Site hints at Asian roots for human genus

New finds in Caucasus suggest non-African origin for ancient Homo species

6:28pm, June 6, 2011

Early members of the genus Homo, possibly direct ancestors of people today, may have evolved in Asia and then gone to Africa, not vice versa as many scientists have assumed.

Most paleoanthropologists have favored an African origin for the potential human ancestor Homo erectus. But new evidence shows the species occupied a West Asian site called Dmanisi from 1.85 million to 1.77 million years ago, at the same time or slightly before the earliest evidence of this humanlike species in Africa, say geologist Reid Ferring of the University of North Texas in Denton and his colleagues.

The new Dmanisi discoveries point to an Asian homeland for H. erectus, the scientists propose online June 6 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Dmanisi was occupied repeatedly for roughly 80,000 years and supported a population that was well established and probably quite mobile,” Ferring says.

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