Remarkable revision of human dispersal from Africa
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The current narrative of the exodus of from Africa holds that modern humans expanded forth around 60,000 to 70,000 years ago. There is evidence from caves in Israel for an earlier departure, about 100,000 years ago, but this was not sustained. The leading idea is that modern humans were unable to compete with Neandertal populations known to exist in the area at the time.
Now a remarkable discovery in China has provided strong evidence for an early modern human presence in China. 47 teeth have been found in a cave in southern China dating the modern human presence there to 80,000 to 120,000 years.
As with everything in paleoanthropology, the truth turns out to be more complicated than once believed.
If that weren't enough, I have to explain what is most exciting to me about this. It is the way this makes for a more coherent narrative of human dispersal. Admittedly, it must for now fall into the realm of speculation.
One element of this concerns Aboriginal Australians. It has always been a hanging question as to how they arrived so early in Australia given the 60-70K BP date for leaving Africa. But studies in Australia have humans settling there perhaps as early as 62,000 years ago, and there are other Australian sites that appear to date to around 50,000 years ago.
Since 2011 we have also had DNA evidence that Aboriginal Australians diverged from other modern human populations earlier than any other extant group. This evidence suggests a date of 70,000 years for the divergence.
So these teeth in southern China - evidently part of an earlier wave of dispersal -- are consistent with the dates for Australian settlement. Since the 2011 DNA results, more credence has been given to the notion that Aboriginal Australians were part of an earlier dispersal. Any evidence of a shoreline trek would lie beneath an ocean considerably higher than it was when traversed that way.
Could these teeth belong to the ancestors of the original Australians?
Saw this thread yesterday; read the article with interest and enjoyment; couldn't think of anything to say, but felt guilty about not posting something; still feeling guilty today, especially as nobody else has posted either; so ...
It is an interesting article and one thing really caught my attention. The discussion of tooth decay. The 19th century doctor I have been researching wrote a lot about the high rate of cavities in the Ohio river valley where he worked compared to the number of cavities he saw while in Philadelphia at medical school. So far I have not found his explanation for this, if he ever came up with one. It was interesting to see another speculation about local conditions and the rate of tooth decay.
>4 TLCrawford: on that topic, recent multi-image CT technology has allowed an exquisite view of the teeth of those who died in Pompeii. Perfect dental health!
(The researchers attribute is to a lack of sugar in the diet. I dunno. Btw, ancient Egyptians had terrible teeth, said to be from the sand that got into all the bread and wore down the teeth over time. Almost universal in Egyptian finds, I understand.)
All tha said, I am still shaking my head over the OP finding!
>3 alaudacorax: No worries. I'm glad you read it and took and interest!
>5 stellarexplorer: Given recent studies that have shown diets w/o sugar where the people don't brush have no difference from the people who do brush, and only when people eat sugar does the brushing have an impact, that attribution sounds pretty cut & dry to me.
>7 .Monkey.: interesting. oh, one more thing they noted: the water in the area had high levels of naturally-occurring fluoride.
I read somewhere - can't remember where - about tooth decay in prehistoric peoples being attributed to the diet including wild honey. It's always stuck in my mind because I occasionally come across organic types insisting that honey doesn't rot your teeth because it's 'natural'.
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