Fossil homo sapiens skull in Greece puts paid to the single Out of Africa theory

There were many waves of homo sapiens Out of Africa from over 200,000 years ago.

I think the idea of a single Out of Africa, post-Toba wave is all but dead. Clearly there were pre-Toba and post-Toba migrations. It is highly likely that some migratory waves bred with archaic humans they came across and that there was interbreeding between newer migrants and older migrants.

An early dispersal of modern humans from Africa to Greece

Analysis of two fossils from a Greek cave has shed light on early hominins in Eurasia. One fossil is the earliest known specimen of Homo sapiens found outside Africa; the other is a Neanderthal who lived 40,000 years later.

Some key early fossils of Homo sapiens and related species in Africa and Eurasia. Harvati et al.5 present their analyses of two fossil skulls from Apidima Cave in Greece. They report that the fossil Apidima 1 is an H. sapiens specimen that is at least 210,000 years old, from a time when Neanderthals occupied many European sites. It is the earliest known example of H. sapiens in Europe, and is at least 160,000 years older than the next oldest H. sapiens fossils found in Europe6 (not shown). Harvati and colleagues confirm that, as previously reported7, Apidima 2 is a Neanderthal specimen, and they estimate that it is at least 170,000 years old. The authors’ findings, along with other discoveries of which a selection is shown here, shed light on the timing and locations of early successful and failed dispersals out of Africa of hominins (modern humans and other human relatives, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans). kyr, thousand years old.

The origin and early dispersal of Homo sapiens has long been a subject of both popular and scholarly interest1. It is almost universally agreed that H. sapiens (modern humans) evolved in Africa, with the earliest known fossil representatives of our species dated to around 315,000 years ago in Morocco (at a site called Jebel Irhoud)2 and approximately 260,000 years ago in South Africa (at Florisbad)3. Stone tools comparable to those found with both of these fossils have been excavated in Kenya (at Olorgesailie)4 and dated to about 320,000 years agoWriting in Nature, Harvati et al.5 describe their analysis of a fossil from Apidima Cave in southern Greece that they report to be an early modern H. sapiens at least 210,000 years old. This fossil is the oldest known modern human in Europe, and probably in all of Eurasia, and is more than 160,000 years older than the next oldest known European fossil of H. sapiens

Apidima Cave fossils provide earliest evidence of Homo sapiens in Eurasia


Two fossilized human crania (Apidima 1 and Apidima 2) from Apidima Cave, southern Greece, were discovered in the late 1970s but have remained enigmatic owing to their incomplete nature, taphonomic distortion and lack of archaeological context and chronology. Here we virtually reconstruct both crania, provide detailed comparative descriptions and analyses, and date them using U-series radiometric methods. Apidima 2 dates to more than 170 thousand years ago and has a Neanderthal-like morphological pattern. By contrast, Apidima 1 dates to more than 210 thousand years ago and presents a mixture of modern human and primitive features. These results suggest that two late Middle Pleistocene human groups were present at this site—an early Homo sapiens population, followed by a Neanderthal population. Our findings support multiple dispersals of early modern humans out of Africa, and highlight the complex demographic processes that characterized Pleistocene human evolution and modern human presence in southeast Europe.


About ktwop

Scientist, technologist, salesman, manager, executive and now a consultant and author.
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2 Responses to Fossil homo sapiens skull in Greece puts paid to the single Out of Africa theory

  1. James Cross says:

    I don’t really have a problem with the idea that various archaic Homo sapiens may have left Africa prior to the Toba time period. However, these groups probably are unrelated or only marginally related to the humans who populate the world today. And the humans that populate the world today did come from Africa in a time frame around the Toba event, maybe slightly before or slightly after, didn’t they?

    • ktwop says:

      I think there must have been pre and post-Toba waves of “modern humans” and there must have been waves of archaic humans (who themselves diverged) long before that.
      It also seems more than just plausible that new migrants did not find spaces completely devoid of previous migrants and from time to time did “mingle” with them. I suspect that the “marginal” relations (both with archaic human forms and previous waves of modern humans) were more widespread than the single, post-Toba wave would suggest.

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