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Evolution                  40,000 BC
Africa
Southwest Asia
Egypt
Indus Valley
China
Europe
South America
Mesoamerica
North America
Other

In General

The multiple ways in which Homo spaiens diverged physically and behaviorally from pre-sapiens forms of Homo in the period between about 300,000 years ago to 30,000 years ago are collectively referred to as the "Middle/Upper Paleolithic transition." This "transition" is visible in many radical changes, such as (1) an increase of average human brain size from about 1,000 to about 1,400 cubic centimeters; (2) changes in physical form such that modern Homo sapiens sapiens have less robust skeletons, a more prominent chin, smaller or absent brow ridges, smaller teeth, a higher rounded skull, and other physical characteristics; (3) increased human population numbers and densities. (18)

The earliest "full-blown" examples [of Neanderthals] date to around 130,000 years ago, and most specimens postdate 74,000 years ago. While their start is thus arbitrary, their end is abrupt: the last Neanderthals died somewhat after 40,000 years ago. (114)

...suddenly and inexplicably, some 35,000 years ago, a new race of Men--Homo sapiens ("thinking Man")­-appeared as if from nowhere, and swept Neanderthal Man from the face of Earth. These modern Men--named CroMagnan--looked so much like us that, if dressed like us in modern clothes, they would be lost in the crowds of any European or American city. (146)

Klein suggests that what amounts to a rewiring of the human brain occurred sometime between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago, allowing for a great leap to modern intelligence. (170)

Africa

About all scholars agree on is that: (1) there were humans living in Europe and western Asia by 500,000 years ago but they were not Homo sapiens spaiens; (2) a distinctive form of human, the "Neanerthals," who were different from us in important anatomical ways, lived in Europe, western Asia, and perhaps North Africa between about 100,000 and 40,000 years ago; and (3) by 30,000 years ago all the Neanderthals and other distinctive physical forms of humans, except ourselves, Homo sapiens sapiens, had disappeared.

Southwest Asia

 About all scholars agree on is that: (1) there were humans living in Europe and western Asia by 500,000 years ago but they were not Homo sapiens spaiens; (2) a distinctive form of human, the "Neanerthals," who were different from us in important anatomical ways, lived in Europe, western Asia, and perhaps North Africa between about 100,000 and 40,000 years ago; and (3) by 30,000 years ago all the Neanderthals and other distinctive physical forms of humans, except ourselves, Homo sapiens sapiens, had disappeared.

…geneticists, by tracing the DNA patterns found in people throughout the world, have now identified lineages descended from 10 sons of a genetic Adam and 18 daughters of Eve. This ancestral human population lived somewhere in Africa, geneticists believe, and started to split up some time after 144,000 years ago, give or take 10,000 years, the inferred time at which both the mitochondrial and Y chromosome trees make their first branches. The tree is rooted in a single Y chromosomal Adam, and has 10 principal branches, Dr. Cavalli-Sforza reports. Of these sons of Adam, the first three (designated I, II and III) are found almost exclusively in Africa. Son III's lineage migrated to Asia and begat sons IV-X, who spread through the rest of the world--to the Sea of Japan (son IV), northern India (son V) and the South Caspian (sons VI and IX). (109)

The most recent transition human fossils (Cro-Magnon subspecies) have been discovered in in Lebanon (37,000 BC)... (113)

Egypt

 

Indus Valley 

…geneticists, by tracing the DNA patterns found in people throughout the world, have now identified lineages descended from 10 sons of a genetic Adam and 18 daughters of Eve. This ancestral human population lived somewhere in Africa, geneticists believe, and started to split up some time after 144,000 years ago, give or take 10,000 years, the inferred time at which both the mitochondrial and Y chromosome trees make their first branches. The tree is rooted in a single Y chromosomal Adam, and has 10 principal branches, Dr. Cavalli-Sforza reports. Of these sons of Adam, the first three (designated I, II and III) are found almost exclusively in Africa. Son III's lineage migrated to Asia and begat sons IV-X, who spread through the rest of the world--to the Sea of Japan (son IV), northern India (son V) and the South Caspian (sons VI and IX). (109)

China

The remains of one of the earliest modern humans to inhabit eastern Asia have been unearthed in a cave in China. Researchers found 34 bone fragments belonging to a single individual at the Tianyuan Cave, near Beijing. Radiocarbon dates, obtained directly from the bones, show the person lived between 42,000 and 39,000 years ago. As you go west, the next specimens are from Lebanon. There's nothing in between.

