Spread of man

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Haplogroups show the early migration of humans, thousands of years before the present
The skull of Skhul V, one of the oldest Homo sapiens fossils outside of Africa

The spread of humans ( Homo sapiens ) over the earth began according to the scientific findings available today in Africa .

Archaeological findings and the distribution of haplogroups show that people first migrated to the Middle East , then to South Asia and probably to Australia around 50,000 to 60,000 years ago . As in Africa, they followed the course of the coasts. Only later were Central and East Asia , both parts of America and Europe settled. Until a few thousand years ago, modern humans shared their habitat with other species of the Homo genus , in Europe with the Neanderthals .

This reconstruction of the expansion of modern humans shows considerable parallels with the out-of-Africa theory , which usually refers to Homo erectus , from which the Neanderthals developed in Europe. The previously widespread view that Homo sapiens developed separately from Homo erectus on several continents (“ multiregional origin of modern man ”) can now be considered refuted.

Family trees

Darwin's first sketch of a family tree of animal species

Charles Darwin wrote “I think” in his private notebook B in 1837 and then drew a system of bifurcating lines to explain how he imagined evolution . His epochal publication on The Origin of Species from 1859 was accompanied by an evolution diagram, which now also expressed a chronological sequence from bottom to top. Instead of representing species, the lines in such family trees can also represent human populations .

Paleoanthropological Findings

It was also Darwin who, as early as 1871, suspected in The Descent of Man and Sexual Selection that man came from Africa. Later, however, “multiregional” models were more popular, according to which the different human races emerged separately from each other in different parts of the world. Today this view is only held by anthropologists in the People's Republic of China and Sri Lanka.

In 1924 the Australian anatomist identified Raymond Dart in South Africa with Australopithecus africanus for the first time a pre-humans from Africa. In the 1960s and 1970s, Louis Leakey and other members of the Leakey family discovered numerous specimens of Homo in East Africa . The oldest fossils of the genus today are a 2.4 million year old toothed lower jaw ( UR 501 ) from Homo rudolfensis , which Friedemann Schrenk found in Malawi , and the lower jaw fragment LD 350-1 from Ethiopia . The earliest Homo erectus (= Homo ergaster ) is dated to an age of 1.8 million years. Finds in Dmanisi , Georgia , show that representatives of the genus Homo had left Africa only a little later. This fact is usually referred to as the out-of-Africa theory , but modern man has also spread across the world in a second wave of emigration from Africa.

First migrations to the Middle East and Australia (M 168 and M 130 denote markers in the Y chromosome; see below)

The early history of the species Homo sapiens is represented in Africa - and only in Africa - by a dense series of fossils. As early as 1921, the skull of an archaic Homo sapiens , known as Homo rhodesiensis , was found in Kabwe (Broken Hill) in Zambia . Locations of early archaic evidence of Homo sapiens are also included in Djebel Irhoud ( Morocco , 300,000 years old), Saldanha 1 (South Africa), Ndutu and Eyasi in Tanzania, Bodo (Ethiopia), Salé (Morocco) and - the fossil Florisbad 1 - Brandford (South Africa). Late archaic Homo sapiens (approx. 200,000–100,000 years old), which only show bulges above the eyes as a reminiscence of Homo erectus , originate from Omo / Kibish in Ethiopia ( Omo 1 and Omo 2), Eliye Springs on Lake Turkana in Kenya and from Laetoli (Tanzania). Modern Homo sapiens , which do not differ in any way from the people living today, have been found in Border Cave and the Klasies River Caves (South Africa), as well as Omo / Kibish (Ethiopia). In the Klasies River Caves between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth under the direction of Hillary Deacon and in the Border Cave under Peter Beaumont, the first appearance of modern man is expected to be 120,000 years ago. An almost complete skull from Omo / Kibish may even be 130,000 years old. The oldest modern man is currently represented by a 160,000 year old find from Herto (Ethiopia); Whether the origin of Homo sapiens was in north-east Africa or in southern Africa is currently the subject of scientific discussion.

Finds at Djebel Irhoud in Morocco support the thesis that modern man has developed successively over a period of several 10,000 years in large parts of Africa, and that more modern features have spread relatively quickly across the continent due to migratory movements.

Skull of Qafzeh 9

The first fossils of modern man outside Africa were excavated from 1931 in Skhul , a cave near Haifa in the Carmel Mountains , and shortly afterwards in Qafzeh near Nazareth in what is now Israel. The oldest of them can be dated to an age of 110,000 years; In the period between 80,000 and 50,000 years, evidence of people in these sites dries up again. This goes hand in hand with a decrease in temperature of around 10 ° C, which occurred around 80,000 years ago in the Mediterranean region and which greatly changed living conditions. After this first foray out of Africa, the people here either simply died out or migrated back to Africa (and in some cases were replaced by Neanderthals). One possible explanation is the Toba catastrophe theory of the anthropologist Stanley Ambrose.

