The GREAT HUMAN DIASPORA: Evidence of an early migration of modern humans leaving Africa

The editorial [attached] is titled “When did modern humans leave Africa?” Which is a bit misleading (maybe sensationalistic?) because it has been known for decades that modern human (Homo sapiens) evolved originally (from other hominid species) in southeastern Africa –– at least 300,000 years ago –– and then migrated in a series of waves “Out of Africa”, first to the Levant, as well as eastward toward present-day China, and more recently through the Caucasus Mountains to Europe and northeastward across Asia toward present-day Mongolia. Many of the early Homo sapiens “waves” died out, and it wasn’t until 70,000-90,000 years that a wave became “successfully fixed” in the eastern Mediterrean, outside Africa.

This information is not to be confused with the Homo neanderthalensis and Homo denisove sublines. Neanderthals and Denisovans emerged as distinct hominids as old as 600,000 years ago and appear to have been successfully entrenched in parts of Europe and Southeast Asia, respectively –– long before Homo sapiens became irreversibly inserted.

The skeletal features of Homo sapiens include a globular brain-case, brow ridges that are divided into central and side portions, a flat and retracted midface, chin on the lower jaw, and narrow pelvis. Fossils showing many of these characteristics have been excavated from Ethiopian sites between 160,000-195,000 years ago. Possibly more primitive members of Homo sapiens have been found in present-day Morocco and South Africa –– dated at ~315,000 and ~259,000 years ago, respectively. Yet, the oldest known H. sapiens fossils outside of Africa were found in Israel and have been dated at 90,000-120,000 years old.

The attached full article describes fossils from a cave in Israel, providing evidence that one of the early Homo sapiens waves outside had occurred ~180,000 years ago. A maxilla and associated teeth –– recently discovered at Misliya Cave, Israel –– was dated to 177,000-194,000 years ago. These anthropological studies are consistent with recent DNA sequencing studies, which have speculated the possibility of at least one of the earliest dispersals of Homo sapiens ~220,000 years ago. The Misliya maxilla fossil is associated with full-fledged Levallois technology (i.e. creating a knife or scraper from a stone or bone) in the Levant, suggesting that emergence of this technology is linked to the appearance of Homo sapiens in the region, as had been previously documented in Africa.

Science 26 Jan 2o18; 359: 456–459 & editorial, pp 389–390

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