Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Cave secrets

Dr Douka and colleagues discuss findings at the Denisova Cave in Russia that cast new light on early human migration patterns Dr Douka and colleagues discuss findings at the Denisova Cave in Russia that cast new light on early human migration patterns Zelensky/Sab-Russian Academy of Science
12 Jan
2018
Instead of gradually leaving Africa in a single wave, new fossil discoveries are showing that early humans left the continent in multiple waves, across many tens of thousands of years

The spread of humanity through the ‘Out of Africa’ theory has been common knowledge for several decades. Yet new discoveries continue to tweak and evolve the narrative. New research on fossils retrieved from across China and Southeast Asia backs up a more recent idea that, instead of a single wave of migration around 60,000 years ago that carried our ancestors into Asia and then around the world, there were multiple waves of migration, dating back as long ago as 120,000 years (and quite potentially earlier), with instances of interbreeding often occurring along the way.

‘By bringing together all current evidence from archaeology, genetics and fossil finds, we demonstrate that, while post-60,000 years ago expansions certainly happened and greatly influenced the world as we know it today, this was not a simple, single and rapid expansion as one wave of movement, but a much more complicated situation,’ outlines Dr Katerina Douka, researcher in archaeological science at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany. ‘This was certainly not one early wave but multiple exits through time. Small hunting and gathering groups, moving in a piecemeal fashion, in different parts of Eurasia. Most of these lineages became locally extinct leaving no DNA trace in current peoples.’

map

Douka and her colleagues focused their most recent work on various sites across Asia, trying to fill in gaps in a region of the world that has been neglected when compared to well-studied sites in Europe and Africa. ‘Things have changed recently and there are a few, modern interdisciplinary projects in Asia that provide important new insights,’ she explains. ‘From the fieldwork in Arabia of Mike Petraglia and his team, to our work in Siberia, to Christopher Bae’s work in China and Korea, as well as the many Australian teams working in Southeast Asia, this is an exciting time – with new discoveries every few weeks.’

This is, of course, not to say that this latest research is fully capable of drawing a line underneath the remaining mysteries of early human migration. As Douka describes, there are still ‘gigantic geographic gaps’ which remain to be filled in across Asia. ‘Hopefully,’ she adds, ‘our publication will help local and international agencies to grasp the importance of undiscovered sites in regions such as Central Asia, in high-altitude cave sites across the continent, as well as in the periphery of what was once Sundaland [an ancient southeast Asian landmass covering what is now the Malay peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra, and much of the South China Sea].’

red line

NEVER MISS A STORY

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our free weekly newsletter!

red line

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe to Geographical!

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    The green dragon awakens
    China has achieved remarkable economic success following the principle of developing first and cleaning up later. But now the country with the world's...
    Hung out to dry
    Wetlands are vital storehouses of biodiversity and important bulwarks against the effects of climate change, while also providing livelihoods for mill...
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the e...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PEOPLE...

Explorers

For British cave divers, Chris Jewell and Jim Warny, who…

Cultures

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that football…

Development

A German recycling scheme is proving to be a source…

Development

The Galápagos are often thought of as a unique natural…

Development

China’s ban on plastic imports will displace more than 110…

Cultures

If you think you can escape the ballyhoo of the…

Cultures

As the world’s top footballers battle it out in Russia,…

Cultures

The US meat industry is attempting to officially define ‘meat’…

Explorers

After Michael Pugh quit his job as a law firm partner…

Cultures

As the world prepares for the next FIFA tournament in…

Development

Road collisions remain a leading cause of deaths and injuries…

I’m a Geographer

Lynne Corner is director of VOICE – Valuing Our Intellectual Capital and…

Explorers

The biological wonders of Mozambique’s mountains have only recently been…

I’m a Geographer

Lloyd Figgins is founder of LFL Global Risk Mitigation consultancy,…

Development

From plastic-eating enzymes and oil-sucking polymers to ‘deep learning’ robots…

Explorers

Children on the summit of Aconcagua are a rare sight.…

Explorers

A pioneering expedition in 2019 will search for the lost…

Explorers

In this exclusive extract from his newest book, founder and…

Cultures

Growing demands for dairy products from an increasingly wealthy China…

Cultures

Diamonds are perhaps the least modest of all jewels. But,…