Mungo Man (or Mungo 3) from Australia is around 40,000 years old.

Disregarding this episode, the oldest finds of modern man outside of Africa come amazingly from Australia. Lake Mungo is located in New South Wales , about 1000 kilometers west of Sydney. Here Jim Bowler discovered the remains of a human named " Mungo 3 ", who is now believed to be 40,000 years old. Human artifacts from a sediment layer below this site have even been dated to an age of up to 60,000 years. Stone tools from a site in the Northern Territory could also be up to 60,000 years old. Based on this date, it took mankind around 2000 generations to colonize the earth since leaving Africa. These are not purposeful hikes; in most cases it is sufficient to assume that a group expanded its settlement area by a few kilometers per generation.

Genetic pedigrees

The genetic family trees provide information about the prehistoric expansion movements, among other things because the direction of expansion of the changed characteristics of the genome can often still be determined or traced.

While skeletal features usually differ from one another gradually , polymorphisms are used for family trees that have been obtained using genetic methods , the state of which changes suddenly. A polymorphism denotes a genetic difference. On the protein plane which can, for example, the four blood groups of the AB0 system be on the DNA plane, for example the polymorphism M173 means that at a certain position in the nucleotide sequence on the Y-chromosome instead of an A , a C stands. Polymorphisms which can be used for the construction of family trees are also called markers .

When classifying the branches in genetic pedigree chronologically, it must be borne in mind that the information is subject to great inaccuracy because the mutation rate in prehistoric populations is difficult to determine. In addition, it applies to family trees that extinct branches have left no genetic traces in the living populations, i.e. cannot be recognized based on the genetic information of recent populations alone.

Family trees from the distribution of blood groups

During the First World War , the Polish couple Hirszfeld examined the distribution of blood groups in soldiers of different nationalities on the Balkan front. From their results in 1919 they formulated the thesis that mankind emerged from two “pure” populations with blood groups A and B, which later mixed through migration. They suspected the origin of blood group A in Northern Europe, of B in India. Humanity therefore seemed to have two separate origins.

Genetic comparison in nine population populations worldwide, according to Cavalli-Sforza (1988).

From the 1930s, the British Arthur Mourant examined thousands of blood samples from hundreds of human populations around the world for the distribution of AB0 blood groups. In 1954 he summarized the results in The Distribution of the Human Blood Groups , which for the next 20 years formed the standard textbook of human population genetics and established modern human genetics .

Richard Lewontin , then working at the University of Chicago and actually interested in fruit flies , analyzed in 1972 on this basis how different human populations differed in their genetic variation. The result, which surprised him even, was that around 85 percent of the genetic variation occurred within a population. Only seven percent of the genetic variation differentiated populations from one another, for example Finns from Portuguese. And only the remaining eight percent differentiated human “races” from one another. Lewontin understood it as "Caucasians" from western Eurasia, black Africans from the area south of the Sahara or Australian natives. The researcher illustrated his result by means of a thought experiment: If all of humanity except the Kikuyu were extinct due to some terrible event , then 85 percent of the total genetic variation among humans would still be preserved (this is not a peculiarity of the Kikuyu, but also applies to the most other populations). Lewontin's result has since been confirmed in numerous studies. For the construction of genetic pedigrees, this means that only relatively few polymorphisms are suitable as markers.

Another important insight came from the Japanese Motoo Kimura , who worked in the USA. In the 1950s, most biologists believed that selection was the primary cause of the spread of genetic abnormalities. Kimura, on the other hand, calculated that most of the differences arise from genetic drift, i.e. that they spread purely randomly. In this case, the mutation rate also provides a measure of the point in time at which a marker was created. The population geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza also established the principle of the most economical explanation (English parsimony , cf. “ Ockhams razor ”), which has since been followed in all studies on this subject. According to this, a pattern of polymorphisms is explained by the fewest possible number of changes necessary to achieve it. The human populations that differ genetically the least are therefore considered to be the most closely related. On this basis, Cavalli-Sforza and Anthony Edwards studied the blood group distribution in 15 human populations. While populations from Europe and East Asia appeared closely related here, they looked comparatively unrelated to Africans. Cavalli-Sforza and Walter Bodmer presented a theory on the basis of these data as to when human populations should have separated from one another: “Africans” and “East Asians” 41,000 years ago, “Africans” and “Europeans” 33,000 years ago and “Europeans” "And" East Asians "21,000 years ago.

