Isolated Tribe Raises Questions For ‘Out Of Africa’ Dogmatists

The case of an American missionary who was murdered by hostile natives who inhabit a remote Indian Ocean island while trying to spread the message of Christianity (against the law of India BTW, which states such remote tribes must be left unmolested unless they seek conmtact with civilisation,) caused some sensational headlines around the world. There are many stories of 'lost' Amazonian tribes who have avoidd contact with civilisation since the first explorers penetrated their countries. The mystique of the Amazon rain forest has made sure these are the stories that are published, romanticised and sensationalised. As well as the stone age tribes of Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia,There are others living in Indonesia's less explored islands, in New Guinea and still a few in Africa. What you may not have heard of until very recently at least, is a single isolated tribe which inhabits an island of the Anderman archepelago in the Bay of Bengal. It’s a small island, covering an area of around twenty square miles, which is home to a tribe known as the Sentinelese. The small group of inhabitants are believed to have lived on this island for ‘at least 30,000 years’, the direct descendants of people who left Africa around 75,000 years ago. The Sentinelese tribe recently after an are known to eat strangers who visit their island univited and nobody is invited, so if you go at all it's best to turn up mob handed and heavily armed. The recent notoriety of the tribe is the result of an American busybody, allegedly spreading the message of Christianity, who was murdered by the tribe. In so doing he’d broken an Indian law (under whose jurisdiction the tribe technically fall) which prevents outsiders travelling within 5 nautical miles of the island, both for their own safety and for the health of the tribesmen who are believed to lack immunity to common pathogens like the common cold virus. As is customary when something rather weird such as this occurs, the papers have delved into the history of this tribe and in so doing have inadvertently raised questions that proponents of the ‘Out of Africa’ theory of human evolution find rather uncomfortable. At this point it must be said that ‘Out of Africa’ has long been discredited as a theory of human development. Without wishing to over-complicate an article based around anecdotes, it suffices to say that in recent years scientists have found evidence of humanity in Europe that predates hominids in Africa by around 200,000 years. Similarly, studies in China have found human fossils of an age that throws into question whether their ancestors were ever in Africa at all. Other archaeological evidence points to humanity having originated in India, central Asia, Indonesia and Australia. All of which, when taken together, only proves it is foolish to make definitive statements based on a single piece of flimsy evidence about thing we can never hop to know the truth of. This mounting evidence against the "Out of Africa" theory for human origins led in 2018 to an awkwardly worded article in the Guardian, those famed proponents of the ‘weez allz from Afreekaa’ fallacy, which led with the title “No single birthplace of mankind, say scientists” – a loosely veiled admission that we bear no relation to modern Africans at all. Which of course does not prove humanity did not originate in the landmass we now know as Africa. Another recent discovery, the decodonk of Egyptian King Tutenkhamun's DNA, which revealed the ruler was Hellenic (Greek) rather than African shows that not all Africans are from Africa. Getting back to the Sentinel tribesmen, we can see that plainly anecdotal data casts into stark doubt this ridiculous theory. This tribe has no written language, and whether they have a codified language at all is highly doubtful. Whenever they’ve been contacted by expeditions, the do-gooders have been repelled by spears and poison arrows, the heads of which is made of animal bone. Photographs taken from boats and helicopters show the tribes-people standing on the beach fully naked, except for the odd waistband made of leaves, indicating that they don’t wear clothes. Their shelter consists of island vegetation pulled over broken branches and they apparently have no knowledge of agriculture, living off naturally occurring greenery and native wild pigs instead. It was also reported in recent years that the tribe keep two fires burning continuously, for they have seemingly forgotten how to recreate it. None of this is supported by strong evidence of course, any close up witnesses to the tribes behaviour have not survived to tell the tale. The reason for explaining these facts about this isolated tribe is to demonstrate that they’re no more advanced than our primitive ancestors were a million years ago. They’re certainly no more developed than humans 125,000 years ago, the time when archaeologists believe anatomically modern humans first developed a widespread ability to control fire themselves. Yet their basic anatomy resembles present day black Africans – who, it must be said, didn’t have a written language either until this was forced upon them by busybody British colonists in the 19th century. The only material difference between this tribe and the natives of modern Africa is the former’s lack of colonial presence over the last few hundred years. What does this tell us? Well, generally speaking, it tells us some rather uncomfortable things that the traditional enemies of academic freedom would rather we didn’t discover, namely that everything we’re taught in modern times about the history of human development is a lie. It tells us that we Indo-Europeans couldn’t have come ‘Out of Africa’, for if we did would we not at the same level of evolutionary development as the Sentinelese? After all, Northern Europe is and has always been far more inhospitable than the Bay of Bengal; the crop potential is smaller and the predators are greater, not to mention the hazards of Northern European climate in comparison to the temperate calm of the Indian sub-continent. On the basic level, it tells us something that everybody in Europe is aware of, but which nobody dares speak; that we are not merely two peoples of the same origin who’ve evolved differently ‘because of the weather’, but are in fact two separate sub-species, or even separate species altogether. Of course we’ll never be able to officially determine which is more accurate, because no anthropologist who values his career and freedom would dare to even pose such a question. The traditional enemies of academic freedom would rather have us believe that we are merely light-skinned versions of the Sentinelese who owe our pale disposition to ‘the weather’ and our advanced civilisation as a product of magic soil or another unexplained miracle of nature. The reason such investigation and classification is politically incorrect is because the aforementioned enemies of academic freedom fear the implications of such utterances, namely that we may develop ideas of superiority. This is rather foolish. Would man claim superiority over the canine family on account of our advanced ideas about shelter and technology? Obviously we are intellectually superior, but then again the canine is a superior predator, is faster and better adapted to certain modes of living. It is not a question of superiority, simply difference and divergence. What this news story about an interferinh westerner's death on some forgotten island in the Indian Ocean may inadvertently achieve, is an understanding among readers readers that there’s something very wrong with the official versions of anthropology and human biology especially in areas like 'Out of Afrca" dogman, on which we have been told and several generations of schoool children have been taught, The Science Is Settled. An elementary study of this people’s background and story may help us to bridge the intellectual gap between what we’re told and the reality of the matter. It is not wrong to question science, you are not a 'conspiracy theirist', 'right wing nut job', or 'science denier' if you say, "Well actually there are other theories about human origin, just as there are about anthropogenic climate change, genetically modified foods, the feasibility of exploring space, Big Bang theory or whether Artificial Intelligence will ever be truly intelligent.

