Humans may have migrated out of Africa a lot earlier than we thought, according to a new study that finds a complicated migration history.
The traditional “Out of Africa” theory about early human migration has been the prevailing one in the scientific community, but a new study is casting some doubt on it. The conventional wisdom is that there was a single wave of migration of early homo sapiens out of Africa and into Asia about 60,000 years ago, but it may have actually been earlier, scientists found.
The findings, published in the journal Science, suggests that the first migrations may have happened as long as 120,000 years ago, which is supported by fossils discovered in southern and central China. However, some aspects of the “Out of Africa” theory appear to be correct, as there may have been a large migration around that time frame that is responsible for much of the migration.
“The earliest fossils of Homo sapiens are located in Africa and dated to the late Middle Pleistocene,” reads the abstract of the paper. “At some point later, modern humans dispersed into Asia and reached the far-away locales of Europe, Australia, and eventually the Americas. Given that Neandertals, Denisovans, mid-Pleistocene Homo, and H. floresiensis were present in Asia before the appearance of modern humans, the timing and nature of the spread of modern humans across Eurasia continue to be subjects of intense debate.
“For instance, did modern humans replace the indigenous populations when moving into new regions? Alternatively, did population contact and interbreeding occur regularly? In terms of behavior, did technological innovations and symbolism facilitate dispersals of modern humans? For example, it is often assumed that only modern humans were capable of using watercraft and navigating to distant locations such as Australia and the Japanese archipelago—destinations that would not have been visible to the naked eye from the departure points, even during glacial stages when sea levels would have been much lower.”