Family trees from mitochondrial DNA

Since Walter Gilbert and Fred Sanger independently developed methods for sequencing DNA (Nobel Prize 1977), the construction of family trees at this level became possible. This multiplies the number of available polymorphisms: Instead of the four blood groups of the AB0 system, a polymorphism in the form of a point mutation could now potentially be detected on every single nucleotide of human DNA. Human DNA is three billion nucleotides.

In most of the chromosomes, however, the genetic material from the mother and father is constantly recombined , so that the original pattern of the polymorphisms is lost after a few hundred generations. The New Zealand biochemist Allan Wilson from the University of California at Berkeley therefore put his doctoral student Rebecca L. Cann on the DNA of mitochondria for the following reasons :

  • Mitochondria are only inherited from mothers and have their own genetic material outside the cell nucleus;
  • the sequence of this mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is only available in a single version;
  • the mutation rate is ten times as high as that of chromosomes, so that a polymorphism can be expected every 100 nucleotides;
  • In addition, a single body cell contains several hundred mitochondria, so that sufficient DNA was available for the methods that were initially insensitive.

In the work that Cann published in 1987, she identified a common ancestor for the first time: "All of these mitochondrial DNAs come from a single woman who probably lived in Africa around 200,000 years ago." This ancestor was quickly referred to in the daily press as " Eva " designated. However, this does not mean that there was only one woman in this population; the mitochondria of all other women living at that time have only died out in the course of time, as there is no purely female ancestral chain back to them.

Black Africans showed the greatest genetic variability in their mtDNA sequences - with a mutation rate assumed to be constant, they had had the longest time to evolve. In other words: the origin of Homo sapiens in Africa could also be confirmed with genetic methods. Later studies have confirmed this result, even if the time of the first split in the family tree was corrected to 150,000 years ago.

Another method can be used to calculate the point in time at which populations began to multiply exponentially. Polymorphisms accumulate at a constant rate and form a bell-shaped distribution for a population. The anthropologist Henry Harpending from Pennsylvania State University examined so-called mismatches in the mtDNA of 25 human populations and found in 23 of them the typical signs of a recent exponential growth. The population increase began in Africa 60,000 years ago, in Asia 50,000 years ago and in Europe 30,000 years ago.

Family trees from Y-chromosomal DNA

Another section in human DNA also only occurs in one version: the Y chromosome (see also haplogroup , haplotype ). It is passed on exclusively from fathers to sons. A polymorphism occurs on the Y chromosome only about every 1000 nucleotides, but since it is about 50 million nucleotides long - in contrast to mitochondrial DNA with only around 16,000 nucleotides - it has now proven to be by far the most suitable starting point for construction genetic pedigrees.

The results confirm the family trees obtained with mitochondrial DNA: The family trees constructed using Y-chromosomal DNA also have roots in Africa. The age of the first common male ancestor is only 59,000 years. This is not a contradiction of the mtDNA family tree, because the depth of a family tree depends on the number of available polymorphisms. However, since the Y chromosome has relatively few polymorphisms, the family tree thus obtained converges earlier and no longer provides any information beyond an age of 59,000 years. Conversely, this result sets an upper time limit for emigration from Africa: up to 59,000 years ago, no member of the species Homo sapiens had left Africa (with an error between 40,000 and 140,000 years). However, the ecological area “Africa” also includes the Middle East, as the fossil finds from Israel show. The other results are shown below in a synopsis.

Family trees from single nucleotide polymorphisms

Today researchers include the entire genome in their analyzes. From the DNA sequence of the human genome, the evolution of Homo sapiens and its preforms using methods from human genetics can only be read within certain limits, because DNA in fossil bones has often disintegrated too far. It is therefore seldom possible to obtain information about the spread of human populations by directly comparing old and new genomes. However, since the deciphering of the human genome, other analytical methods have been developing rapidly, which allow conclusions to be drawn about earlier selection processes in individual populations from the remains of the genome in fossil bone finds and from the genomes of today's populations. The knowledge gained from this shows roughly, but with increasing certainty, how people spread.

Some methods are based on the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). These are point mutations , i.e. genetic changes ( alleles ) that have established themselves to a certain extent in the gene pool of a population. If such point mutations have occurred at different points in time and have then spread through the population, conclusions can be drawn from their frequency and their combination that there are relationships between the subsequent populations that have emerged from an original population and are now separated from each other and - derived from this - their spread.

For example, a certain SNP (FY * O) rarely occurs in all populations north of the Sahara, but is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa . From this, the authors of this SNP analysis conclude that - according to their statements 75,000 to 50,000 years ago - there must have been a long-term separation of the North African - Asia Minor - Eurasian populations from the Sub-Saharan populations, which they see as confirmation of the Out-of-Africa -Evaluate theory.

