Saturday, January 13, 2007
Anthropology: A 36,000-year-old skull from South Africa provides the first fossil evidence that modern humans left Africa 70,000 to 50,000 years ago to colonize Eurasia, new research suggests.
'Up until a few years ago, this was largely just a theory based on some genetics,' said Ted Goebel (info), an anthropologist at Texas A and M University who was not involved in the study.
"We're beginning to accumulate evidence from archaeology, from genetics, from physical anthropology that support this model or theory that modern humans spread out of Africa - 60,000 or 70,000 years ago," he said.
Scientists today can only theorize about how anatomically modern humans, who appeared in East Africa by 195,000 years ago, spread across the continent to the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and Europe.
...This theory is bolstered not only by this latest discovery but also by a separate find (*see below) in Russia, in which human teeth and artifacts have been dated to around the same age as the South Africa skull.
...The study was led by Frederick E. Grine (info)
Continued at "Skull Is First Fossil Proof of Human Migration Theory, Study Says" (National Geographic)
Based on the journal Science paper:
Late Pleistocene Human Skull from Hofmeyr, South Africa, and Modern Human Origins
The lack of Late Pleistocene human fossils from sub-Saharan Africa has limited paleontological testing of competing models of recent human evolution. We have dated a skull from Hofmeyr, South Africa, to 36.2 plus or minus 3.3 thousand years ago through a combination of optically stimulated luminescence and uranium-series dating methods. The skull is morphologically modern overall but displays some archaic features. Its strongest morphometric affinities are with Upper Paleolithic (UP) Eurasians rather than recent, geographically proximate people. The Hofmeyr cranium is consistent with the hypothesis that UP Eurasians descended from a population that emigrated from sub-Saharan Africa in the Late Pleistocene.
*Info on the Russian find was posted yesterday in "Earliest Evidence Of Modern Humans In Europe Discovered By International Team"
See the Washington Post's 'Science Notebook' entry "Ancient Skull Gives Credence To 'Out of Africa' Hypothesis"
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