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2018-09-15 18:08:54   •   ID: 2026

Let Us Now Praise Unknown Men and Women*

Figure 1
Figure 1 shows a Middle Paleolithic / MSA point from Melka Kunture / Ethiopia, which is at least 120 k.a. old. and associated with the remains of an (archaic) Homo Sapiens.

Humid phases during the Pleistocene in Africa offered interregional connections and opportunities for dispersal events of early humans all over the continent.

Middle Pleistocene Hominines explored during several times diversified landscapes with plentiful resources, even acting in regions that are deserts today (The Sahara, the Namib, the Arabian Desert, wide parts of the Near East.

According to paleogenetic models, the lineage Homo Sapiens originated in Africa at least at 500 k.a. - with still archaic morphology-as identifiable at Jebel Irhoud in Morocco around 300 k.a.

Early Sapiens showed remarkable morphological and behavioural diversity and a geographical spread over vast areas. This can be demonstrated with the early fossils, that have been detected so far:

The Florisbad scull in South Africa is ca 260 k.a. years old, Sapiens in South Africa was also present at Border Cave between 115-90 k.a. and at Klasies River Mouth at ca 90 k.a.

Sapiens remains at Omo Kibish and Herto in Ethiopia are dated ca 200 and 160 k.a. respectively.

Figure 2
Figure 2: Levallois-Mousterian from the Carmel caves.

Sapiens findings in the caves of Skhul and Qafzeh in Israel are 90-100 k.a. old and skull fragments with indisputable and specific clues of Homo Sapiens lived during the late Middle Pleistocene (177-194 k.a.) at the nearby Misliya site. Last but not least a MIS 3 Sapiens scull was found at Manot cave in Israel, 55k.a. 0ld.

I never understood why influential Palaeoanthropologists think that the Levant could be a dead end for Sapiens dispersals- the region with the highest number of Sapiens remains> 50 k.a. in the world.

Middle Pleistocene members of Genus Homo, during this evolutionary progress in Africa exhibited a quasi-rhizomatic network structure, most probably with intermitent gene-flow between “newer” evolutionary forms with more “archaic” ones.

This cannot be proven for Africa, but the mixing of Sapiens with Denisovans and Neanderthals and a fourth hominin (H. Erectus?) in Asia can be used as a testable and probable Model also for other regions.

During the Middle Pleistocene, Sapiens was not alone -neither in Asia nor in Africa. In Africa other hominins coexisted with Homo sapiens, raising the possibility of interbreeding: Homo naledi dates to between 335 k.a. and 236 k.a. and a late Homo heidelbergensis skull from Broken Hill is probably 300–125 k.a. old.

It is important that adaptions and innovations of Homo Sapiens in Africa and the Middle East are deeply embedded in a Middle Paleolithic / MSA technology for most of the time.

Typical “Upper Paleolithic” ensembles appeared only at ca 45-40 k.a. calBP. It is also important to restrict the term of Upper Palaeolithic to Europe and the Middle East.

Figure 3
Figure 3 shows a small MSA bifacial Point from the Libyan Desert.

At Irhoud the stone artifacts are Levallois dominated with a high proportion of retouched tools, especially convergent specimens- a quasi Ferrassie ensemble...

The Omo Kibish remains were found with an elaborated MSA industry (Levallois and Discoidal technology, scrapers and denticulated tools / bifacial points and small handaxes: rare but present), Homo sapiens Idaltu from Herto/Middle Awash site in Ethiopia together with a LCT Handaxes, Cleaver,Core-axe) with Levallois and Discoidal Cores (Sahleh 2019)

Modern humans in Israel produced several variants of the "Levallois- Mousterian " (“Tabun D and C”). In the Nil valley the Taramsa child is coming from a late Middle Paleolithic, Levallois based context ca 55 k.a.

Beyond Irhoud, Morocco has yielded one of the richest and most complete hominin fossil records of AHMs, dating to OIS5/6 including important cranial remains from Dar-es-Soltan II, and Contrebandiers Cave.

Early Moroccan H. sapiens is always associated with Middle Paleolithic (Aterian and “Mousterian”). If these populations contributed to the genetic pool of modern Humans that finally moved “out of Africa” or went to extinction remains unclear.

There are two possibilities for Sapiens to leave Africa. The Northern Corridor via the Levant and the the Southern Corridor via the Bab-el-Mandeb, connecting what is today Ethiopia and Yemen. There is genetic evidence for both routes. As discussed earlier, there is a stable fossil record for Homo Sapiens in the Levant, but no really convincing connections between the Levantine lithic industries and the Nil valley.

Figure 4
Figure 4 shows two foliates and one small Handaxe from Yemen- this is important because there is a strong connection between the lithic industries between borh sides of Bab-el-Mandeb, suggesting that Homo Sapiens had already crossed the street at 120 k.a.

Fossil evidence associated with MSA in Arabia was nil until 2018. Recently a single finger bone of Homo Sapiens from Wusta in the Saudi Arabian desert associated with an MSA industry dating to 85 k.a. was published, underpinning the importance of the Southern Korridor.

During the last years is became also clear, when and how Homo Sapiens dispersed over Asia. Lida Ajer is a Sumatran Pleistocene cave with a rich rainforest fauna associated with fossil, unequivocal Homo Sapiens human teeth.

Several lines of evidence (Luminescence and uranium-series techniques and ESR place modern humans in Sumatra securely between 73 and 63 k.a. - an early evidence of rainforest occupation by Homo Sapiens.

And in Australia, excavations were carried out of the Madjedbebe rock shelter in Arnhem Land etween 2012 and 2015 with rigorous stratigraphic control and an extensive TL-dating program.

Dating to 65 k.a., hundreds of thousands of in-situ stone artifacts, including "elaborate" technologies such as quadrangular ground-edge stone axes, grindstones for pulverizing seeds, and finely stone artifacts ( sorry I never saw a picture of them) were found.

The earliest people at the site also used "huge quantities of ochre" maybe both for utilitarian and non-utilitarian purposes.

But there are also indications, that Australia could have been reached by Homo Sapiens much earlier (80-120 k.a.)- the evaluation of this continent has just begun…

We are still waiting for reliable data in China, where Homo Sapiens was suggested to be in Place already at 120 k.a.

First traces of our species in Europe are dating late, around 35-40 k.a. old (Peştera cu Oase). Remember that it was already H. Breuils conviction, expressed in print in 1912, that prehistoric Europe was but a peninsula of Africa and Asia.

Surf the Blog: here: 1659 , 1714 , 1363 , here 1361 , and here 1668

*Paraphrases to: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men—a book with text by American writer James Agee and photographs by American photographer Walker Evans, first published in 1941 in the United States. The work documents the lives of impoverished tenant farmers during the Great Depression.

Suggested Reading: Sahleh et al. Modern Human Origins and Dispersals; Kerns Verlag 2019.