Another point mutation distinguishes today's populations of East Asia as well as the natives of Melanesia , Papua New Guinea and America from the populations of Europe, the Middle East , Central Asia and South Asia : This distribution probably reflects the separation of the people into an East Asian and a West Eurasian population, the exact time of which is unknown, but which may have happened around 30,000 to 20,000 years ago. Studies of the polymorphisms on individual genes, such as the beta globin gene, the CD4 gene and a region on chromosome 21, show by far the highest genetic variability for African populations. “Today's geographical distribution of alleles continues to correspond closely to the early prehistoric human spreading movements in Europe and Asia. Because the patterns in the genome that emerged at that time have clearly been preserved. Later there were only a surprisingly few fine adjustments to local conditions and today's environment. "

In other processes, deviations are examined in certain units of information, such as genes ( haplotype variants), or the variations in the number of defined genomic regions ( copy number variations , copy number variations , CNVs). This can be compared to typographical errors in individual letters, changes in an entire word, or the addition or removal of entire sections of text.

Family tree based on the inner ear bones

A method for reconstructing human spread that is independent of genetic markers was published in 2018. For this purpose, the anatomical features of the so-called inner ear labyrinth in 221 skeletons of people from all continents were recorded three-dimensionally and non-destructively using micro-computer tomography and their temporal-spatial morphological variants were analyzed. According to the authors of the study, the change in shape of the inner ear correlates with the distance from Africa.

Linguistic methods for the construction of family trees

The development of language must have played an essential role in the spread of modern man. Linguistics can only make a few statements about very early linguistic developments during the expansion of humans; however, the relationships between genetic and linguistic evolution can be examined, which can also contribute to a more precise understanding of the spread of humans. In an analysis of 504 languages ​​from all over the world, the greatest diversity of phonemes was found in Africa; it is lowest in South America and Oceania. The author explains this through a number of founder effects : When migrating across the world, new human populations were usually only founded by a few individuals. During this process, more and more of the phonemes used in Africa were lost. According to these results, the origin of the first human language, or languages, lies within Africa in western, central or southern Africa.

The spread of man across the earth


There are two main reasons cited as reasons for emigrating to new regions:

Settlement took place in more favorable areas and, over time, an ever better adaptation to the respective ecological conditions. This is how the oldest human cultures came about . The efficient use of the environment once again led to a strong population growth and a consequent expansion of the settlement areas. This resulted in a star-shaped expansion and establishment of cultures within the respective landscape type . According to the theory of cultural areas , the essential characteristics of the societies were retained. With the "offshoots" there was only a differentiation of details. Only more drastic changes led to a renewed migration to different types of habitats, which in turn required the development of new subsistence strategies and led to the differentiation of new cultures.


Modern man existed in Africa no later than 60,000 years ago and, according to the excavation findings in Herto, it was already 160,000 years ago. The greatest genetic diversity and thus the oldest lines of humanity can be found south of the Sahara. The San , in particular - formerly known as the Bushmen - display the kind of genetic diversity that is characteristic of the earliest humans. The mtDNA family trees and the peculiar click languages ​​of the San also suggest a connection to the earliest human ancestors. From excavations it is known that the range of the San used to reach as far as Ethiopia and Somalia. Overall, the following applies to all people: the further the distance to Ethiopia , the lower the genetic diversity.

As to why Homo sapiens began to successfully colonize the world outside of Africa around 60,000 years ago, there are different hypotheses that may complement each other. The British archaeologist Paul Mellars , for example, argued in 2006 that during this period some populations probably experienced a significant increase in the complexity of their technological, economic, social and cognitive behavior, which - in comparison with neighboring populations - led to strong population growth in them and led to subsequent spatial expansion. In 2012, however, the geneticist Andrea Manica from the University of Cambridge pointed out that around 70,000 to 60,000 years ago the climate in northeastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula became more humid and the coastal areas became more fertile as a result; previously, huge desert-like stretches of land would have prevented a migration to the north. In the same era, there were also several large river systems that are buried under sand in the Sahara today.

In a study published in 2019, mtDNA was used to reconstruct the immigration of a small population of people from southern Africa to East Africa for the period around 65,000 years ago, which could explain why cultural techniques that were previously only archaeologically proven in the south were then also first also in the east of the continent are detectable; this “push for modernization” could ultimately have triggered the spread to areas outside Africa.

