July 07, 2012

Can we retire the 60,000-year old coastal Out of Africa?

A widely popularized story has become part of the mainstream view of modern human origins. I have seen it repeated countless times in print, and it has been picked up and repeated in popular magazines and documentaries. One day, it may be worth for someone to chart how this idea came to prominence and wide acceptance, despite having very little in its favor. You can read the final death cries of its supporters in a recent Nature special issue.

The idea can be expressed as follows:
"A very small group of humans left Africa 60 thousand years ago; they were on the brink of extinction, but they managed to follow the coastline of Asia, eventually reaching Australia, and subsequently expanding to colonize the interior of the Eurasian landmass"
I have recently become aware of several new papers that directly challenge this view. Instead of writing a new post about each of them, I've decided to combine them all in one post.


The first one by Delagnes et al. in the Journal of Human Evolution describes Shi’bat Dihya 1 and 2, a couple of ~55,000-year old inland human settlements in the Wadi Surdud basin (Yemen). 


From the paper:

Our fieldwork at the Wadi Surdud in Yemen demonstrates that during the period of the supposed expansion of modern humans out of Africa ca. 60-50 ka, and their rapid dispersal toward southeastern Asia along the western and southern Arabian coastlines, the interior of this region was, in fact, occupied by well-adapted human groups who developed their own local technological tradition, deeply rooted in the Middle Paleolithic. Future research will likely reveal whether the archaeological assemblages recovered from the Wadi Surdud can be associated with the descendents of anatomically modern human groups who occupied the Arabian Peninsula during MIS 5 or the southernmost expansion of the Neanderthals.
There is a paucity of old human remains from Arabia due to local conditions, so we cannot know for sure what morphology was associated with these archaeological cultures. If we take the finds that we do have at face value, we would conclude that the Neandertal range did not reach much to the south of Israel, since (i) no Neandertal remains have been found there, while (ii) modern human remains have.

This is further reinforced by the discovery of the Nubian Complex in southern Arabia with its clear African links; it is extremely difficult to assign that to Neandertals, because that would strongly imply presence of Neandertals in Africa for which there is also no evidence.

But, I think we can infer at least three things:

  • People thrived inland during the supposed Out of Africa; if there were any Out-of-Africans around this time did not have to "follow the coast".
  • It is becoming increasingly difficult to discount the pre-100ka Mt. Carmel (Qafzeh/Skhul) modern humans as the Out-of-Africa that failed: together with Jebel Faya, and the Nubian Complex we are now getting a picture of thriving populations in the Near East and Arabia prior to 60ka. There is every reason to believe that pre-100ka modern humans in the Levant and probably elsewhere did not disappear to make way for the hypothesized second 60ka Out-of-Africa wave.
  • If people without a modern technological package were living in the Wadi Surdud, the idea that they are descended from recent Out-of-Africans with all the technological bells and whistles of modernity disappears: these are people rooted in the local traditions, without any signs of recent African descent.
The second article is a review of the prehistory of the Arabian peninsula by Groucutt and Petraglia in Evolutionary Anthropology. One of the points made by the author, quite often forgotten in recent attempts to discover patterns of human dispersals from modern populations, is that populations don't stay put for tens of thousands of years:
As genetic studies of Arabian populations have increased in scale, they reveal a complex pattern.22–25 Such studies show that modern Arabian populations are mostly derived from Western Asia, reflecting dispersals since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). In some areas, however, there are relatively high levels of ‘‘African’’ lineages, which have generally been attributed to historical processes such as slavery.26,27 Genetic evidence, then, is poorly placed to elucidate the position of Arabia in the dispersal of hominin populations. Likewise, the extinction of regional populations means they will not be represented in contemporary genetic structure. In this situation, archeology, in the context of paleoenvironmental fluctuation, offers a key way to elucidate the dispersal of hominin populations into Arabia and their subsequent evolutionary and cultural trajectories.
In Europe where we have the best ancient DNA record, there is substantial evidence for major genetic change over the span of a few thousand years. We have evidence of substantial gene flow into East Africa over the last few thousand years. And, of course, in Africa itself we have substantial evidence for gene flow whether it is related to Bantu farmers or Nilo-Saharan pastoralists.

The authors' overall conclusion:
In general, indications of possible population connections to surrounding regions remain rather speculative, and this is compounded by the absence of fossil evidence. We suggest, however, that the emerging picture suggests a general lack of connections between Africa and Arabia after MIS 5, the last interglacial. Instead, there are perhaps indications that Arabia sometimes saw connections to the Levant.
The third paper is a book chapter by Petraglia, Groucutt, and Blinkhorn. There is plenty of interest here, but what caught my attention is this map of paleorivers in the Arabian and Thar deserts. We so often think of deserts as eternal entitities, and looking at the present-day landscape one would of course conclude that migrating humans would be stark mad to venture far from the coast.

