New research is challenging our assumptions about early mankind, and how we went from a small species in Africa to worldwide.
As we reported recently, a new study is challenging the traditional “Out of Africa” theory of early human migration most scientists buy into. But it’s just the latest study in a series of research pieces that challenge the prevailing notion that we started out as a small species in Africa that suddenly migrated to Asia in one major event 60,000 years ago. And that’s not the only area where our preconceived notions about early mankind are being challenged.
The latest study, published in the journal Science, draws upon fossil evidence in southern and central China that seems to suggest our first arrival on the continent was actually in the range of 70,000 to 120,000 years ago, or perhaps twice as long as previous estimates. That doesn’t entirely disprove the “Out of Africa” theory, as there may have indeed been a major migration event 60,000 years ago and the evidence certainly seems to suggest that.
However, our history seems to be quite a bit more complicated than that in more ways than one, and suggests there is a lot to learn about our own development as a species.
Recent research is also shedding light on the fascinating relationship between Homo sapiens, our ancestors, and the now-extinct Neanderthals. Neanderthals were a separate species of humans who became extinct about 40,000 years ago, and a study from the Spanish National Research Council last year suggested that Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens crossbred 100,000 years ago, a groundbreaking discovery that led to a new understanding of our species. This was significant as far as our understanding of migration is concerned as well, because that interaction meant that Homo sapiens traveled to Asia or Europe – where Neanderthals lived – much earlier than thought.