The colonization of Australia across South Asia

As early as 1962, the American geographer Carl Ortwin Sauer described a universally existing pattern of dispersion according to which humans followed the course of the coasts (most of humanity still lives near the sea). Rubbish heaps of mussel shells , which also contained stone tools, were dated in 2007 at the Pinnacle Point cave on the Indian Ocean in South Africa to an age of 164,000 years, on the coast of Eritrea to an age of 125,000 years. Asia does not necessarily have to have been settled by land via the Sinai Peninsula and the "Levantine Corridor". Rather, various scientists suggest a route via the Bab al-Mandab , the Arabian Peninsula and the Strait of Hormuz : through a region that was relatively humid for around 125,000, around 100,000 and around 80,000 years ago for 4,000 to 7,000 years. This version was supported in 2009 by the discovery of stone tools dated to 70,000 to 80,000 years ago in Shi'bat Dihya 1 ( Yemen ) by a French team and in 2011 by 125,000 year old tools by an international team in Jebel Faya 1 (also: FAY-NE1, United Arab Emirates ). However, the toolmakers initially lacked fossils, partly because the coastal areas along the Arabian Peninsula at that time were flooded by rising sea levels after the last ice age cold peak . In 2016, however, the 3.2 centimeter finger bone of a person (archive number AW-1) was discovered at Al Wusta in the Nefud desert in northern Saudi Arabia, who is at least 85,000 years old and whose found layer is between 95,000 and 86,000 Years ago, which corresponds to the oxygen isotope level 5 - a relatively humid period.

The lower jaw TPL2 from Laos ;
bottom right: View of the molar  M3 (" wisdom tooth ")

The early finds of the Java man ( Homo erectus ) also suggest that there were spreading routes along the southern Asian coast. However, fossils are particularly poorly preserved under coastal conditions, but above all the Asian coastline of the cold ages is also under water today, so that possible sites from the predominant part of the Pleistocene are in the Indian Ocean. For the skull find TPL1 and the lower jaw TPL2 assigned to a second individual from the Tam-Pa-Ling Cave in Laos, an age of up to 63,000 years was published in 2012 and 2015 based on the uranium-thorium dating , but both were embedded in a layer of soil that is only 51,000 to 46,000 years old. Whether they were washed into this layer long after death or whether the direct dating of the skull was incorrect, remained open; The dating of teeth from the Fuyan Cave in southern China is also controversial and has been ascribed an age of at least 80,000 years. A molar tooth from the Lida Ajer cave, discovered by Eugène Dubois on the Indonesian island of Sumatra in 1890 , was assigned an age of 73,000 to 63,000 years in 2017.

Stone tools that are ascribed to the early Homo sapiens are called Middle Palaeolithic in India (in contrast to the European Middle Palaeolithic of the Neanderthals ) and are very rare there. Putative stone tools from the Jwalapuram site in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh were dated 74,000 years ago. The finds are controversial, especially since there are no associated fossils. Other sites in India, such as the Billasurgam caves in Kurnool , Andhra Pradesh, are dated immediately before the Toba eruption and lead some scientists to the Toba catastrophe theory , which led to a severe decimation of the population of South Asia about 70,000 years ago. This is countered by the fact that the neighboring Homo floresiensis survived the outbreak and that the climate event is therefore being overinterpreted. In addition, there are a number of sites from the Upper Paleolithic from about 40,000 years ago where blades must have been made, which can only be associated with Homo sapiens , since this skill emerges as a significant technical change and comparable further developments in Europe Upper Paleolithic is similar. The oldest known fossil records in Australia are also dated to this period (cf. Mungo Man , Mungo Lady ). New and more precise investigations of the last found mongoose 3 date it to between 57,000 and 69,000 years ago, a stone tool discovery in northern Australia was dated to an age of 65,000 years in 2017. In 2018, however, objections were published that suggested that Australia was first settled around 50,000 years ago.

Australian aborigines

So while the excavation findings are poor, genetic analyzes confirm the migration along the South Asian coast. The first marker in the Y-chromosomal family tree that distinguishes non-Africans from most Africans is called M168 and must have originated between 31,000 and 79,000 years before our time. It corresponds to the marker L3 in the mitochondrial family tree 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. The descendants of M168 and L3 live in what is now Ethiopia and Sudan, as well as throughout the world outside of Africa. Immediately after the branch L3 in the family tree of the mitochondrial DNA, two further markers that define the M cluster follow. 20 percent of the people in India and almost 100 percent of the Australian natives carry this cluster M. In the Y-chromosomal family tree, the marker M130 follows M168. It is practically non-existent west of the Caspian Sea, it occurs in five percent of all men in India, ten percent in Malaysia, 15 percent in New Guinea and 60 percent among Australian aborigines. The family trees obtained with mitochondria as well as with Y chromosomes confirm a migration through South Asia towards Australia. So-called Negritos , who live in isolated areas of South Asia - for example on the Andaman Islands - could be their immediate descendants.

The colonization of Australia most likely came from New Guinea via the Torres Strait , which had dried up during the Ice Ages. The reconstruction of the first colonization in Australia is also supported by an examination of the variants of the gastric bacterium Helicobacter pylori . According to this, the people of the first wave of migration carried a variant in their stomachs that is still detectable today among the natives of Australia and the plateau of New Guinea. The indigenous people of Taiwan, Melanesia and Polynesia have a second, different variant. In 2017, genetic analyzes were published, according to which there is an uninterrupted generation sequence from the first settlement to the present in at least some regions of Australia.

