P314 Earlier Prehistory of Africa

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Origins of Modern Humans in Africa

What do we mean by "modern" and how do we recognize it in evidence of the past? Three categories of evidence:

Archaeological data

Before the Thanksgiving bread we discussed the debate between Richard Klein and Hillary Deacon about how "modern" the MSA occupants of South Africa were. Their debate crystalizes some of the main elements of contention among archaeologists working in the MSA. Are we willing to claim MSA peoples behaved in a "modern" way if they still didn't display the complete repertoire of behaviors we are familiar with today, as seems evident for LSA peoples?

Key issues included:

Anatomical Evidence:

 We looked at some examples of how to distinguish and date modern-looking hominids from archaic Homo. Interesting sites included Kabwe, Florisbad, Klasies River Mouth, Border Cave, etc. Dating is key problem, because these sites are beyond the range of C-14 dating, and other techniques must be employed (read in Deacon text).

Genetic Evidence:

Why MtDNA?

Elements of African Eve Hypothesis:

Other Genetic Evidence:

General issue: human populations are extremely similar today, so if you want to support multiregional model, must include high levels of migration and gene flow. Yet if physical trait similarities are main basis for multiregional hypothesis, this is hard to explain with such population mixing. only if local environmental selections favors those traits LOCAL ADAPTATIONS. Thus, if local adaptation is required for traits in multiregional model, it could also be present for out of Africa model... so presence of recent similar traits does not disprove out of Africa genetic model.


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Last updated: 30 August, 1998
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Copyright Jeanne Sept 1998 : do not cite without permission

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