The Forgotten Exodus: The Into Africa Theory of Human Evolution
A recent groundbreaking study of human origins has called into question the very cornerstone of the current paradigm in evolutionary science, finding fault with the widely held belief that Homo sapiens first emerged 200,000 years ago in Africa. Could it be, as this new model suggests, that our earliest ancestors migrated into, rather than out of, Africa?
Imagine for a moment that everything you learned about human origins during the last few decades was wrong, almost entirely opposite to what has been widely propagated. For most of the public, and even for a good many academics, that may well transpire to be exactly the case if the new study published by an independent British archaeological researcher, Bruce R. Fenton, proves to be accurate.
Fenton is not the first to see fundamental errors in the popular consensus model of human evolution and the associated early migrations that colonised the planet. There has always been some level of discontent among the community of paleoanthropologists, perhaps the best known opponents to the consensus theory are three distinguished Professors; Milford H. Wolpoff, Xinzhi Wu and Alan Thorne [deceased], together they can be considered the godfathers of the multiregional theory of human evolution.
The Out of Africa Theory, also known as the recent emergence and replacement hypothesis, posits that the earliest hominins emerged in Africa and there they evolved until a stage known as Homo erectus, around two million years ago. Homo erectus moved out of Africa and migrated as far as Southeast Asia, somewhere in Eurasia they underwent further adaptations giving rise to two new species, Homo denisova (Denisovans) and Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthals), by around 500,000 years ago. Back in Africa, Homo erectus continued to evolve down a separate pathway until it had produced the first examples of Homo sapiens about 200,000 years ago. The Out of Africa Theory describes two waves of migrations involving Homo sapiens, one that made it no further than the Levant region, 130,000 years ago, and a second that successfully colonised the planet 60,000 years ago.
The Multiregional Theory agrees with the Out of Africa model only as far as the migrations of Homo erectus moving out of Africa, but suggests that after this the evolution towards a Homo sapiens form occurred everywhere that these early humans had reached. In this opposing model, Homo sapiens emerged separately (but concurrently) in Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia. Due to interbreeding on the edges of these regions evolutionary adaptations were shared across the planet (genetic drift) and the species remained strongly homogenous for that region rather than producing four evolutionarily distinct anatomically modern human species.
So far so good, we have two closely related models that differ only in the later stages, both sound sensible and both have compelling elements. Indeed we can see evidence of very early hominin evolution in Africa with what appear to be migrations out of the continent just as we would expect in the Out of Africa model. We also know today that various human lineages were interbreeding across Eurasia, including gene sharing between Neanderthals, Denisovans and H. sapiens rather than total replacement by the latter population, just as multi-regional theorists had always suspected. So which theory does Fenton champion?
Fenton’s research has taken him to an entirely different conclusion, his new model pulls the rug out from all existing descriptions of the human story. Although he accepts elements of both the competing models in the academic world he is of the opinion both are mostly incorrect.
“It is my finding that Homo sapiens emerged first in Australasia, from among a population of Homo erectus resident there. My date for this event is very early in the timeline, perhaps 900 – 800 thousand years ago”, says Fenton. He then progresses deeper into his theory, “the evidence that I uncovered strongly supports the existence of three key migrations of Homo sapiens moving out of Australasia. The first of these happened 200 thousand years ago, with a small group making their way to East Africa. A second event occurred 74 thousand years ago after the eruption of the Lake Toba Volcano, groups of survivors unable to move South were forced to head west so as to escape the devastating nuclear winter that followed, some of these groups made their way to Africa and found safety in the South of the continent. The third event is the most important, 60 thousand years ago around 200 people moved out of Australasia into Eurasia, these were the forebears of every non-African and non-Australian person living on Earth today.”
It is a radical revision to the current evolutionary narrative, revolutionary even, but only if it is true. It is tempting to dismiss Fenton out of hand, after all, he is not a paleoanthropologist nor even an evolutionary biologist, why should anybody take his work seriously?
The problem for Fenton’s critics is in his sources, his work uses the very same peer-reviewed papers and well accepted studies, indeed many of his sources include the very same leading scientists opposed to his new model. It certainly looks as though he has done his homework. Some of Fenton’s evidence is incredibly intriguing, he makes a very compelling case.
Fenton refers to some recent studies that have begun to change the landscape for paleoanthropology. He points to the recent conclusions of the analysis of Homo erectus skulls in the Georgian Republic as evidence that several species of hominins in Africa are in fact nothing more than variance with the greater H. erectus population. Elsewhere he notes in Southeast Asia the growing suspicion among scientists that Homo floresiensis evolved from a much earlier lineage of hominins than that which gave rise to modern humans. Fenton’s analysis of Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestry convincingly places their founder populations also in South East Asia and Australasia. There seems little that he does not find fault with in the currently accepted academic narrative.
“We now have finds that place early humans in India three million years ago and evidence Homo erectus populations ranging from Indonesia to the Georgian Republic by two million years ago. Down in Australasia we find the only signature for interbreeding between Denisovans and modern humans, on the island of Guinea 44 thousand years ago, which is long after Australasia became completely isolated in the official narrative. How do entirely isolated populations interbreed with other groups? It is only once we examine the mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal material of modern human groups, once you see the patterns there, that you know for sure we have got the whole story wrong for the last few decades.” – Bruce R Fenton
If Fenton is right, and it remains to see whether the academic community is even willing to examine his work let alone accept it, we might need to do a great deal of rewriting of our history books.
by Oliver Hodge