The settlement of Asia in a second wave of settlement

The second wave of settlements from around 40,000 years before today (M denotes marker on the Y chromosome; see text)

The M9 marker was created around 40,000 years ago in what is now Iran or in south-central Asia. It is worn by almost all men whose ancestors settled in Eurasia, North and South America. These Eurasians initially expanded their habitat to the east, where they encountered the mountain system of the Hindu Kush , Himalayas and Tianshan . One group oriented south and settled on the Indian subcontinent. It is characterized by the additional marker M20, which occurs in around half of all men in southern India, but only one to two percent in the Middle East outside of India. The colonization of South India by men with the marker M20 must have expired about 30,000 years ago. This is one of the few cases in which the Y-chromosomal and the mitochondrial family tree deviate from each other, because men with the marker M130 from the first colonization wave are barely detectable, while the mitochondrial cluster M (see above) is well represented. This is interpreted to mean that the male population from the first wave of settlement was killed or at least could no longer reproduce, while the immigrants took the women.

The importance of the route through the steppes north of the Hindu Kush has been controversial since 2009 (marker M45 originated in Central Asia 35,000 years ago). Stone tools in the Altai Mountains are around 40,000 years old (Upper Palaeolithic) and are the earliest evidence for people in this area to date , stone tools from the Tolbor-16 site in Mongolia have been assigned an age of approximately 45,000 years. The largest study to date on the genetics of the Asian peoples by the “ HUGO Pan-Asian SNP Consortium”, which is based on around 50,000 SNPs , estimates the proportion of this northern route for the settlement of East Asia as not very high, if at all. According to this, China and Central Asia would have been populated almost exclusively from Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, the Han Chinese are genetically clearly divided into a northern and a southern population.

Investigations of Homo sapiens Tianyuan 1, found in what is now Beijing's metropolitan area and dated to an age of 40,000 years, do not prevent China from being settled almost exclusively from Southeast Asia . Genetic analyzes in 2012 show that this person belongs to a population that was separated from the branch of later Europeans for tens of thousands of years, but is the ancestor of many of today's East Asians and of all Native Americans .

The settlement of the Middle East and Europe

Paleontological Findings

The first anatomically modern Europeans are often referred to as Cro-Magnon people, after the Abri de Cro-Magnon site in France, where the first bones were excavated in 1868. The Cro-Magnon humans were often over 180 cm tall and had a slender build. The oldest skull of a modern person in Europe comes from the Romanian cave Peştera cu oasis and is called "Oasis 2". It has been dated to 40,500 years. Two milk teeth from the Grotta del Cavallo in Apulia were even dated to an age between 45,000 and 43,000 years ago. Direct dating of bone finds from the Buran-Kaya III site on the Crimean peninsula revealed an age of 31,900 + 240 / −220 BP . The next younger fossils from Mladeč in the Czech Republic, the English Kent's Cavern and some French sites are all 32,000 to 30,000 years old. The appropriate culture is the Aurignacien with the oldest evidence from caves in the Swabian Alb and the site Willendorf II in Lower Austria (up to 40,000 years old).

The classification of a 54,700 ± 5,500 year (Cal BP) old skull roof from the Manot Cave in Israel in the spreading process is still open.

Genetic Findings

The professional golfer Tiger Woods is of African, Native American, Chinese, Thai and European descent.

The M89 marker also appears on the M168 line. It never coexists with the M130, so it must have arisen after the first group of people had already left Africa for Australia. M89 characterizes men from northeast Africa and the Middle East and was created around 40,000 years ago (plus / minus 10,000 years). This agrees with the first finds of stone tools in the Middle East, which are around 45,000 years old (apart from the finds in Qafzeh and Skhul in present-day Israel, which come from the unsuccessful first foray 110,000 years ago, see above). Some of these people migrated to the Balkans , which is evidenced, among other things, by around 40,000 year old artifacts from the Üçağızlı Cave ( Turkey ). However, only a few percent of European men carry the M89 marker, so most Europeans living today must have come from another migration movement.

Practically all Europeans descend from a population in Central Asia with the marker M173. Today, M173 is most commonly found in the most isolated European populations, such as the Celtic settlements and the Basque Country. Other markers (the analytical method of which has not been discussed here: it involves mutations in microsatellite DNA) date the formation of M173 to an age of 30,000 years. In that phase of the Ice Age, the previously only Central Asian steppes had expanded into what is now France. The origin of the early Europeans from Central Asia also explains the relatively close genetic proximity to the native Americans, who came from Asia to North America via a land bridge ( Beringia ).

