The Complexity of the Peopling of the Eurasia

Science has published a new paper today looking at the peopling of Eurasia. The results of the paper challenge the single Out of Africa model by ultimately stating that it cannot fully explain the origins of modern humans.

Map of sites and postulated migratory pathways associated with modern humans dispersing across Asia during the Late Pleistocene. Credit: Bae et al. 2017. On the origin of modern humans: Asian perspectives. Science. Image by: Katerina Douka and Michelle O’Reilly

The authors primarily state that Homo sapiens spread to the extremities of Asia as well as Near Oceania, much earlier than we previously thought. The estimate there were multiple dispersal events out of Africa, beginning as early as 120,000 years ago by bring together multiple lines of evidence. For example, H. sapiens remains dated to between 70,000 and 120,000 years ago have been found at multiple sites in southern and central China. And 60,000 year old Southeast Asian and Australia mean they got there much earlier.

On the other hand there are compelling recent studies that pin down that all present-day non-African populations branched off from a single ancestral population in Africa approximately 60,000 years ago. Integrating both theories there are likely multiple, smaller dispersal of humans out of Africa beginning as early as 120,000 years ago, followed by a major dispersal 60,000 years ago since human species like Neanderthals and Denisovans interbred with modern humans. In all, it is now clear that several human species overlapped in time and space in Asia, and they certainly had many instances of interaction.

In light of these new discoveries, our understanding of human movements across the Old World has become much more complex, and there are still many questions left open.

7 thoughts on “The Complexity of the Peopling of the Eurasia

  1. The study was interesting and insightful in parts but failed to address a long list of anomalies. The presence of humans in Australia 65,000 – 80,000 years ago is kryptonite for the Recent Out of Africa Migration Theory. Quite simply you can’t leave Africa 60,000 years ago and reach Australia 65,000 years ago (let along 80,000). With the collapse of both the rapid coastal dispersion and the multiple waves theory, this leaves us with only one solution.

    1. The solution being humans simply had pulsations of migration from Africa. Obviously not a one time event.

      1. That was specifically looked at in a series of genetic studies which completed in 2016, all agreed that Eurasians and Australasians were descended from a single wave/population. The multiple waves theory has collapsed. The only evidence of an earlier wave/population related to modern humans present in Eurasia long before the migration 60,000 years ago which gave rise to all modern Eurasians, those humans are not considered ancestral (the only exception being that 2% of the genome of some Oceanians has been attributed to these former inhabitants of Eurasia).

        1. Reading is fundamental, “Yet the case isn’t closed. One study argues that an earlier wave of modern humans contributed traces to the genomes of living people from Papua New Guinea. And perhaps both sides are right, says archaeologist Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, a co-author on that paper who has long argued for an early expansion out of Africa. “We’re converging on a model where later dispersals swamped the earlier ones,” he says.”

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