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19 - Assimilation and modern human origins in the African peripheries

from Part III - Modern human origins: patterns and processes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 April 2012

Sally C. Reynolds
Affiliation:
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Andrew Gallagher
Affiliation:
University of Johannesburg
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Summary

Abstract

The vast majority of pertinent genetic and human palaeontological evidence indicates that an early transition from archaic to modern humans occurs in Africa. Interestingly, the earliest well dated modern human fossils all derive from eastern Africa: Omo Kibish KHS (196 ka to 172 ka) and Herto (160 ka to 154 ka), both in Ethiopia (ka = thousand years ago). This suggests that modern humans may have originated in, and ultimately radiated out of, eastern Africa into the ‘peripheral’ regions of Africa, defined here as northern Africa and southern Africa, as well as into Eurasia. Evidence of the earliest presence of purported modern humans from both African ‘peripheral’ regions is assessed in this study. These include the Klasies River Mouth (KRM) sample from southern Africa and the Aterian-associated remains from North Africa, particularly the fragmentary subadult maxilla from Mugharet el ‘Aliya (High cave) near Tangier, Morocco. Both samples are maximally dated to ~130 ka and thus are significantly younger than the earliest eastern African modern humans. The KRM sample exhibits a significant amount of size and morphological variation, the latter reflecting a mosaic of archaic/modern anatomy. We interpret this morphological pattern as reflecting an admixed sample. The northern African evidence is less clear, but the morphology of the Tangier maxilla demonstrates archaic elements in the Aterian population, and this may well reflect the same pattern of admixture. We conclude that the evidence from the African ‘peripheries’ is consistent with admixture and that this broadly supports the assimilation model of modern human origins.

Type
Chapter
Information
African Genesis
Perspectives on Hominin Evolution
, pp. 365 - 393
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2012

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