Recent Academic Studies Offer an Obituary for the Out of Africa Theory of Human Evolution
Genomic research associated with the Sima de los Huesos archaeological site and morphological analysis of hominin fossils from across Europe have together invalidated the possibility that Homo heidelbergensis is ancestral to modern humans.
There is now no known direct ancestor of modern humans in Europe or Africa.
What happens when paleoanthropologists discover that their only candidate for a human ancestor in Africa or Europe becomes invalidated by genetic investigations and comparative fossil studies?
Judging by the lack of any media furore I think it is safe to say that the answer to the above question is ‘not very much’, because this has been the situation since 2016. The mainstream media remains silent in regards to the profound implications of the scientific conclusions reached.
Homo sapiens perhaps 800,000 years old
There is more to this story than simply cutting H. heidelbergensis from our human family tree. Matthias Meyer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology headed a team of scientists undertaking detailed analysis of both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA from hominin fossils associated with the Sima de los Huesos archaeological site in Spain. One of the most astonishing results was the realisation that Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis had split from each other far earlier than had ever been considered, potentially well over 700Kya, rather than close to 400Kya. The new date for the divergence of anatomically modern hominin forms directly calls into question the hypothesis that Homo sapiens emerged just 200Kya.[i] With Meyer’s announcement came the end of an era in human evolutionary theories.
Research by the geneticists Benoit Nabholz, Sylvain Glémin, and Nicolas Galtier has revealed significant problems with scientific studies that rely heavily on genetic material alone, divorced from the physical examination of fossils (especially in the accuracy of dating by molecular clocks).[i] We are however fortunate to have a 2013 research project from Indiana University, headed by well-respected evolutionary biologist Aida Gómez-Robles at our disposal: a comparative analysis of European hominin fossil teeth and jawbones. The Indiana University project concluded that all the fossil hominins in Europe were either Neanderthals or directly ancestral to Neanderthals – not ancestors of Homo sapiens. We must understand that while respective groups in Africa match European hominin populations, this revelation discounted all known African hominins as being ancestors of modern humans. The morphological research also provided further shock – the divergence between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals had apparently begun as early as one million years before present.
With the dismissal of all known suspects on the list of possible offenders, modern humans were left lacking a viable direct ancestor amongst the known records. Not only this, but they were found to have been alone on their evolutionary journey for several hundred thousand years longer than scientists had dared speculate (over twice as long). Further problematic findings continued to accrue: the next arose from the examination of a handful of ancient bones uncovered at a cave site in Siberia (Denisova Cave), whose fossils are Denisovan, a new human species. Acclaimed geneticist Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute revealed that his genetic research confirmed, that “Denisovans began to diverge from modern humans regarding DNA sequences about 800,000 years ago” – much earlier than hitherto thought.
Before the close of 2016, one highly respected paleoanthropologist, Maria Martinón-Torres of University College London, stated in no uncertain terms that if scientists wanted to find the last ancestor shared with other advanced Homo forms, they “should now be looking for a population that lived around 700,000 to 900,000 years ago.” This statement left the scientific world with an enormous conundrum. If our immediate ancestors do not derive from Europe or Africa, where else could we look for them?
Oldest humans from East Asia or Australasia?
The first possible answer to this ‘where to look’ question came in July 2016 with scientist Professor Zhao Lingxiain, whose research group announced they had identified modern human fossil remains at the Bijie archaeological site ranging up to 180,000 years old.[i] Not only were they digging up fragments of modern humans, but also evidence of other mysterious hominin forms. The Chinese paleoanthropologists suspected that some of the recovered fossils might even be from the mysterious Denisovans, previously identified in Siberia.[i] Could modern humans have first emerged in East Asia? It has certainly begun to look like this might be the case. My independent investigative research carried out over the last several years, however, disagrees: my work places the first Homo sapiens in Australasia.
