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HUMAN ORIGINS:

Theories and Evidence

DECEMBER 3, 2014

Samantha Clark

Human Origins:
Theories and Evidence
There are currently two Theories of Modern Human Origins: The Regional Continuity
Theory and the Replacement Theory. This essay is designed to inform about these two theories,
compare them, and lay down evidence, both Genetic and Fossil, to support these theories. My
opinion is stated in the last paragraphs of this essay and is in no way a professional opinion, it is
merely my interpretation of the facts laid out in the anthropological community.

Replacement Theory:
The Replacement Theory maintains that modern humans evolved in Africa from the
ancestral hominids that did not travel out of Africa in the first stage of global colonization. It
goes in to argue that once evolved as anatomically modern humans, Homo sapiens travelled out
of Africa to explore, colonize and quickly replace the archaic Homo population. This movement
suggests a second wave of hominid species emerging from Africa. There are quite a few
assumptions that are recognized by this model, the first predicts that the earliest fossils of Homo
sapiens sapiens will only be found in Africa. Secondly, this model suggests that modern-day
human populations may not share lineages or links with the earlier populations that inhabited the
same region. This comes from the idea that the new populations of modern humans that inhabit
an area will replace any archaic Homo species that occupy this region, establishing a new lineage
of descent.

Samantha Clark

Regional Continuity Theory:


The Regional Continuity Theory is deeply advocated by Milford Walpoff. According to
this theory, modern humans evolved more or less simultaneously in all major regions of the Old
World from local archaic humans. (ONeal) For example, modern Asians are seen as having
evolved from Asian archaic humans and ultimately from Asian Homo erectus. This would mean
that the Asians and some other peoples in the Old World have great antiquity in place. This
theory places heavy emphasis on the idea of changes that happen in different regions and
produce diverse variations of the species. It is argued that irregular contact between people of
these distant areas would have kept the human line a single species at any period of time.
The picture below shows the two theories side by side, comparing the timelines of them.

The timelines above show the progression of Humans through the years based off of what
each of the Theories says. The Replacement Model shows how only one ancestor from Africa
and the Regional Continuity Model shows how there were many different species interbreeding
over a period of time, with Africa being the definitive (but not the only) ancestor of modern
humans.

Samantha Clark

Fossil Evidence:
There is mostly fossil evidence when it comes to these two theories, seeing as how DNA
testing is a relatively new technology. I find it is easier to look at the evidence in the form of a
map rather than anything else, so the map of the following page is a map of the Eastern
Hemisphere showing where the fossils have been found and how they are dated.
Important Early Modern Homo sapiens Sites
Date of Fossil
(years ago)
East Africa:
Herto, Middle Awash
Omo 1
Laetoli
South Africa:
Border Cave
Klasies River Mouth
Israel:
Skhul and Qafzeh
Australia:
Lake Mungo
Asia:

160,000-154,000
195,000
120,000
115,000-90,000
90,000
92,000-90,000
60,000-46,000

Annamite Mountains (Laos)


63,000
Ordos (Mongolia)
40,000-20,000 ?
139,000-111,000 ?
Liujiang (China)
100,000 ?
Zhirendong (China)
Zhoukoudian upper cave
27,000
(China)
Europe:
Petera cu Oase (Romania)
36,000-34,000
35,000-30,000
Combe Capelle (France)
Mlade and Pedmost
35,000-25,000
(Czech Republic)
Cro-Magnon (France)
27,000-23,000

Genetic Evidence:
Compared to the Fossil Evidence, there is much less evidence to speak of, but it is still
just as important. Through genetic comparisons of dates of mutations, Rebecca Cann and Allan

Samantha Clark

Wilson have reason to believe that all maternal lineages can be traced back to one individual
woman who came from one region (most likely Africa) and lived 200,000 years ago this
female individual has been nicknamed mitochondrial Eve. In their paper, The Recent African
Genesis of Humans (1992), Cann and Wilson say that Eve, while not the only woman to
procreate, is definitely a woman whose lineage survived throughout the ages. In the same line of
research, a theoretical most common recent ancestor (MCRA) has been found to be a male, also
living in Africa, from as early as 142,000 BC. This individual is thought to be the man from
whom all modern people are descended, he has been nicknamed Y-chromosomal Adam. Ychromosomes can only be passed on paternally, from father to son.
In my opinion, the Replacement Theory is better supported by the evidence than the
Regional Continuity Theory. There are many reasons for this, but the most highly damaging
comes from recent genetic research. The Regional Continuity Theory proposes a shared genetic
lineage between archaic Neanderthals and modern humans. Geneticists have proved this idea to
be purely imaginative. It has been widely credited that Neanderthals did not contribute to the
human genome and therefore the evolution of modern humans
The African fossil records also shows that modern humans were evolving in Africa.
Archaeological evidence explains how behavioral patterns evolved, as well as modern human
morphology, in order to sustain a way of living suited to this advanced intellectual being.
Subsistence strategies progressed and expanded along with more complex dwellings, evident in
many dig sites throughout Africa. I also believe that if there were older fossils in the world, at
least one would have been found outside of Africa. To conclude, I will keep an open mind
because I do not believe we will ever know exactly what happened, but we will have some really
good theories.

Samantha Clark

Reference List:
Analysis of Two Competing Theories on the Origin of Homo sapiens sapiens: Multiregional
Theory vs. the Out of Africa 2 Model http://anthrojournal.com/issue/october2011/article/analysis-of-two-competing-theories-on-the-origin-of-homo-sapiens-sapiensmultiregional-theory-vs-the-out-of-africa-2-model
Wilson, A., & Cann, R. (1992). The Recent African Genesis of Humans. Scientific
American,266, 68-73.
O'Neil, D. (2013, January 1). Evolution of Modern Humans: Early Modern Homo sapiens.
Retrieved November 18, 2014.
http://anthro.palomar.edu/homo2/images/models_of_Hss_evolution.gif
http://anthro.palomar.edu/homo2/images/map_of_early_modern_Homo_sapiens_sites.gif

My Eportfolio address: http://samiam1852.weebly.com/