So, all anthropologists support the ‘out of Africa’ theory do they?

I see this theory (and it is just that, a theory) paraded in the media as if it is a gospel believed by all. The truth is, should you happen to read a lot of DNA studies and anthropology publications, that support for the OOA theory is far from a consensus; in fact it seems to pretty much an even split, with support for it declining a little recently with the advent of some studies pointing out a variety old genes that just can’t be shoe-horned into the OOA paradigm.

I can’t wondering if the ‘we are all from one recent African origin’, and ‘race is a social construct’ are being pushed in tandem, as if we are that closely related we can’t be that different.The ‘no race’ party line that’s taken in the media would have a hard time if it turned out we have mixed in with other subspecies as we expanded out. As one of my blog readers has suggested, it also seems to be more acceptable to religious people, being fairly compatible with the whole ‘Adam and Eve’ religious concept.

Erik Trinkhaus is one of the major supporters of Neanderthal introgression. Personally, I think the fact that later Neanderthals get harder to distinguish from modern humans in Europe the more recent they are, is a pointer that they were interbreeding.

Also in the ‘not out of Africa’ camp are John Hawkes Milford Wolpoff  (who’s left a comment with a reading list on this blog entry) and many others, some of whom can be seen on the reading list.

The Oase 2 and Muireii skulls, and skulls from Mladec, all of which are thought to show some archaic/Neanderthal traits.

More Human-Neandertal Mixing Evidence Uncovered
ScienceDaily (Nov. 6, 2006) — A reexamination of ancient human bones from Romania reveals more evidence that humans and Neandertals interbred.

Erik Trinkaus, Ph.D., Washington University Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor in Arts & Sciences, and colleagues radiocarbon-dated and analyzed the shapes of human bones from Romania’s Petera Muierii (Cave of the Old Woman). The fossils, discovered in 1952, add to the small number of early modern human remains from Europe known to be more than 28,000 years old.

Results were published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The team found that the fossils were 30,000 years old and principally have the diagnostic skeletal features of modern humans. They also found that the remains had other features known, among potential ancestors, primarily among the preceding Neandertals, providing more evidence there was mixing of humans and Neandertals as modern humans dispersed across Europe about 35,000 years ago. Their analysis of one skeleton’s shoulder blade also shows that these humans did not have the full set of anatomical adaptations for throwing projectiles, like spears, during hunting.

The team says that the mixture of human and Neandertal features indicates that there was a complicated reproductive scenario as humans and Neandertals mixed, and that the hypothesis that the Neandertals were simply replaced should be abandoned.

Also by Erik Trinkaus..

European early modern humans and the fate of the Neandertals
Erik Trinkaus*

A consideration of the morphological aspects of the earliest modern humans in Europe (more than ≈33,000 B.P.) and the subsequent Gravettian human remains indicates that they possess an anatomical pattern congruent with the autapomorphic (derived) morphology of the earliest (Middle Paleolithic) African modern humans. However, they exhibit a variable suite of features that are either distinctive Neandertal traits and/or plesiomorphic (ancestral) aspects that had been lost among the African Middle Paleolithic modern humans. These features include aspects of neurocranial shape, basicranial external morphology, mandibular ramal and symphyseal form, dental morphology and size, and anteroposterior dental proportions, as well as aspects of the clavicles, scapulae, metacarpals, and appendicular proportions. The ubiquitous and variable presence of these morphological features in the European earlier modern human samples can only be parsimoniously explained as a product of modest levels of assimilation of Neandertals into early modern human populations as the latter dispersed across Europe. This interpretation is in agreement with current analyses of recent and past human molecular data.

16 responses to “So, all anthropologists support the ‘out of Africa’ theory do they?