Back in 1982, two of the most renowned evolutionary scientists of the modern age, Professor Alan Wilson and his understudy, Rebecca Cann, discovered compelling evidence for an Australasian genesis for modern humans. These controversial findings never emerged in any of their academic papers; in fact, they only appear in a short transcript included in a book published in the same year by two British research scientists, The Monkey Puzzle: A Family Tree. Silence does not change facts, and the fact remains that there is compelling DNA evidence pointing towards Australasia as the first home of Homo sapiens. Indeed, so much data exists that it eventually led to my controversial new book, The Forgotten Exodus: The Into Africa Theory of Human Evolution. My research colleagues and myself have uncovered overwhelming evidence that places the first modern humans in Australasia, and with them several other advanced hominin forms.
There might be some temptation to dismiss this matter out of hand, as it can be difficult accepting that leading academics have got it so wrong. It is, however, important to understand that in every case the opposing arguments against the current consensus position are based on, or supported by, peer-reviewed studies or statements given by consensus academics. Could it be that the year 2016 will one day be known as the year that the Out of Africa paradigm died?
If 2016 becomes associated with the end of one scientific paradigm, then 2017 may become related to the emergence of a new model for human origins, one that I am proposing and have termed ‘Into Africa’. My Into Africa theory is closely related to the ‘Out of Australia’ theory formulated by two of my Australian collaborators, Steven and Evan Strong, but goes significantly further down the rabbit hole of our evolutionary story.
Multiregional emergence vs single recent origination
I am not the first to see fundamental errors in the popular consensus model of human evolution and the associated early migrations that colonised the planet. There has always been some discontent among the community of paleoanthropologists, perhaps the best-known being three distinguished Professors Milford H. Wolpoff, Xinzhi Wu and the late Alan Thorne. Together they can be considered the godfathers of the multiregional theory of human evolution.[i]
The Multiregional theory argues that the earliest hominins emerged in Africa and there evolved until a stage known as Homo erectus, around two million years ago. Homo erectus then moved out of Africa and migrated as far as Southeast Asia. Around 500,000 years ago, somewhere in Eurasia, they underwent further adaptations, giving rise to various regionally adapted lineages. These migrants then evolved towards a Homo sapiens form wherever they colonised and remained. In this model, all linages were early Homo sapiens; modern humans emerged separately (but concurrently) in Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia. Due to interbreeding on the edges of these regions, evolutionary adaptations were shared across the planet (genetic drift) and the species remained strongly homogenous rather than producing four evolutionarily distinct, anatomically modern human species. It has now been proven that several human forms were indeed interbreeding, just as multiregional theorists had long expected.
The Out of Africa theory, also known as the recent emergence and replacement hypothesis, posits that any Homo erectus that migrated from Africa during the early period of exodus gave rise to archaic hominin forms that would later become extinct (including Homo denisova and Homo neanderthalensis). Homo sapiens are claimed to be a uniquely African species, emerging around 200,000 years ago on the eastern fringes of the continent. The Out of Africa theory describes two waves of migrations involving Homo sapiens; one that made it no further than the Levant region 130,000 years ago; and a second that successfully colonised the planet around 70,000 years ago.
So far so good: we have two closely related models that differ only in the later stages, both sound sensible and satisfy a good proportion of the real-world data. Like the Out of Africa theory, the Multiregional theory suggests that early hominin evolution all happened in Africa, until migrations of Homo erectus moved out of the continent. So, which theory do I find to be correct?
My own detailed analysis of the available data has taken me to an entirely different conclusion, one that pulls the rug out from under all existing descriptions of the human story. Although my work retains elements of both competing academic models, I find them to be largely incorrect.
I find that Homo sapiens first emerged in Australasia from a population of Homo erectus, whom had long been residents there. My date for this event is very early in the timeline, perhaps 900 – 800 thousand years ago, a date range supported by the Sima de los Huesos genome research, the Indiana Univeristy fossil study, and analysis of material from the Denisova cave site in Siberia.