Australian Aborigines and Eurasians Left Africa at the same time?

by Arthur Foxake



One of the internet memes propagated a broadcast by the Church Of Scienceology cult, those closed minded people who believe science is infallible omnipresent and omniescent is the "Weez Aalz From Afrieekaa" fallacy, so when I spotted online an article reporting a news study which, relying heavily on guesses and assumptions, made a case that all humans living outside Africa were put there by a mass migration between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago. As a recent archeaological project quite recently found evidence of human habitation in Norfolk, England around one million years ago I decided to check out this obvious load of bollocks to see where the scientists had either gone wrong or obviously faked their results to secure their research grants.

Here's an extract of the original article (reproduced under fair use terms)

Almost all living people outside of Africa trace back to a single migration more than 50,000 years ago

Australian Aborigines have long been cast as a people apart. Although Australia is halfway around the world from our species’s accepted birthplace in Africa, the continent is nevertheless home to some of the earliest undisputed signs of modern humans outside Africa, and Aborigines have unique languages and cultural adaptations. Some researchers have posited that the ancestors of the Aborigines were the first modern humans to surge out of Africa, spreading swiftly eastward along the coasts of southern Asia thousands of years before a second wave of migrants populated Eurasia.

Not so, according to a trio of genomic studies, the first to analyze many full genomes from Australia and New Guinea. They conclude that, like most other living Eurasians, Aborigines descend from a single group of modern humans who swept out of Africa 50,000 to 60,000 years ago and then spread in different directions. The papers “are really important,” says population geneticist Joshua Akey of the University of Washington, Seattle, offering powerful testimony that “the vast majority of non-Africans [alive today] trace their ancestry back to a single out-of-Africa event.”

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.

