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You might say it's the ultimate prize of science, to discover when, where and why humans evolved.
For a long time, the evidence has been overwhelming that Homo sapiens evolved in Africa and later spilled out of the continent to settle the rest of the planet.
Story - Origins - Today - Commentary - UK
But is the story of our origins really as simple as it seems? Published today, a new commentary written by UK and German scientists suggests not.
A few years ago, it seemed all too easy. The matter was settled. Homo sapiens had evolved in the East African rift valley roughly 200,000 years ago and exited the mother continent to settle the remaining planet around 60,000 years ago.
Decades - Inroads - Riddle - Story - Origins
But after decades of thinking we'd made major inroads into solving this ultimate riddle, the story of our origins is starting to get a long overdue overhaul.
A string of recent discoveries has pushed our origins in Africa back to more than 315,000 years ago – and suggested sapiens first exited Africa close to 194,000 years ago making it to southern China soon after, perhaps by 139,000 years ago.
Complexity - Out-of-Africa - Movements - Sapiens - Populations
And to add further complexity, this initial "Out-of-Africa" seems to have been followed by one or more later movements, by different sapiens populations, that settled far flung places such as Australia by around 65,000 years ago.
We've also begun to find humans whose physical traits don't fit with our preconceived notions of what sapiens should look like, such as the Iwo Eleru, Nazlet Khater and Red Deer Cave people surviving quite late in various parts of Africa and in Asia.
Hybrids - Decades - Scientists - Horns - Issue
Could they be hybrids we've wondered? Because after decades of scientists locking horns over the issue, geneticists have finally proven that our ancestors mated with the Neanderthals, Denisovans and other archaic humans even in Africa.
Sure, it's normal for science to be regularly brought up to date,...
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