Clark Larsen Answers Students FAQs

1. Question: How so the Out-of-Africa, Multiregional Continuity, and Assimilation models of modern human origin differ?

Response: The Out-of-Africa model, proposed by Christopher Stringer, suggests that modern Homo sapiens only arose in Africa, approximately 200,000 years ago. These anatomically modern humans then migrated out of Africa and replaced various archaic human groups in Europe and Asia. During this replacement, there was no gene flow between modern humans and archaic humans. The Multiregional Continuity model, proposed by Milford Wolpoff, suggests that modern Homo sapiens evolved from archaic humans throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. Substantial gene flow occurred on the borders of each of the regions, accounting for the physical similarities of anatomically modern humans in each area. The Assimilation model, proposed by Fred Smith and Erik Trinkaus, suggests that, like the Out-of-Africa model, modern Homo sapiens evolved in Africa. From there, they migrated to Europe and Asia, replacing the archaic populations inhabiting those regions. However, unlike the Out-of-Africa model, this model proposes gene flow did occur between anatomically modern humans and Neandertals.

See Figure 11.16 First Migration


2. Question: What are some of the key cultural developments seen in archaic Homo sapiens?

Response: Archaic Homo sapiens were responsible for a number of cultural developments. Like Homo erectus, there is substantial evidence that the archaic humans hunted, in particular large game. They also fished and utilized other aquatic resources to provide meat and protein in their diets. They developed more advanced and sophisticated tools, including the Mousterian tools of the Neandertals. There is also evidence that archaic Homo sapiens constructed shelters. Neandertals were the first to intentionally bury their dead, an important step in symbolic behavior. They were also the first to show evidence of caring for the sick and injured, as several fossil remains display healed injuries that would have been incapacitating without the aid of others. Finally, there is evidence that archaic Homo sapiens could speak.


3. Question: What are some of the key cultural developments of early modern Homo sapiens?

Response: Early modern Homo sapiens developed a number of new cultural traditions. Building upon the cultural developments of archaic humans, early modern humans intentionally buried their dead. However, they also interred deceased individuals with a variety of grave goods, reflecting greater symbolic development. Early modern humans showed greater amounts of art, especially the extensive cave art found in several caves in France. Technologically, early modern humans begin to focus more of their subsistence on fishing. A greater variety of tools were produced from a greater variety of raw materials, such as harpoons made out of bone. It is likely that in conjunction with the greater reliance on aquatic foods and plants, there was a decreased emphasis on hunting, particularly hunting of large game.

See Figure 11.25 Butchering


4. Question: What biological traits of early modern Homo sapiens enable them to be classified as anatomically modern humans?

Response: Early modern Homo sapiens are considered anatomically modern because of a wide variety of physical traits that are indistinguishable from modern humans. The cranium, for example, shows a number of these features. First, the brain size is comparable to modern humans, with an average cranial capacity of 1500 cc. The forehead is vertical, rather than receding, as seen in the Neandertals and earlier hominids. The skull is high and round and the face is smaller and less robust. The dentition also reduced, as the teeth are smaller in size than what is observed in Neandertals. Overall, the face is less prognathic, particularly in the midfacial region. Finally, the body morphology is more similar to modern humans. Rather than being cold-adapted like Neandertals, early modern humans show a morphology that is heat-adapted. The trunk is small and the limbs much longer.

See Table 11.1 Trends from Homo habilis to Homo erectus


5. Question: Which biological traits of Neandertals are likely to be adaptations to their environment?

Response: A variety of Neandertals may have been the result of adaptation to the cold environments in which they lived. First, the large nasal aperture shows that they had very large noses in width and in projection. Like other traits, nasal shape is highly reflective of climate. The nose serves to warm and moisten air breathed into the body. Larger noses provide more surface area to better warm and moisten the air, an important adaptation in cold, dry climates. A second trait, infraorbital foramina, also reflects cold adaptation. The size of these holes in the facial bones allowed larger blood vessels to pass through them, enabling more blood flow to the face. Enhanced blood flow would help to prevent frostbite to the surface tissues of the face. Finally, the overall body size and shape are also reflective of a morphological adaptation to the cold. Neandertals are short and stocky; their body was short, wide and deep, while their limbs were short. These features promoted heat retention due to less surface area.