A decade ago, some researchers proposed the controversial idea that an early wave of modern humans left Africa more than 60,000 years ago via a so-called coastal or southern route. These people would have launched their migration from Ethiopia, crossing the Red Sea at its narrowest point to the Arabian Peninsula, then rapidly pushing east along the south Asian coastline all the way to Australia. Some genetic studies, many on mitochondrial DNA of living people, supported this picture by indicating a relatively early split between Aborigines and other non-Africans. But analysis of whole genomes— the gold standard for population studies— was scanty for many key parts of the world.

The early part of the comment thread was a run of the mill squabble between Bible fundamentalists and Science fundamentalists. When scientific fallacies about DNA, early human development and how we share 50% of our DNA with our siblings I decided to join the thread, its always fun to wind up the science worshipppers. My contribution starts with throwing a banana skin into the mix for the science fanboys to slip up on.

We begin with a commenter styled 'error error' erroniously trying to challenge the theory that Australian aborininies were actually the first humans and are a genertically unique race.

error error • a day ago
What a load of bull. Mungo Man predated Aborigines. Not to mention it's erroneous to declare facts when you are basing stances off culture and language that were never recorded in any sophisticated method. I'd be amazed if Aborigines where here more than a thousand years. No constructions other than an eel dam. Population of around 10-20K.

Paul Beck error error • a day ago
But aren't the scientists reaching their conclusions based off of genomic analysis - and not culture and language? Such science is pretty sophisticated.

Arthur Foxake Paul Beck • a day ago
A biologist named Ann Marcaida (unfortunately now deceased) was enlightening me on basic genetics once and told me we share about 30% of our genome with bananas. I in my turn was able to assure her that a resident of the US west coast would be exposed to more radiation from eating a banana a day for a year than from stuff leaking out of Fukushima. We also share a surprisingly high proportion of our DNA with amoeba. Genetics is not very sophisticated science at all. A lot of assumptions and guesswork are involved.

SeanM62 Arthur Foxake • 14 hours ago
Huh?? Hard to discern the argument from the banana. Your understanding of genetics?? Very much like "I know more, much more, than the generals about ISIS." There is a lot we don't know, but there is a new discovery every day, which makes genetics an extremely exciting subject!!

You have to love the sheer illogic of Sean's response. I demolish his attempts to be clever about bananas in my reply. Although I made it clear I am not a biologist and know little of genetics except what I have learned in conversation with biologists or read for general interest, I was involved in the nuclear industry for several years where I learned a lot about radioactivity and bananas.

Arthur Foxake SeanM62 8 hours ago
And thus in trolling for The Church Of Sciencology cult you show your ignorance. I do not have an argument on genetics, all I did was repeat what a very highly qualified research biologist told me. You should perhaps read of Rupert Sheldrake's genome wager with Lewis Wolpert on genetics - he may be unorthodox but he makes more sense sense than Dawkins.

As for the banana, well I know people like you are not interested in facts, but for those who might stumble on the thread and are, here's a wikileaks article explaining how the 'banana equivalent dose' is a standard measure of radioactivity in the nuclear industry.

And here's a handy calculator to help you work out the banana equivilent dose of anything and see that I was right about bananas (everything is radio - active to some extent and bananas are quite high on the scale.)

Whether Ann was right about genetics I could not say, but she did say that what we think we know of the subject is mostly based on the misunderstanding propagated by Dawkins (in the selfish gene). As she is not around to elucidate, a little research into epigenetics (the stuff in our genome we do not inherit biologically), now a recognised scientific field, throws most of the pseudo-scientific bullshit about (to misquote Zager and Evans) "Everything you think, do and say is written in your DNA.

And as for your tragically inept attempt at sarcasm in the reference to ISIS, it really depends on which generals you mean. Iranian and Syrian generals know quite a lot about ISIS I'd guess, Russian generals somewhat less and US generals nothing at all given that everything the USA has done to combat ISIS in the past three years has been the exact opposite of what needed to be done, assuming The White House has been telling us the truth and was actually trying to oppose ISIS rather than support them. Therefore what little I know about ISIS is certainly more than the US generals know because I would have been smart enough to avoid involvement in that mess, having learned lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fractal Film Dimensions Arthur Foxake • 16 hours ago
Arthur you're not a geneticist and you're simply not understanding how it works. It always makes me laugh when people claim to be experts about fields they know nothing about. You share %50 percent of your dna with siblings. Does that mean you share more with chimp than your own brother?