  1. I agree with Mathilda’s comments. There is a group of professional biological anthropologists in addition to Eric Trinkaus who do not support the Out of Africa Theory and who maintain that humans belong to one evolutionary lineage that was not divided into separate species, or that the hominins comprise only a very small number of species (1-3). Google publications by Conroy, Hunt, Thorne, Wolpoff or Henneberg for more details. In this view Neandertals were but a regional variant of humanity on a par with such other variants as Eskimo or Kalahari San people. DNA is a fragile molecule and it degrades quickly with time. Thus most of ancient DNA studies rely heavily on complex interpretations of unclear primary results of chemical analyses of extracts from ancient bones or teeth.

  2. I’d agree with your comment “I can’t wondering if the ‘we are all from one recent African origin’, and ‘race is a social construct’ are being pushed in tandem, as if we are that closely related we can’t be that different”.

    But I believe there’s more to it than that. The old idea of evolution being a result of ‘survival of the fittest’ implies new species arise from the expansion of single small groups rather than being a result of genetic change in a wider population.

    It also means even Bible-believers can now accept we have evolved in the sense that we all descend from ‘Adam and Eve’. This has led to the ridiculous convolutions involved in trying to tie these two ancestors to a single out of Africa event. The Garden of Eden is now in Africa somewhere.

  3. Milford Wolpoff

    There are many papers published that show Neandertals had a significant genetic imput in modern Europeans and their immediate ancestors. These include (to name a few):

    Frayer, D.W. 1992c Evolution at the European edge: Neanderthal and the Upper Paleolithic relationships. Préhistoire Européene/European Prehistory 2:9-69.

    Frayer, D.W. 1986 Cranial variation at Mladeč and the relationship between Mousterian and Upper Paleolithic hominids. Anthropologie (Brno) 23:243-256.

    Frayer, D.W., J. Jelínek, M. Oliva, and M.H. Wolpoff 2006 Aurignacian Male Crania, Jaws, and Teeth from the Mladeč Caves, Moravia, Czech Republic. In M. Teschler-Nicola (ed): Early Modern Humans at the Moravian Gate: The Mladeč Caves and their Remains. Springer, Wien. Pp 185-272.

    Hawks, J., Wolpoff, M. H. 2001. The accretion model of Neandertal evolution. Evolution 55:1474-1485.

    Hawks, J, and Cochran, G. 2006 Dynamics of adaptive introgression from archaic to modern humans. PaleoAnthropology 2006:101-115.
    Hawks, J, Cochran, G, Harpending, HC, and Lahn, BT. 2008 A genetic legacy from archaic Homo. Trends in Genetics 24(1):19-23.

    Smith, F.H. 1991 The Neandertals: evolutionary dead ends or ancestors of modern people? Journal of Anthropological Research 47(2):219-238.

    Smith, F.H., I. Jankovic, and I. Karavanic 2005 The assimilation model, modern human origins in Europe, and the extinction of Neandertals. Quaternary International 137:7-19.

    Wolpoff, M.H., J.D. Hawks, D.W. Frayer, and K. Hunley 2001 Modern human ancestry at the peripheries: a test of the replacement theory. Science 291:293-297.

    Wolpoff, M.H., B. Mannheim, A. Mann, J. Hawks, R. Caspari, K.R. Rosenberg, D.W. Frayer, G.W. Gill, and G.A. Clark: 2004 Why Not the Neandertals? World Archaeology 36(4):527-546.

    Wolpoff, M.H., and Sang-Hee Lee 2007 Herto and the Neandertals: What Can a 160,000-Year-Old African Tell Us about European Neandertal Evolution? In A.R. Sankhyan and V.R. Rao (eds): Human Origins, Genome and People of India: Genomic, Palaeontological and Archaeological Perspectives. Allied Publishers Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi. Pp. 329-336

  4. Terry, I’ve wondered if the OOA theory has been pushed because it’s more palatable to religious people too.

    Dr? Wolpoff, thank you very much for the reading list.I shall have a look for them ASAP.

    I’m honoured by your appearance, BTW.

