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No. 83: Sep-Oct 1992

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Flat-faced hominid skulls from china

The "African Eve" theory of human evolution was given much play in the media a few years back. According to the "African" view, modern humans arose exclusively in Africa and, about 100,000 years ago, expanded rapidly from there into Europe and Asia, displacing "lesser" hominids. Unfortunately, the DNA studies that stimulated this conjecture have been found to be flawed. And now new fossil testimony casts further doubt.

In 1989 and 1990, near the Han River, in China's Hube Province, anthropologists found hominid skulls with the characteristic flat faces of modern humans. These skulls seem to be about 350,000 years old. Although they apparently retain some primitive features, paleoanthropologist D. Erler, of the University of California, asserted, "This shows that modern features were emerging in different parts of the world." In other words, all of the evolutionary action was not confined to Africa. Proponents of the "African Eve" theory retort that the dating of the Chinese skulls is questionable and that flat faces alone are not enough to support the idea that modern humans arose separately in widely separated locales?

(Gibbons, Ann; "An About-Face for Modern Human Origins," Science, 256: 1521, 1992. Also: Bower, Bruce; "Erectus Unhinged," Science News, 141:408, 1992.)

Comment. Could the African and Asian fossils imply that so-called "parallel" or "convergent" evolution has occurred in the human lineage, too, just as it has in so many other forms of life?

Reference. Human evolution and the African Eve hypothesis are cataloged in Chapter BHE in Biological Anomalies: Humans III. Ordering details here.

From Science Frontiers #83, SEP-OCT 1992. 1992-2000 William R. Corliss