Here we have a perfect example of someone whose argument is, "You're not a scientists, you don't understand how science works," Does Fractal Film Dimensions know more than I do about the topic under discussion. We shall see.

Arthur Foxake @ Fractal Film Dimensions • 4 minutes ago
What makes me laugh is when science trolls trot out the stock answers according to the dogma of their faith. "You're not a scientist so you don't understand how science works," how many times have I seen that on the comments of various people who tried to inject something unorthodox into a thread. I wonder if you science fanboys understand how like the inquisitors of the medieval Catholic Church you attitudes are.

My comment made clear I am not a geneticist. What the biologist I mentioned told me about human DNA and bananas is in fact well documented, here's one source, you can find hundreds more if you put an hour into research http://www.scientificamerican

You say I share 50% of my DNA with siblings. Hopelessly wrong, in fact all humans share 99.9% of their DNA with other humans. . So are you saying my siblings and I are actually not related? Or that my siblings are bananas? What you are actually grasping for but failing to get hold of is that of the very small fraction of DNA that is not common to all of us humans, 50% is shared with my siblings.

Hmmm, you might want to edit or remove your comment, it seems I know far more about science than you.

TJ @ Fractal Film Dimensions • 8 hours ago
That's not an apples and apples comparison.

For example, you share a MUCH higher percentage of "DNA" with your brother than 50%, your brother and you ONLY differ in the specifics on the chromosomes donated by your two parents...

...which means that in the context of the percent of DNA difference between a man and chimp for example being closer to 98%, you and your brother would be closer to 100% in that context.

So, half of your DNA is from mom, and half is from dad...but, so is your brother's.

Your parent's DNA was also ~ 100% the same too....and so forth, give or take a mutation.

Its not the skin color or hair color differences, and other fairly meaningless differences we are talking about, its about whether you are still human, or, a fruit fly, or, fruit.

Fred Thomas @ Arthur Foxake • 5 hours ago
You obviously don't know anything about science, Arthur. It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.

This is the kind of comment I love, full of ignorance and self importance and it shows Fred's eagerness to tell me I know knothing about science so overwhelmed any vestige of common sense he may have had that he jumped it without having read any of the preceding comments. Had he done so he would have found confirmation of my points (which admittedly were made in a way that intended to wind up the science fanboys rather than accurately inform - there's no point preaching ruth to religious zealots) in the links provided. All he manages to show us is if all you can contribute is a tired old cliche it's better not to comment that to show how unimaginitive you are. (and I can assure him my mouth was shut when I typed all my comments - dribbling into the keyboard does not do computers any good at all.

Arthur Foxake Fred Thomas • a minute ago
I'm not wasting time trying to educate you Fred, take a look at my replies to the others in this thread who have said I don't know anything about science and inform yourself on how foolish I could have made you look.

error error @ Paul Beck • 11 hours ago
The problem is DNA is more or less unreadable after a short period. The hope in reproducing and find reconciling the missing data, is outside the abilities of a project as this.

TJ @ error error • 8 hours ago
They are comparing READABLE DNA from ancient samples, to CURRENT DNA in the population at, the fact that, yes, DNA CAN degrade over time, is not a deficiency in the study.

The use of proteins in ancient samples, to trace a lot of what DNA was used to trace, has added a new dimension to tracing relationships between long dead the proteins often survive far longer.

Also - a general reminder that almost all known living things share common DNA, you, and a sponge at the bottom of the ocean, share common DNA.

Essentially, the more ancient the "function", the more likely that the DNA that did that function billions of years ago, is still involved.

So, the percentage of DNA between a monkey and his banana, or a man and his banana or monkey, or the banana and a fruit fly, etc, is closer than you might realize.

There are many things about the science fanboys (and they are almost always boys) that make winding them up so much fun. The first is that in their evangelical zeal to suppress and questioning, criticism or ridicule of 'science' they do not seem able to grasp that someone using the name "Arthur Foxake" might not be entirely serious. Second is that many of them being borderline autistic they tend to read everything literally. For example, one would expect an intelligent person to spot instantly that anyone talking about anything so outlandish as radio - active bananas (even though bananas are in fact radio - active as shown in my link,) was playing some kind of trick. The others are too numerous to list.


