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15 October 2015

Out of Africa has more problems – see http://phys.org/print364047660.html … and the acrobats necessary to keep the politically correct meme alive and kicking is quite amusing. The latest torpedo is that modern humans have been found in China between 80,000 and 120,000 years ago – which will cause some alteration in the mapping of human migration. The Out of Africa theory is that all humans are descended from a pristine version of the human tree that first came to fruition in Africa. Subsequently, these modern humans left Africa 50,000 years ago. The theory is Euro centric as modern humans don't appear in Europe until 40,000 years ago. It has long been undermined by the fact Aborigines have been living in Australia since at least 50,000 years ago – so they got there fairly quickly (or some humans legged it a bit before the others). Now we have the Chinese early modern humans. Mind you, the argument is around the discovery of 47 teeth in a cave.

The route travelled by Out of Africa migrations is also hot with speculation – and now they are thinking in terms of modern humans getting to China long before they reached Europe (as the Neanderthals dominated Europe and western Asia up to 40,000 years ago).

The 47 teeth were found in a clay deposit in a cave in China. It seems the teeth are quite unlike those of Homo erectus and therefore must belong to modern humans that had expanded out of Africa more recently. As the teeth were found with extinct Pleistocene animals the inference might be they were all washed together into the cave, hence the clay deposit. If clay is water derived on Mars it must be water related in Fuyan cave – or indeed in any cave anywhere. The lead author, Wi Liu, says it was not a 'living environment' (Nature, Oct 2015).

The lack of modern humans in Europe prior to 40,000 years ago is now under investigation. One explanation being given is that the weather was cold in Europe during the Icde Age. Are they tacitly admitting it wasn't cold in China during the Ice Age?

The theory of cold inhibiting modern humans is based on the peculiar notion that as Africans they would have preferred to live in a tropical environment. Are they saying that Africans cannot adapt to the cold? It is also somewhat ill thought out as in the tropical zones of Africa the pygmies ruled the roost, until fairly modern times. Modern humans are usually thought of originating in a savannah environment and in Europe the cave paintings in the Chauvet cave show a savannah environment with exotic African animals such as lions. Was it really universally cold in Europe?

The Out of Africa theory reminds me of the Clovis First fixation. For many years the idea of people arriving in the Americas prior to the Clovis culture was rigorously resisted, and archaeologists who showed otherwise were given the cold shoulder – and ignored. This has been much the case with Out of Africa – but in this instance it is a Chinese scientist finding the evidence to dispute the mainstream and they are not bothered by political correctness or keeping western academics happy (even if they do jump up and down).

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