Modern humans emerged more than 300,000 years ago, new study suggests

Popular Archeology | 9/28/2017 | Staff
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UPPSALA UNIVERSITY—A genomic analysis of ancient human remains from KwaZulu-Natal revealed that southern Africa has an important role to play in writing the history of humankind. A research team from Uppsala University, Sweden, the Universities of Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand, South Africa, presents their results in the September 28th early online issue of Science.

The team sequenced the genomes of seven individuals who lived in southern Africa 2300-300 years ago. The three oldest individuals dating to 2300-1800 years ago were genetically related to the descendants of the southern Khoe-San groups, and the four younger individuals who lived 500-300 years ago were genetically related to current-day South African Bantu-speaking groups. "This illustrates the population replacement that occurred in southern Africa", says co-first author Carina Schlebusch, population geneticist at Uppsala University.

Authors - Divergence - Humans - Years - Ancient

The authors estimate the divergence among modern humans to have occurred between 350,000 and 260,000 years ago, based on the ancient Stone Age hunter-gatherer genomes. The deepest split time of 350,000 years ago represents a comparison between an ancient Stone Age hunter-gatherer boy from Ballito Bay on the east coast of South Africa and the West African Mandinka. "This means that modern humans emerged earlier than previously thought", says Mattias Jakobsson, population geneticist at Uppsala University who headed the project together with Stone Age archaeologist Marlize Lombard at the University of Johannesburg.

The fossil record of east Africa, and in particular the Omo and Herto fossils have often been used to set the emergence of anatomically modern humans to about 180,000 years ago. The deeper estimate for modern human divergence at 350,000-260,000 years ago coincides with the Florisbad and Hoedjiespunt fossils, contemporaries of the small-brained Homo naledi in southern Africa. "It now seems that at least two or three Homo species occupied the southern African landscape during this time period, which also represents the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Popular Archeology
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