge building. I was born with some missing teeth, as were all my mother’s brothers, and in exactly the same places. Did that gene come from Africa or Asia, I wonder?

    When you are talking genes the proof of the pudding lies in the genes themselves, NOT teeth. The genetic evidence tells us that European, Asiatic, Amerindian, Melanesian, etc., etc. genes ALL come from Africa. If someone can find a gene that determines tooth type and THAT gene can’t be traced to modern humans in Africa then I’ll be impressed.

  3. “OK, I read the Geographic article and have a better idea of what is being claimed.” Actually not. I had no better idea than I had originally. Sorry to make all this fuss about nothing, folks. I’ll just go crawl back into my hole of pleistocenic ignorance.

  4. I’m afraid that you had not understand the paper. It is not AT ALL about multiregionalism, but it is only about placing some speciation events out of Africa. It means that the impact of the Asian populations is greater than that of AFrican in the colonization of Africa.

  5. Thats true!
    Europe and asia can be called eurasia because they are geographically connected!
    Scientisits believe that once europe was forest!
    No life was there!
    As asia was attached to europe so peeople from asia migrated to europe.
    If their genes show mutuations then this can be due to climate factor!
    But europeans are asians from this article!

  6. Omer,

    Appreciate the enthusiam in your comment, but I wanna make sure you know that forests are larger areas covered with trees and undergrowth. Trees are living things, and support other living things like mammals, birds, reptiles, etc. So I don’t quite get your logic in saying “No life was in Europe.” Do you know what you’re talking about?


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