We Are All Africans
The Out of Africa hypothesis has become compelling because these different studies have all yielded congruent answers. Tishkoff's work points to East Africa in general, and Ethiopia/Sudan in particular, as the region where the oldest modern human lineages are found—and probably evolved. Studies of ancient mtDNA by groups led by P??bo, Bertorelle and others emphasize the genetic discrepancies between Neandertals and modern humans and demonstrate that some early anatomically modern fossils were also genetically modern—undermining the Multiregional hypothesis.
Despite the power of these genetic studies, only the fossils can tell us what our ancestors actually looked like, what they actually did and where they actually lived. It is singularly satisfying that the White-Howell-Asfaw team has discovered fossilized human remains from the right place (Ethiopia) and time (about 160,000 years ago) that also have the right (modern human) anatomy. The authors of the Out of Africa hypothesis are celebrating.
I don't expect that the subscribers of the Multiregional hypothesis will be waving a white flag of surrender, although they have lost the great majority of their supporters. At least one of the theory's most ardent proponents, Wolpoff, is still steadfast in defense of the hypothesis he has so long espoused. While it remains possible that new findings will shift the balance in favor of the Multiregional viewpoint, the consilience of such evidence creates a powerful testament. It would take many new fossils and many new genetic studies to resculpt this intellectual landscape.
© Pat Shipman