  5. Mathilda and all:

    Perhaps I shouldn’t get into this, since I’m basically not a “scientist” at all, but am writing a Great Medieval Science Fiction Masterpiece With Neandertals. In oorder to do this, I had to do a lot of research regarding Neandertals, despite my having an anthropology background. What I found during the course of this research and correspondence with some of the participants in the ongoing debate is, that while many people now accept that the “modern” human genome is largely African in origin(and that is where we essentially get the modern “morph”), that it is probable that, as little groups of people migrated out of Africa, at least some of them exchanged genes with other little groups of humans whose ancestors had migrated out of Africa before them. That includes Neandertals, whether people like this idea or not. And yes, re the comments of some others here, the way OoA is often presented, e.g. an “African Eve”, has “Biblical” overtones, and resonates well with certain kinds of religious beliefs and sentiments. And I, too, would like to thank Dr. Wolpoff for providing the list of reading materials. I’ve read a lot of this stuff during my research, but I would urge others to read it, too, and make up their own minds.
    Anne G

    P.S., I’m adding your blog to my blogroll, Mathilda. It’s a good one! I have one at:

    The Writer’s Daily Grind, which is at:

    Musings about such things as the latest NeanderNews appears there with some regularity.

  6. Good stuff Mathilda, I’ve long been a fan of Wolpoff, Trinkaus, Hawks, Lahn, Thorn, Adcock & others that have the ethics to say what they think… even though Lahn was effectively muzzled for throwing a wrench into the OOA works. Some simply will not buy into the media & social blitz. I find no credible evidence to indicate neandertal & erectus were actually different species, though one might build a case for sub-species or race. Certainly the commonly held hypothesis that they could not breed or the offspring would be sterile is far fetched.

  7. Ed. I too am a fan of that list of people. In fact I had been having huge trouble trying to reconcile the single out of Africa model of human evolution with what I knew about dairy cow genetics (rather a lot) for many years. And then I attended a lecture by Alan Thorne. What he said there meant I could tie it all together and suddenly understand it completely.

    Another thing I find incredible is that many people seem to believe that somewhere in East Africa, over something like two million years, a single species of Australopithecus evolved into modern humans with no input from any outside population. Talk about taking ‘survival of the fittest’ to extremes.

  8. OOA is there to stay and is incontrovertible, sorry fans of multirregionalism. Haploid genetics allow for no other option: all H. sapiens haploid lineages are a genealogical tree that must have originated in Africa, possibly Eastern Africa.

    This does not totally exclude the possibility of minority admixture with other Homo species. Nevertheless, so far, no genetic evidence of it has been found. The upcoming full DNA sequencing of H. neanderthalensis should shed light on this speculation.

    Anyhow, when I look at those skulls, I see nothing that may look Neanderthal in them: they look very normal H. sapiens with low faces and a brachicephalic tendency, so typical of most Eurasians (not of Western Europeans nor Mediterraneans – though).

  9. Incontrvertible only if you ignore all the DNA studies (of which there are now plenty) that show introgression from archaic humans.. I’ve got some of them on this blog somewhere, and I’ve read one geneticist say outright that the OOA scenario just isn’t possible.

    There’s a lot of collected eveidence that Mt and Y lineages are subject to selection, and that minority contributors are prone to extinction, so I’m going to have to disagree with you Luis.

  10. Introgression does not reject OOA, it just means that: gene flow via small mixed populations, specifically adaptative gene flow. The studies suggesting them are not incontrovertible anyhow: they are models, not hard data.

    There is some evidence of mtDNA lines being now and then “pathogenic”. Obviously those lines won’t survive in the long run but their neutral sister lines may. I’m not aware of similar studies re. Y-DNA but, in any case, occasional unviable pathogenic lines do not invalidate the overall genetic tree, that is extremely well defined.

    I’d like to know why that geneticist claimed that the OOA scenario isn’t possible. In fact all evidence strongly suggests the opposite: not just the haploid trees (both) but also the fact that Eurasians seem to have gone through a major bottleneck (that could well be the OOA founder effect itself), while Africans did not.