A comparison of the DNA of people from Egypt and Ethiopia with the DNA of people from Europe and sub-Saharan Africa revealed indications that the spread of Homo sapiens into Eurasia took place via Egypt and the Levant and not via the Horn of Africa and the Arabian peninsula .

  • With regard to the question of whether Homo sapiens and Neanderthals were able to successfully produce offspring , genetic analysis studies published between 2013 and 2015 on the Homo sapiens finds from Peştera cu oasis in Romania and Ust-Ischim in Siberia yielded further findings: in both fossils Neanderthal DNA was detected.
  • In the case of the lower jaw of Oase1 , a proportion of 5 to 11 percent of DNA sections of the Neanderthal was detected and it was estimated that the hybridization took place four to six generations before the date of the find (40,000 vh) - even if it appears to be a line acts without descendants detectable today. When Ust-Ishim was found, 2 percent of Neanderthal DNA was found. The time of gene flow was dated to around 7,000 to 13,000 years before the individual's lifetime (around 45,000 years ago) - with genetic proximity to the people living in Eurasia.
  • The studies show that matings between Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon humans (or early Eurasian Homo sapiens ) did not only take place in the Levant, but also in Eastern Europe and Siberia.

The colonization of America

Clovis culture projectile tip

The oldest discovery site in Eastern Siberia ( Yana Rhinoceros Horn Site ) is up to 30,000 years old, other sites in Dyuktai (southeast of Yakutsk ) and at Lake Ushki on the Kamchatka Peninsula are around 20,000 years old. A sequence of the markers M45 , M242 - which is most common in Siberia - and M3 - which occurs exclusively in America - defines a migration movement from Siberia to America (see map for the second wave of settlements). A date earlier than 20,000 years ago can be excluded. The way over the Beringia land bridge - over today's Bering Strait - was blocked by ice until 15,000 years before our time. Only then can modern man have immigrated to America, if he has used the land route; in fact, excavations in Texas at the Buttermilk Creek Complex have uncovered the oldest known artifact, dated between 15,500 and 13,200 years ago. Around the same time, the grizzly bear migrated to North America from Siberia. In this case, the genetic data also make it possible to estimate the size of the original population: ten to twenty individuals would be sufficient to explain the genetic diversity found in America; but it could also have been a few hundred individuals.

Finds in the Paisley Caves , Oregon confirm the migration pattern along the coast that is typical of modern humans: within only around a thousand years they made their way to the tip of South America, as finds in Monte Verde , Chile prove. The inland was not settled until later. There are indications of a second wave of immigrants from Asia who have penetrated directly into the prairie region. A third wave could have brought the inhabitants of the North American Arctic. The Clovis culture, with its characteristic projectile points, was the first extensive culture in North America .

Some finds with controversial dating point to a much earlier settlement of America . If the dates were to be confirmed, these early migrants would have died out, because no traces of an earlier settlement can be found in the genetic make-up of the recent Americans.

Thor Heyerdahl suspected a migration by boat across the Atlantic in ancient times from North Africa to South America; but this assumption is now considered to be refuted.

Around 1000 AD, North America was visited by Vikings and there was very little migration for about 50 years.

The settlement of Micronesia and Polynesia

In the DNA of most Polynesians , nine nucleotides are missing ( deletion ) and three more nucleotides have been exchanged ( substitution ). Two of these three substitutions do not occur among the Native Americans, which - among many other arguments - speaks against the theory put forward by Thor Heyerdahl that the Pacific region was settled from America. In fact, the Pacific islands have been colonized from west to east and thus against the prevailing wind direction. The exact sequence has been worked out by archaeologists: The oldest finds in Micronesia date to around 1500 BC. Until around 1200 BC Melanesians had reached the Solomon Islands east of New Guinea . Around this time, a group of people from the Bismarck Archipelago advanced to the Fiji Islands (Eastern Melanesia), Samoa and Tonga (Western Polynesia). They are archaeologically easy to grasp thanks to their special Lapita- style ceramics . Then there was a pause of about 1500 years. Between 600 and 800 AD, the most accessible islands of Eastern Polynesia were settled: the Cook , Society, and Marquesas Islands. From there, the colonization of Hawaii in northern Polynesia and probably also Easter Island in the far east of Polynesia took place. New Zealand was not colonized until 1200 AD , which means that all suitable islands were then inhabited by humans.

It is known from historical sources that the mainland of Antarctica was first sighted in 1820 by a Russian expedition under Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen , and seal hunters landed there the following year. From 1899 people overwintered on the Antarctic mainland.

