Human Migration: New Models

I made the above model to show the simple view of Homo sapien migration that I have had for a long time.  But I have not kept up on pertinent genetics, geology, linguistics, archeology, anthropology and much more.  I am trying to read up on the origin of culture in India and while looking at some recent stuff, I realized my simple model of human migration is outdated.  Today I ran into this great show on Stephen Oppenheimer’s theory which is found in “The Real Eve” (2003).  It is fascinating!  And if you watch the show, you can see why the genetics of India could be so complicated.  But I have no idea how the academy feels about this theory.  And  I don’t know if I can get all this to relate to the Ramayana, but it was a fun distraction.

Questions to readers:

  • Do you know if Oppenheimer’s theory has controversy?  What is the consensus?
  • Can you recommend better book, sites or maps?


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

12 responses to “Human Migration: New Models

  1. CRL

    I don’t know of any controversy, personally, though the newer theory seems to be somewhat slow to catch on. (I believe I was taught the older version in both of my high school biology classes, but learned of Oppenheimer’s through side reading. When I was lurking in on college biology classes last week, I heard Oppenheimer’s theory taught, mostly as a quick review to introduce a computational bio lab.)

    I think the older theory is somewhat hard to shake, just because it’s much simpler and more intuitive. Actually, I can see why it’s still taught: it gives a very broad outline of Oppenheimer’s theory, but is much easier to remember. In other words, it may be wrong, but it will get you through the exam, which, obviously, is the important part.

  2. Thanx, CRL.
    the Old Theory, is wrong on some several important points and in several ways. I think I must develop new models to learn it. It is wrong on India in critical ways — that is how I found it.
    The old theory never talked about climate and disasters. It gave the illusion of a nice steady flow. Also, the old theory did not know Neanderthals. The old theory did not understand the supposed genetic bottleneck. The old theory did not tell about humans nearly wiped out a few times.

    The new theory gives a feel for the accidental nature of our tenuous survival.
    Thanx for being my inside voice. I will ask Cris too.

  3. CRL

    Yeah. Again, it isn’t actually right. But it’s not right in the same way that CO2+H2O–>C6H12O6+O2 isn’t really photosynthesis, but is easier to teach. If you care about human evolution, you’ll learn the Oppenheimer model, if you don’t, you’ll stick with the old theory; if you care about biochemistry or about plants, you’ll learn the Calvin cycle, if not, you’ll stick with the simplified equation. (Or cram the Calvin cycle for a test, forget it, re-cram it for the AP exam, and subsequently re-forget it, as I did.) In terms of general understanding, the old model, with mention of genetic bottlenecks, is not that bad. Unless you specialize in India, in which case it is horrible.

  4. The mitochondrial legacies are fascinating, aren’t they? Something always felt wrong to me with the old model. As CRL aptly points out, the old model is much easier to teach, but it seems a little too cartoonish. There’s got to be a more accurate way to present a simplified version, because when you see the modern model, it feels as though you’ve been lied to, like they’ve said CO2+H2O–>C6H12O6+O2!

  5. Well, the thing with CO2+H2O–>C6H12O6+O2
    is that it is accurate but just much too brief.
    IF Oppenheimer’s is right the Old model is not an abbreviated form, it leads us wrong on the Americans, the Indians, the Polynesian Islands and much more. So, agreeing with The Wise Fool, a better illustration would be nice. The problem is, complex things are hard to capture (as CRL tells us).

    But hang in there with me. I think I can bring this all back to Jesus and Rama!

  6. Curt

    That was a really cool link but I do not understand how Neanderthal fits in to the new theory. The question of whether Neandertals were exterminated by Cro Magnon man or whether there was some interbreeding is something that I have seen on TV occasionally.

  7. Sorry this took so long Sabio but better late than never.

    Oppenheimer’s model wasn’t entirely his; there had been an emerging consensus among anthropologists that a single “fully modern” human lineage out of Africa populated the planet. This model was opposed by multi-regionalists such as Milford Wolpoff, who argued that earlier dispersals out of Africa resulted in several independently evolving lineages around the world. There is a bit of truth to both these scenarios, and neither is quite correct.

    We now know, through DNA evidence, that “modern” humans dispersing out of Africa over the past 125,000 years encountered previously dispersed hominin groups, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, and mixed with them. It’s quite likely they also encountered remnant populations of Homo erectus and mixed with them too. The picture we are getting of human evolution is multiple lineages all mixing together. It also looks like “modern” humans in Africa were mixing with more archaic lineages that were also in Africa, and were doing so very recently (i.e., 15,000 years ago).

    My Originus post on the recently discovered “Red Deer Cave people” discusses these very issues:

    Bottom line: there is no simple or single human lineage; we are all mixed up.

  8. Oppenheimer’s theory is wrong. It was accepted by many at one time, and in fact was simply a re-statement of what appeared to be an emerging anthropological consensus at that time. We know it is wrong because we know that modern humans out of Africa were encountering previously dispersed hominins and mixing with them. Most non-Africans, including you, have 1-4% of your genes from Neanderthals. Most Austronesians have 1-4% of their genes from Denisovans.

    There were probably several “modern human” migrations out of Africa over the last 125,000 years. These dispersing groups encountered previously dispersed groups and had sex with them. Even modern humans who remained in Africa were mixing it up with more archaic humans who were also in Africa. Human evolution is complex, messy, and reticulated. There is no single evolving lineage or single ancestral group.

    I just wrote about these issues in this post:

  9. CRL

    Er, I believe that is actually the idea of this post, Cris, that there was not a single emergence. This is about the newer theory, based off of DNA evidence, that dispersing groups intermingled after leaving Africa.

  10. CRL, Sabio’s direct question at the end of his post was whether Oppenheimer’s single lineage migration out of Africa about 80,000 years ago is controversial or whether there is a consensus. Sabio then stated he had no idea how academics viewed this theory. Hence, my response.

  11. @ CRL,
    Thanks for the input and keeping your pulse on the classroom for me. Cris is an anthropologist and I am most grateful he is here to correct me.

    @ Cris,
    I realize that you double posted because you thought you lost the first, but it is fun seeing the two versions! 🙂 In the second, you are frustrated after losing your comment and just tell us that Oppenheimer is wrong! Loved that.
    Does Oppenheimer still stand by his theory and have lots of reasons why he thinks you are wrong? Is it because of the huge temptation to defend your pet theory and your name in science flooding our other side job of interest-in-truth?

    I still want a diagram or two or seven that show somewhat close to the phenomena. Do you know of a good diagram or two? I get it that the intermixing is immensely complicated. But even with that, has anyone attempted good visual models that lay people can digest and actually absorb some of that complexity?

  12. Curt

    The last time that I exchanged words with an athrapoliist he flat out said that Neandertals were not us. I did not challenge him but I thought to myself.
    How can you say that Neandertals were not us. If Both Cro Magnon man and Neandertal had a common ancestor then Neanderals are us. In fact
    taking that understanding one step further cows and pigs are snails and frogs and lizards are us too. I had never thought of myself as a Cannibis before now. Oh well It is a life style that I enjoy. Snails and frogs and cows are tasty. By the way if the definition of a pieces is that when they mate they produce fertile offspring then if the mating of Neandertals and Cro Magnons produced fertile offspring they were clearly us.

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