  11. There are some studies pasted to this blog that show selection in mt DNA due to climate. It’s not a neutral marker, and neither are Y chromosomes; they carry functional genes, there’s no way they can be neutral.

    I wish I’d copied that interview, but it was before I started blogging.. all I can remember now is that it was a female scientist and she really ripped the OOA a new one.. Outright said it wasn’t possible.

    You might want to do a search through some of the DNA studies I’ve put here that show ancient genes in Europeans and Asians that don’t have an African origin, and that don’t show an MCRA for about 1 million years.

    The case for OOA is always overstated genetically.

  12. Homo sapiens(Cro-Magnons) and Neaderthals mixing 40,000 ya sounds less possible than the OOA theory at least to me.
    I’ve read somewhere that HS(sapiens) and HN(neade…) separated 660kya (+/- 140kya)
    so by 40kya wouldn’t interbreed be impossible because they have mutated to such extent that they were two distinct species?
    If they did interbreed doesn’t it mean that their difference from us is similar(not identical) to the diffrences between human races who can interbreed – thus making them a species.
    But on the other hand i’ve read that the neaders looks is a result of genetic drift (some homo heidelbergensis looked more sapiens – they are the ancestors of modern humans and some heidels looked more like neaders), so this gives the posabillity of being a single species in spite of the differences in appearance.
    To conclude all I said – the OOA theory is more likely to be true than the sapiens-neaders interbreeding because the differences between the two make them distinct species.

  13. For species with such a long lifespan as humans, that’s not really a ‘speciation event’ kind of time frame.Modern species seperated by longer can still produce viable offspring.

    Also, they were never really isolated from us gentically that time, as there was population movement along the Nile the whole time, and modern humans and Neanderthals shared territory in North Africa about 170K ago.. to the point where they were hard to tell apart.

    It’s pretty easy to lose minority mtDNA lineages, even easier to lose Y chromosomes. I’ve got some DNA studies on here that show ancient genes in modern humans (The out of Africa deception).

  14. Thank you for your quick answer.
    You said “they were never really isolated from us gentically that time” – I didn’t know that, I based my answer thinking that neaders evolved in europe(migrated to europe 660kya) and humans who showed up only 40kya in europe continued to evolve separately in africa after the neaders left africa while they were still hiedels. And 40kya the met again as two distinct species and competitors.
    According to the theory you support humans just interbred with neaders but how did they become the human races? I guess homo sapiens came from africa 100-120kya, mutated and blended with neaders who came to europe, asia and australia – isn’t this a possible scenario? Did neaders even reace australia or the far north-east edge of asia(siberia)? – if they didn’t reach all the human populations it means some human races today are pure homo sapiens and some are interbred. if humans and neaders interbred why there are no neaders today? some must have bred within themselves.
    I’ve heard a million times “we share 99% of our DNA with neaderthals” but 1% of the DNA is ALOT and we share 98.4 with chimps – I think there is too much of a difference between neaders and sapiens for them to become one species. Another thing is the fact that humans are competetive and hate someone who doesn’t belong to their group – that why one human race may hate another – it’s in our nature. Neaders are far more different from all humans than we are different from ourselves what makes them extremely more rejected than the rejection we see among human races.
    One more thing – I don’t think that comparing skulls is a reliable enough to say sapiens and neaders blended – there could be many reasons for a human with a neader-like skull like genetic drift, somekinf of adaptation or just simple human variation(some people in a race are shorter or taller than other within their race).

  15. I am sorry I don’t speak english well and I made myself confused with all the things I wanted to say.

  16. “I’ve wondered if the OOA theory has been pushed because it’s more palatable to religious people too.”

    It may be true, but for the media religion is weaker than money. The idea of Neanderthals “interbreeding” with “pre-humans” would make great TV and would definitely be out there. Indeed, it was from that sensational perspective that Discovery Channel and National Geographic had their shows.

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