The most detailed family tree so far was presented in 2008 by the Cavalli-Sforza group. However, the results presented so far always relate to the respective indigenous populations. After Columbus' discovery of America in 1492, people of European origin in North and South America and Australia displaced the natives from large areas or formed mixed populations. The native population was u. a. defenseless against the diseases that the invaders brought with them from Europe.

Encounter with other species of the genus Homo

Spread of the anatomically modern man starting from East Africa. The previous colonization by Homo erectus (yellow) and Neanderthals (ocher) - the Denisova man is missing due to the still uncertain data situation - are separated by color; the numbers are years ahead of today.
The Red Sea Route, the second route through today's Bab al-Mandab Strait on the Red Sea to the Arabian Peninsula (125,000 BC). It is seen as the more likely route for modern human expansion.

There is some good evidence that Homo sapiens left Africa via two different routes. One of them led across the Nile Valley to the Middle East and ultimately to the area of ​​today's Qafzeh (120,000 to 100,000 BC) and a second route through today's Bab al-Mandab road on the Red Sea to the Arabian Peninsula (125,000 BC) . Chr.) Or Oman (106,000 BC) and from there probably to the Indian subcontinent ( Jwalapuram : 75,000 BC).

In 2012,
Chris Stringer emphasized in his family tree hypothesis that he assumed the central position of Homo heidelbergensis as a link between Neanderthals, Denisovans and Homo sapiens ; other paleoanthropologists assign the African finds identified here as heidelbergensis to Homo erectus . On the far right, Stringer suggests that some genetic abnormalities have been detected in Africa that seem to indicate a third gene flow from a previously unexplained pre- human population to anatomically modern humans. In the Asian Homo erectus , Stringer emphasizes the separation into Peking man and Java man , and he interprets Homo antecessor as an early European branch of Homo erectus . The origin of Homo floresiensis is unclear.

Today humanity is in an extraordinary situation because it now represents the only species of the genus Homo . In Eurasia, the area settled by Homo sapiens had already been inhabited by Homo erectus . In the Middle East and Europe, Homo sapiens and the “ Neanderthal ”, a species of their own according to the current interpretation, even met. Analyzes by Svante Pääbo , then at the University of Munich , on mitochondrial DNA of the Neanderthal type specimen have shown that this mtDNA deviates significantly from all sequences known from Homo sapiens . However, a study published in 2010 by the same research group found that the genome from the nucleus of the Neanderthals is significantly more similar to the nucleus genome of Europeans and Asians than to that of Africans. The study came to the conclusion "that the gene flow from the Neanderthals to the ancestors of the non-Africans took place before the Eurasian groups separated from each other". The corresponding settlement area, in which Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans coexisted from 110,000 years ago to around 50,000 years ago, was the Middle East .

Modern humans need not have actively exterminated the Neanderthals, especially since the two species occupy different ecological niches. Even a slight difference in reproduction rates would be enough to explain the Neanderthals' extinction. In Europe, the last Neanderthals were pushed back to isolated areas like in Zafarraya in Spain about 30,000 years ago, and they were also extinct there 25,000 years ago.

In China, the Neanderthal form of Homo erectus , which has not yet been named, became extinct around 100,000 years ago. For the gap between 100,000 years and the arrival of modern humans around 40,000 years ago, there are so far only a few reliably dated finds. Some hominine fossils from this period are interpreted by Chinese scientists to mean that the modern Chinese derive them directly from the Asian Homo erectus . However, the genetic trees provide no evidence of this, and the fossils provide no evidence of a cross between Homo sapiens and Homo erectus in Asia.

In 2008, bone finds of the Denisova people were recovered from the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains, which show that around 40,000 years ago there was a third population of the genus in the Altai in addition to Homo sapiens and the Neanderthals, regardless of these two species Homo who has not yet received a species name. In 2010, a research group led by Svante Pääbo succeeded in obtaining mtDNA and later cell nucleus DNA from a 48,000 to 30,000 year old finger bone . From their data it was estimated that the lines of development of the Neanderthals and the Denisova humans finally separated 640,000 years ago and that the final separation of their common ancestors from the ancestors of today's Africans took place around 800,000 years ago. Genetic evidence suggests that some ethnic groups in eastern Indonesia, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Polynesia, as well as in the Philippines, have DNA of the Denisova people, meaning that their ancestors and Denisova people mate.

An analysis of the genome of 500 Africans and the anatomical features of the Iwo-Eleru skull revealed evidence of a mixture of Homo sapiens with archaic relatives in Africa . The genetic peculiarities observed “in pygmy and non-pygmy populations” in Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo , among others, could, however, also have arisen as a result of an earlier genetic bottleneck, a genetic bottleneck .

Since it is no longer controversial that Homo floresiensis is a species of its own, it is certain that there was another species of the Homo genus alongside Homo sapiens around 60,000 years ago .

See also


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