The Logical Failure Of Science Fans
Thus in essence is the basis on which many science fans argue in internet comment threads. A question posted on Quora involved me in a discussion with a typical member of this group, he’s besotted with science and argues from the perspective of a religious believer rather that somebody who questions things objectively.

Human DNA Shock: David Icke Was Right All The Time
newly published scientific research shows that Mr. Icke may have been right all along. About 30,000 years ago early human ancestors interbred with a species completely unknown to biologists, geneticists and anthropologists it reveals.

Has Human Evolution Stopped - Are We Now Masters Of Our Own Destiny
The usual arguments around the topic of evolution revolve on the science versus religion war, did we evolve or were we created? That is really an unsatisfactory debate because unless the ancient texts of many religions are interpreted literally then the Big Bang could have been the result of an act of creation while evolution addresses the diversity of life, not its origin. When we consider the question of whether modern biology has made evolution obsolete however, that is fertile ground for those who like to speculate.

How climate change drove evolution in Africa
Climate Change drove human evolution two million years ago, the headline informed me. Really, WOW, I thought climate change only started when we all got cars and nice, warm homes and started going off to sunny places for holidays. Actually some of us have been trying to tell the warmageddonists that the climate is always changing ...

Albert Einstein Talks With Jon Rappoport About Newtonian Materialism and Determinism Another page from Greenteeth Labyrinth with shines the light of reason onto the scientific hocus pocus and magical thinking that presents fairy tales as science and asks us to believe things that are obviously not true. To read or listen to some of the convoluted logic used to head off critical analysis of the fallactious belief of science you'd think scientists were priests of some nutty religion. Scienceology?

How the climate effects evolution
Climate change is something that must be stopped at any cost, the scientists who get their research grants from posting junk science reports on climate tell us. but scientsts are all big fans of evolution aren't they. And without climate change imposing the kind of environmental stress that forces evolution, we might still be unscientific knuckle draggers.

Time Travellers
There are people who watch Doctor Who as if it is a documentary and dream of one day being able to travel anywhere in the universe or back and forward in time. The TARDIS is science fiction of course, but nature gave each of us our own Time Machine

Infinity And The Myth Of Space And Time
In debates with science heads about the nature of the universe it is easy to get them tying themselves in knots, all we have to do is nudge them into trying to explain their theoretical universe (a universe made out of mathematics one school of thinking insists) with the observable reality around us. All Einsteins theories were thrown off the rails by his friend Kurt Godel who in an attempt to proved Eistein's theories feasible succeeded in proving they weren't. Godel's work showed infinity (i.e. the universe) cannot be enumerated mathematically. Time and space are human inventions. The universe just is.

Peccavimus (poem)
A reflection on the way we have treated the world. I am not convinced by 'the science' that the main threat we face comes from carbon dioxide emitted by human activity, in fact I think that is just a diversion to steer attention away from the serious harm we are doing to our planet through many other human activities.

Mind Outside Time
When we talk of the great mysteries we tend to overlook time. we are so conditioned to be slaves to the clock here in our materialist universe we take time for granted. But I have always thought the human mind is the model for Doctor Who's TARDIS and if we were not all obsessed with counting hours and minutes our internal time machine could take us anywhere in infinity or eternity.

Silicon Valley Business Model Threatened As Wireless Carriers Start Blocking Online Ads
It looks like the founding hippy's insane business polan for the internet, get rich by giving stuff away, is finally about to foll apart. Typoically of the Californin dope head culture of Silicon Valley, the tech companies were stealing other peoples' resources to make their ad revenue.

Not Only Do Mobile Phones Cook Your Brain, They Cook Men’s Bollocks Too. Today’s news from the technology department will be of far more concern to men, particularly the type of men who don’t think having their heads fried is much of a problem because they keep their brains elsewhere, as the women in our lives are fond of telling us.

City of Berkeley to require cellphone sellers to warn of possible radiation risks
One of the fist themes of this blog was that mobile phones (and wi-fi etc.) do pose a risk to health. Here's the latest admission that the sceptics voices were right, from The Guardian

Wifi affects human memory
People are facing a host of illnesses ranging from brain tumors and leukemia to poor memory and concentration as they become increasingly engulfed by an “electrosmog” as Wi-Fi networks expand globally, scientists in Scandinavia have warned.
The team of experts report that electromagnetic fields (EMF) from mobiles, wireless LANs etc. can influence human blood circulation, respiration, temperature control, water balance and other bodily functions.