According to the "Out of Africa" theory, modern humans ( Homo sapiens ) evolved in East Africa and then spread out across the globe about 70,000 years ago, replacing earlier, or archaic, human populations, such as the Neanderthals, with very little, if any, interbreeding. The Tianyuan remains display diagnostic features of modern H. sapiens . But co-author Erik Trinkaus and his colleagues argue, controversially, that the bones also display features characteristic of earlier human species, such as relatively large front teeth. The most likely explanation, they argue, is interbreeding between early modern humans emerging from Africa and the archaic populations they encountered in Europe and Asia. "The pattern we see across the Old World is basically a modern human in terms of its newly emerged characteristics, but also a minority of traits that are absent or lost in the earliest modern humans in East Africa," Professor Trinkaus told the BBC News website.

The person's age at death was estimated by how much the teeth had worn down. This put the individual in their late 40s or 50s. The single toe bone which was unearthed seems to suggest the individual wore shoes, pushing back the earliest known evidence for footwear by about 10,000 years. An earlier study by Professor Trinkaus shows that human small toes became weaker during the stage of prehistory known as the Upper Palaeolithic, and that this can probably be attributed to the adoption of sturdy shoes. The invention of rugged shoes reduced humans' reliance on strong, flexile toes to grip and balance. (33)

…geneticists, by tracing the DNA patterns found in people throughout the world, have now identified lineages descended from 10 sons of a genetic Adam and 18 daughters of Eve. This ancestral human population lived somewhere in Africa, geneticists believe, and started to split up some time after 144,000 years ago, give or take 10,000 years, the inferred time at which both the mitochondrial and Y chromosome trees make their first branches. The tree is rooted in a single Y chromosomal Adam, and has 10 principal branches, Dr. Cavalli-Sforza reports. Of these sons of Adam, the first three (designated I, II and III) are found almost exclusively in Africa. Son III's lineage migrated to Asia and begat sons IV-X, who spread through the rest of the world--to the Sea of Japan (son IV), northern India (son V) and the South Caspian (sons VI and IX). (109)

Europe

 About all scholars agree on is that: (1) there were humans living in Europe and western Asia by 500,000 years ago but they were not Homo sapiens spaiens; (2) a distinctive form of human, the "Neanerthals," who were different from us in important anatomical ways, lived in Europe, western Asia, and perhaps North Africa between about 100,000 and 40,000 years ago; and (3) by 30,000 years ago all the Neanderthals and other distinctive physical forms of humans, except ourselves, Homo sapiens sapiens, had disappeared.

Humans continued to evolve significantly long after they were established in Europe, and interbred with Neandertals as they settled across the continent, according to new research published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Professor Joao Zilhao of the University of Bristol, Professor Erik Trinkaus of Washington University and colleagues in Europe compared the features of an early modern human cranium found in the Peºtera cu Oase (the Cave with Bones) in southwestern Romania with other human samples from the period (the Late Pleistocene). Differences between the skulls suggest complex population dynamics as modern humans dispersed into Europe. The different fragments of the reconstructed cranium -- named Oase 2 -- were found in a Late Pleistocene bone bed principally containing the remains of cave bears.

Radiocarbon dating of the specimen produced only a minimum age (more than 35,000 years), but similarity in morphological traits with the Oase 1 human mandible -- found in 2002 on the surface of the cave, adjacent to the excavation area, and dated to about 40,500 years ago -- lead the team to conclude that the two fossils were the same age. These are the earliest modern human remains so far found in Europe and represent our best evidence of what the modern humans who first dispersed into Europe looked like. By comparing it with other skulls, Professor Zilhao and colleagues found that Oase 2 had the same proportions as modern human crania and shared a number of modern human and/or non-Neandertal features.

However, there were some important differences: apparently independent features that are, at best, unusual for a modern human. These included frontal flattening, a fairly large juxtamastoid eminence and exceptionally large upper molars with unusual size progression which are found principally among the Neandertals. Professor Zilhao said: "Such differences raise important questions about the evolutionary history of modern humans. They could be the result of evolutionary reversal or reflect incomplete palaeontological sampling of Middle Paleolithic human diversity. "They could also reflect admixture with Neandertal populations as modern humans spread through western Eurasia. This mixture would have resulted in both archaic traits retained from the Neandertals and unique combinations of traits resulting from the blending of previously divergent gene pools. (44)

Modern man appeared in Europe much later, around 40,000 years ago. (70)

