ANN ARBOR---The ancestors of modern humans came from many different regions of the world, not just a single area, according to a University of Michigan study published in the current (Jan. 12) issue of Science. The study, by U-M anthropologist Milford H. Wolpoff and colleagues, is one of just a few to base its controversial conclusion about the origin of the human species on a comparison of actual human fossils---early modern and archaic fossil skulls from around the world.
"Ancient humans shared genes and behaviors across wide regions of the world, and were not rendered extinct by one 'lucky group' that later evolved into us," says Wolpoff, a professor of anthropology at the U-M and first author of the study. "The fossils clearly show that more than one ancient group survived and thrived."
For the study, Wolpoff and colleagues John Hawks of the University of Utah, David W. Frayer of the University of Kansas, and Keith Hunley of the U-M, examined some of the first early modern human fossil crania from Australia and Central Europe, peripheral regions far from Africa, where modern humans evolved, according to the Eve theory. They compared these Europeans and Australians (between 20,000 and 30,000 years old) with two even older groups who might be their ancestors---archaic fossil crania from the same locations, and even earlier fossils from Africa and the Near East, who would have to be the only ancestors for both of them according to the Eve theory. If the Europeans and Australians had multiple ancestry, including ancestors among their local archaic predecessors, the Eve theory would have to be wrong. "Basically we wanted to see if this comparison could disprove the theory of multiple ancestry for the early European and Australian moderns," notes Wolpoff.
Wolpoff and colleagues selected fossils from Eastern Europe and Australia for the focal point of the comparison because they thought that populations distan
Contact: Diane Swanbrow
University of Michigan