Earthquake Hits Stricken Fukushima Plant - Television News Ignores It
Mainstream media has again been caught ignoring news that might prove a tad inconvenient to The Scientific Dictatorship. An mag. 7 earthquake rocked the stricken fukushima nuclear plant which is still leaking radioactive waste two years after being struck by a larger quake and a tsunami. It was not mentioned on mainstream news until new media picked it up and the story went viral.

More Emerging Truth On The Dangers Of WiFi
Bit by bit the truth about health risks related to WiFi wireless internet and cellular telephony emerges into the public domain. DONT PANIC! The risks are easily minimised for adults, children are more susceptible. Inform yourself and control your technology rather than letting it control you.

Dangerous Wi - Fi? Why Lie When The Profiteers Have Political Control Freaks And Corupt Media On Their Side
Last week in The Independent another scheme to use technology as a means of stripping away our individual liberty and using internet technology was reported with the usual enthusiasm by another uncritical, science - worshipping , National Socialist journalist.

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Human origins are much more diverse than previously thought

Eleanor Scerri New Scientist Wed, 25 Apr 2018 12:00 UTC Imagine visiting a tourist attraction in any major world city. There are people from all over - a Nigerian family, a Chinese couple, a German school party, and more. They all look very different from one another, which isn't surprising given that their ancestors have lived in far-flung parts of the world for generations. Yet, everyone alive today can trace their origins back to Africa, so there must have been a time when such physical differences didn't exist, right? Actually, no. In fact, if you were to travel back to the very beginnings of our species and select a random group of humans, they would look unlike anyone living today in Africa or elsewhere. What's more, they would show extraordinary physical variation - greatly exceeding that in modern human populations. Far from becoming more diverse as we have adapted to life in different parts of the planet, Homo sapiens is more homogeneous today than our ancestors were. This is a real puzzle. It simply doesn't fit with the long-held idea that we arose from a single population in a corner of East Africa. In fact, mounting evidence from fossils, archaeological remains and genetic analysis points in a new direction. Now researchers, including myself, are trying to work out what it all means: why our African forebears were so physically different from each other, and how our species lost the huge variety it once had. The textbook story of our origins has seemingly solid foundations. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, it became possible to sequence the DNA in mitochondria. These tiny structures, which power our cells, are inherited solely from our mothers. So, by comparing the genetic variation in people living today, it was possible to track back to the common female ancestor of us all. Sometimes referred to as "Mitochondrial Eve", although not necessarily a single person, she lived in Africa between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago, geneticists calculated. Shortly after this revelation, human fossil remains from two Ethiopian sites were dated to 195,000 and 160,000 years ago, placing our earliest ancestors in East Africa. It was a neat picture. Furthermore, it seemed to solve a controversy surrounding what the first people looked like. Humans alive today have a characteristic skull shape, including a rounded braincase, a smooth, high forehead, a small face and a prominent chin. However, these features don't appear all together in any early member of our species. Instead, we see a wide variety of skulls that exhibit different mixes of modern features alongside archaic ones, such as large, robust faces, pronounced brow ridges and elongated braincases. This fuelled disagreements about which constellation of features should be used to distinguish early members of our species from now-extinct hominins. The mitochondrial research provided a solution: any fossil older than 200,000 years must be another species. This still left the problem of trying to reconcile the objects our ancestors made and used with the picture drawn from fossils and genes. For about 1 million years, hominins shaped rocks into hand-held axes and other large cutting tools, such as picks and cleavers. Then, there was a shift towards far more sophisticated techniques. This technology, known as the Middle Stone Age, focused on the chipped stone flakes that came off rocks, rather than the rocks themselves. These flakes were shaped and mounted onto wooden shafts in complex ways, often using glues and bindings manufactured according to specific recipes. The ability to create and combine items that don't occur together in nature in anticipation of a range of diverse tasks has long been seen as a reflection of advanced cognition. It is considered a hallmark of our species. But here's the thing: abundant evidence makes it increasingly clear that the Middle Stone Age didn't emerge in one location at the purported dawn of humanity. Instead, there was a wholesale, continent-wide shift to this new technology around 300,000 years ago. Other challenges to the dominant view of our origins have emerged in recent years. These include fossils