Named from the site of Aurignac, in the Pyrenees, where it was first discovered, the earliest society of Cro-Magnon is known as Aurignacian. Their culture lasted from forty thousand to twenty-eight thousand years ago and was a geographically widespread phenomenon. It spanned lands from Spain (the Santander region) to South Wales, with concentrations in the High Danube region of Germany and Austria, and the Moravian region of Slovakia. In France, they occupied small valleys in the Dordogne around Les Eyzies-de-Tayac and in the piedmonts of the Pyrenees. (70)

…geneticists, by tracing the DNA patterns found in people throughout the world, have now identified lineages descended from 10 sons of a genetic Adam and 18 daughters of Eve. The split between the two main branches in the European tree suggests that modern humans reached Europe 39,000 to 51,000 years ago, Dr. Wallace calculates, a time that corresponds with the archaeological date of at least 35,000 years ago. (109)

Some 6 percent of Europeans are descended from the continent's first 258 founders, who entered Europe from the Near East in the Upper Paleolithic era 45,000 years ago, Dr. Richards calculates. Another 80 percent arrived 30,000 to 20,000 years ago, before the peak of the last glaciation, and 10 percent came in the Neolithic 10,000 years ago, when the ice age ended and agriculture was first introduced to Europe from the Near East. (111)

The dating of Cro-Magnons, with their highly developed art and stones with numerical notations, "suddenly" appearing in Europe around 40,000 BC adds credence to Andrews' view. Their art and artifacts reveal cognitive skills and a well defined cultural perspective. This culture produced houses, graves, shelters, fires, and thousands of tools. It excelled in every form of art: painting, sculpture, decoration, drawing, and engraving. Its people (standing as tall as 6'4") engaged in ceremony, ritual, music (their whistles and flutes have been discovered), and dance (suggested by cave art figures). (113)

The most recent transition human fossils (Cro-Magnon subspecies) have been discovered in Europe (40,000 BC)... (113)

...regression studies (using mtDNA) show all modern humans appear to be genetically related possibly as far back as 230,000 years. Africans (the oldest) are considered to have been clearly well established between 130,000 and 80,000 BC. The next oldest seems to be Caucasoid, Middle-Eastern types, dating from about 100,000 years ago. The next oldest are believed to have been Central Asians dating between 73,000 and 56,000 BC. Next, such estimates suggest, came the Europeans between 50,000 and 40,000 BC. (113)

The evidence for an abrupt rise is clearest in France and Spain, in the Late Ice Age around forty thousand years ago. Where there had previously been Neanderthals, anatomically fully modern people (often known as Cro-Magnons, from the French site where their bones were first identified) now appear. Had one of those gentlemen or ladies strolled down the Champs Elysees in modern attire, he or she would not have stood out from the Parisian crowds in any way. As significant to archaeologists as the Cro-Magnons' skeletons are their tools, which are far more diverse in form and obvious in function than any in the earlier archaeological record. The tools suggest that modern anatomy had at last been joined by modern innovative behavior. (114)

One of the most remarkable features of the last ice age is the success of living on the plains of Russia. While northwestern Europe became uninhabitable during the LGM, in Russia occupation of a number of sites from the River Don to eastern Siberia appears to have continued unabated. Farther east, the earliest known occurrences of modern humans in Siberia are dated to around 45-41 kya. These are concentrated mostly in the Altai Mountains. (145)

Farther south at Kostenki on the Don River about 400 km south of Moscow, where a series of more than 20 sites have been excavated, there is evidence of occupation by modern humans back to around 40 kya. (145)

More than 80% of European men have inherited their Y chromosomes from Palaeolithic ancestors who lived in Europe 25 to 40 kya. Only 20% of Europeans trace their Y-chromosome ancestry to Neolithic farmers who moved in from the Middle East. They linked two early migrations recorded by the Y chromosome to the Aurignacian and Gravettian cultures. (145)

South America

 

Mesoamerica

 

North America

 

Other

 Between 60,000 and 30,000 years ago, the ancestors of the Australian Aborigines somehow managed to cross at least a few kilometers of open ocean to reach Australia. And while it is possible that an occasional boat of fisherfolk was shipwrecked on the New Guinea-Australia coast, computer simulations that take into account normal fertility rates and the genetic diversity of modern populations suggest that more than just a boatload or two of colonists founded that area's present aboriginal population. Two distinct groups of ancient people have been found there, which scholars believe indicate colonization by two different groups, one more robust type, 50,000 years ago, the other a more gracile people, before 20,000 years ago.(24)

Founder groups from mainland Southeast Asia made the sea-crossing to Australia and New Guinea about 38,000 years ago, based on recent evidence, and hunter-gatherers across Southeast Asia gradually evolved somewhat different physical characteristics. (50)