In my model, I offer compelling evidence for three key migrations of Homo sapiens heading out of Australasia. The first migrations began around 200,000 years ago, during a period of intense climatic problems and low population numbers, with a small group making their way to East Africa.[i] The remains of some of these first Africans have been discovered close to one key entry point in the east of the continent (400km), known as the Bab-el-Mandeb straights.[i]
I then identify a second migration event 74,000 years ago, following the eruption of the Lake Toba super volcano.[i] Small groups of survivors to the north of Lake Toba, finding themselves unable to move south to safety, were then forced to head west to escape the devastating nuclear winter and toxic clouds that followed the disaster. The lucky few that could move fast enough eventually made their way into Africa and found safety in the south of the continent. I suggest that some of these few moved along the coasts of Asia, and others sailed the open ocean to Madagascar and hit the coast of South Africa – I associate these refugees with cave sites including Borders Cave, Klasies River Caves and the Blombos Cave.[i]
The third migration event identified in my research is arguably of greatest interest because it involved the direct ancestors of all non-African people alive today. As the global environment recovered from the Lake Toba eruption 60,000 years ago, a trickle of modern humans (calculated to be just under 200 individuals) moved out of Australasia into Southeast Asia, slowly colonising the Eurasian continent.[i] These adventurous men and women were the forebears of every non-African and non-Australian person living on Earth today. This Australasian colonisation of the world is very well supported by the study of both mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal haplogroups, and given further credence by the location and dating of several fossils.
The model I offer represents a radical revision to the current evolutionary narrative, and is perhaps revolutionary. It will not be easy for academics to accept such bold claims from someone whom is neither a paleoanthropologist or an evolutionary biologist. Why, then, should one take this work seriously?
The Into Africa theory is firmly based on real-world evidence, data that anyone can freely access and examine for themselves. My argument incorporates a great wealth of peer reviewed academic papers, well accepted genetic studies, and opinions offered by the most respected scientific researchers. Indeed, rather ironically, many of my key sources derive from scientists that stand opposed to this model (being vocal supporters of the Out of Africa theories).
Recent scientific studies have begun to change the landscape of paleoanthropological research. Examination of the recent conclusions associated with the analysis of Homo erectus skulls in the Georgian Republic confirms that several species of hominins in Africa are in fact nothing more than expected variance within the greater H. erectus population.[i] Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, there is growing suspicion among scientists that Homo floresiensis evolved from a lineage of hominins that lived much earlier than the immediate ancestors of Homo sapiens.[i] Detailed analysis of Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestry convincingly places their founder populations in Southeast Asia and Australasia. There seems little about the currently accepted academic narrative that has not yet come under fire.
As of 2016, we have finds that place early humans in India 3 million years ago (Masol), and Homo erectus populations ranging from Indonesia to the Georgian Republic 2 million years ago (Dmanisi).[i] On the Australasian island of Guinea, we find the only signature for interbreeding between Denisovans and modern humans dating to 44,000 years ago. This interbreeding occurred long after Australia’s supposed isolation, as claimed by the consensus narrative.[i] How do entirely isolated populations interbreed with other human groups?
We are finding anomalies in all areas of evolutionary studies, whether we look at the mitochondrial and Y-chromosonal data, the datings associated with human archaeological sites, or analysis of hominin morphology. Rather than continuing with the attempt to fit square pegs into a round hole, it is time to face the fact that holes are round and that our story of human origins has been significantly wrong.
Bruce R. Fenton is an independent British scientific researcher born in the historic English town of Cheltenham, England. He graduated from Anglia Ruskin University Information Systems from, where from his studies of in 2003.
Bruce now lives in Australia, before arriving there he spent five years living in Ecuador and carrying out direct investigations at an anomalous megalithic construction. He has spent the last twenty years researching the many mysteries of the ancient world, taking him to archaeological sites spread across all six habitable continents.
Bruce’s research activities in Ecuador have featured in the UK’s Telegraph Newspaper and his research expedition into the Caucasus mountains appeared on the popular Science Channel show, The Unexplained Files. He is a current member of both the Palaeoanthropology Society and the Scientific and Medical Network.