found at Ishango in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which, although dated to just 22,000 years ago, have decidedly robust, archaic features. Then there's a skull with an odd, elongated braincase found in southern Nigeria. It is around 12,000 years old, yet looks more like fossils dating from 100,000 to 300,000 years ago than people living today. Some of these fossils had even previously been discounted as being early examples of H. sapiens. Compounding these biological anomalies, in 2014, I uncovered Middle Stone Age tools in the far west of Africa dating to the same late time period. When most other African populations had progressed to making diminutive stone tools known as microliths for tasks as diverse as tattooing and producing multi-component weapons, this group had retained the technology associated with the earliest H. sapiens. There are two possible explanations. Perhaps other hominin species were living in Africa alongside us for far longer than anyone imagined. Alternatively, these strange-looking beings were humans, raising the possibility that some pre-200,000-year-old fossils with equally bizarre looks might also belong to our species. The idea that we should cast our net more widely when fishing for early humans gains support from another quarter. Advances in genetic analysis have revealed the first glimmerings of an older origin for H. sapiens, with the discovery that we and our sister species, the Neanderthals, shared a last common ancestor about half a million years ago. Such developments have led some to question the classification of a diverse array of early fossils from across Africa. Then, last year, came the discovery of new early H. sapiens fossils. They didn't come from East Africa, nor were they less than 200,000 years old. Instead, they dated to a staggering 315,000 years ago and were found in the far north-west of the continent, in Morocco. "This find changes everything," says Philipp Gunz of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who analysed the fossils. "These early individuals had modern faces and modern teeth, but elongated braincases. This suggests that features of brain shape, and perhaps even brain function, emerged within our species."
Comment: And fossils found much further afield and of a much older date debunk the Out of Africa hypothesis: Skull unearthed in China could re-write our understanding of the 'out of Africa' theory of human evolution
Taken with the other evidence, this anthropological bombshell has persuaded a group of 23 researchers - including Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London, Mark Thomas of University College London, Lounès Chikhi of the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Toulouse and me - that we need to radically rethink how our species emerged. In an upcoming paper, we suggest that a diverse array of H. sapiens populations, displaying a mosaic of archaic and modern features, lived over an extensive geographic area from Morocco to South Africa between about 300,000 and 12,000 years ago.
human origins africa species
How could such widely dispersed and physically diverse populations all belong to a single species? One way to conceive of this is to imagine the human lineage as a river. Although there is only one river/species, as time passes, different channels branch off and rejoin it. Just as the river's braids are separated by islands that form and are submerged, so environmental barriers kept our ancestors apart, and adapting to different conditions. This fits with emerging evidence of asynchronous changes in climate across different regions of Africa as our species began to appear. For example, the Sahara repeatedly greened for short periods every 100,000 years or so, while equatorial Africa underwent extended periods of drought. These and other similar processes across the continent would have created fluctuating barriers, shifting human populations around and modulating their degrees of isolation. Moreover, studies of other African mammals indicate that such conditions explain much of the physical diversity found within a species. Stringer has called this new perspective "African multiregionalism". East Africa is still important in human evolution. However, the origins story featuring a single, small population in the savannah is out. Instead, a messy beginning involving multiple populations, regions and environments is in. Although this scenario is more complex, it reconciles the genetic, fossil and archaeological evidence. It also explains the early, pan-African emergence of the Middle Stone Age as an outcome of becoming human. Indeed, the oldest hints of this sophisticated technology may date to around half a million years ago, which coincides with the split between our ancestors and those of Neanderthals, reinforcing the idea that our species might have originated even as early as that. Subsequently, populations repeatedly came into contact with one another over timescales of around 100,000 years, exchanging genes and ideas. In this way, the process of morphological and behavioural modernisation eventually took place across the entire African continent. The archaeological record also reveals how these modern brains began to create a variety of technologies in different regions of Africa. An incredible flowering of material culture - featuring some of the earliest examples of art and ornamentation - occurred at the extreme ends of Africa between 130,000 and 60,000 years ago, when the central regions separating them were much less habitable. The objects from southern and northern Africa show early signs of sophistication and are comparable in their complexity. However, they are so utterly different from each other and anything seen elsewhere, they suggest that the populations who made them had been isolated for a long time. Zooming in on North Africa, I found that groups of people living in regions separated by ecological barriers such as deserts or rivers showed variations in their material culture. In other words, they appear to have remained relatively isolated from one another. If African multiregionalism is correct, it has big implications for genetic analysis too. "The diversity of early African populations and their specific patterns of mixing and separation are critical for how genetic data are interpreted and, ultimately, how the early prehistory of our species is reconstructed," says Chikhi. Studies have generally assumed that early H. sapiens exchanged genes in a random fashion, at a constant rate over time. African multiregionalism suggests otherwise. This would mean that the textbook view of humans originating in a single, small population is based on a misinterpretation. "There is no unambiguous genetic evidence for it," says Chikhi. The same goes for the idea that humans evolved in East Africa. "Genetic data alone do not support any single region of Africa over any other," he adds. Fruitful liaisons While interpretation of the genetic evidence may be less watertight than once thought, genetics still offers a unique window on our past. In particular, it might help resolve the hot question of whether our early forebears interbred with now-extinct hominin species in Africa. They certainly shared the continent with some, including the recently discovered Homo naledi, which inhabited southern Africa 250,000 years ago. Interbreeding with the primitive-looking H. naledi seems highly unlikely, but whether it happened with other species is another matter. We know there were liaisons much later, outside Africa, with Neanderthals and Denisovans, and genetic studies have identified very ancient branches in the human tree, which look like evidence that hybridisation happened in Africa too. Vast swathes of Africa remain unexplored for clues about our beginnings and may yet yield the crucial pieces of the human origins puzzle. In particular, discoveries documenting early human habitation in Asia's rainforests indicate that we ignore environments such as forests at our peril. Our species might have exchanged genes with late surviving hominins hiding out in forests. Adaptations to different habitats may also have kept human populations apart in Africa. Such scenarios would help explain why early humans exhibit such a profusion of forms. We see this mix of ancient and modern features in fossils and in objects people created right up until 12,000 years ago. Then it vanishes. What happened? Fossil hunters have yet to explore much of Africa, especially forests and deserts (above and below)
Fossil hunters have yet to explore much of Africa, especially forests and deserts (above and below)
© Eleanor Scerri Fossil hunters have yet to explore much of Africa, especially forests and deserts (above and below)
Fossil hunters have yet to explore much of Africa, especially forests and deserts (above and below)
© Eleanor Scerri
We know that 12,000 years ago marks the beginning of a revolution for humanity. This is when Earth's climate entered a warm and unusually stable period known as the Holocene, which persists to this day. It seems likely that people have always tried to control and alter their environment, but with climatic stability such experiments were finally able to take off. Farming was born. And this had big implications for human evolution. For a start, it shaped our genome. "The intense genetic selection precipitated by agriculture is like nothing seen before," says Thomas. "Lactase persistence - the ability to digest the main sugar in milk as adults - evolved rapidly during this time, giving a huge advantage to dairying populations over hunter-gatherers." Farmers are also much better equipped than hunter-gatherers to weather a range of environmental threats through agriculture itself. As a result of these genetic and cultural adaptations, farming populations grew and migrated into new areas so that over the next few thousand years, most people were living this way. The homogenising effect on humanity was so pronounced that anthropologist Marta MirazÓn Lahr at the University of Cambridge has dubbed it the "Holocene filter". Yet the truly astonishing revelation is that we were so diverse in the first place. As this new narrative is fleshed out, there are bound to be more surprises. Who knows what treasures lie in Africa's forests and in its central and western regions? My studies and those of other colleagues have only scratched the surface. The secrets locked up in DNA could be just as revelatory. No early member of our species has yet had its DNA sequenced because heat and humidity, common in Africa, degrade ancient DNA. But with improvements in genetic analysis it is surely only a matter of time. Somewhere, perhaps in a deep, cool cave, lies a fossil containing the blueprint of an ancient H. sapiens. Decoding it will open a whole new chapter in the rapidly evolving story of our origins.
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