An interesting bit from the paper:
Upper Palaeolithic stone tool industries (typified by the production of long,thin ‘blades’ as well as, often, evidence of ‘art’ and symbolism), appear in the Levant at about 47–45 ka but seem to be rare to absent in Arabia. Maher (2009) comprehensively discusses potentially later Pleistocene sites in Arabia, most of which she identifies as being located in the north-west and south-west of the peninsula. The Qaryat al-Faw site is a possible Late Pleistocene locality, containing laminar technology reminiscent of Levantine Upper and Epi-Palaeolithic assemblages (Edens 2001). The overall lack of Upper Palaeolithic technologies either suggests that human populations were not presentin MIS 3, or that Middle Palaeolithic technologies were used until more sophisticatedtechnologies were developed in the Holocene (Crassardet al.2006, Crassard 2007). Ineither case, the nature of environmental conditions is a critical factor in determining the character of human occupations and material culture. 
and:
Upper Palaeolithic industries are present in the Thar but the ages of many of these sites remain unknown. An assemblage dated to ca. 26 ka has been identified as UpperPalaeolithic at 16R Dune, although the sample size is too low for easy technological comparisons to be made (Achyuthanet al.2007). It can be reasonably hypothesised thatmany Upper Palaeolithic assemblages, containing blade and microblade technologies,date to ca. 35 ka and after (Petraglia et al.2009). Microblade innovations have beentied to more efficient hunting strategies in the face of environmental deterioration andpopulation increase at ca. 35 ka (Petraglia et al.2009). 
There is a widespread belief in the simultaneous spread of Upper Paleolithic technology and modern human populations in Eurasia. But, this is not what the actual evidence shows us. However, the evidence for an earlier appearance of UP industries in the Levant than either Arabia or India makes this hypothesis problematic. It renders the coastal migration hypothesis doubly so, because if modern humans with new technology followed the coast all the way to Australia then it is troublesome that the MP stone tools persist in the regions most adjacent to this migration route. A better explanation may be that the UP revolution should be decoupled from the migration paths of modern humans, and that it was a cultural phenomenon which originated probably in the Levant, rather than being part and parcel of the early migrating humans wherever they were found.

The final article by Dennell and Petraglia argues that the modern humans appear in South Asia long before the conventional 60-40ky time frame. A quote from the paper is useful to remember, and echoes the above discussion:
In the Levant, both Neanderthals and H.sapiens used Mousterian stone-tool assemblages, and in East and North Africa, early H. sapiens used the same lithic tool-kits as their predecessors. This indicates that stone tools are a poor indicator of the species of the hominin that made them: changes in hominin type did not necessarily result in changes in lithic technology. Conversely, unchanging lithic traditions need not imply that the type of hom-inin that used them remained the same. As example, in mainland and island Southeast Asia, there is no equivalent of the Upper Palaeolithic, and“Mode 1”, technologically-simpleflake and core assemblages persist into the late Pleistocene and even inplaces the Holocene, even though the species of hominin that made them changed from H. erectus to H. sapiens. This is in sharp contrast to a region such as western Europe, where the shift from the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic was associated with the replacement of Neanderthals by H. sapiens, leaving aside a much-contested debate over the status of so-called “transitional industries” that could have been made by either. Changes in lithic technology in southern Asia are likely to have been more subtle, and discernible only through more rigorous quantitative analysis than merely noting the size andfrequency of a few common elements
I would say that "Mode 4-5 => Modern human" is quite probably true, but "Mode 1-3 => Not modern human" is not. In a sense, this is a little sad, because the more advanced modes appear much later than the hypothesized appearance of modern humans in most places of the world, so they are not of actually much use in determining when they arrived. The paleoanthropological record is a better guide, but, it is also quite sparse or hotly contested in many areas of Eurasia.

To conclude a long post: the evidence for 60,000 year old Out-of-Africa is weak:

  • No specific ties with Africa at this or later times
  • Clearest evidence of ties between Arabia and Africa during MIS5
  • Evidence for strong populations in Asia at this time, inconsistent with the failure of the modern humans sampled at Mt. Carmel in the Levant prior to 100,000 years
  • Presence of primitive stone tools does not necessarily indicate absence of modern humans
  • Genetic studies of modern populations should not be used as if these populations are direct descendants of first modern humans in same locales

All in all, I'd say that my "two deserts" theory whereby a Green Sahara pumped early modern humans to Asia prior to 100,000 years ago and then a deteriorating Arabian desert pumped them out post-70,000 years ago is not obviously wrong. Perhaps the pre-100ky wave went much further to the east, to India and Southeast Asia.

But, early modern humans may not have been as dominant as we often think, irrespective of when they dispersed: evidence of archaic humans persists in parts of the world down to the Holocene, and so do the simple stone tools of the Middle Paleolithic. Plus the fact that 2/2 of archaic hominins sampled so far show differential relationships to modern human groups, some of them quite unexpected (Denisova with Melanesians) ought to clue us in to the very real possibility that our distant past was quite more complex than we could ever imagine.

Journal of Human Evolution http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2012.03.008

Inland human settlement in southern Arabia 55,000 years ago. New evidence from the Wadi Surdud Middle Paleolithic site complex, western Yemen

Anne Delagnes et al.

The recovery at Shi’bat Dihya 1 (SD1) of a dense Middle Paleolithic human occupation dated to 55 ka BP sheds new light on the role of the Arabian Peninsula at the time of the alleged expansion of modern humans out of Africa. SD1 is part of a complex of Middle Paleolithic sites cut by the Wadi Surdud and interstratified within an alluvial sedimentary basin in the foothills that connect the Yemeni highlands with the Tihama coastal plain. A number of environmental proxies indicate arid conditions throughout a sequence that extends between 63 and 42 ka BP. The lithic industry is geared toward the production of a variety of end products: blades, pointed blades, pointed flakes and Levallois-like flakes with long unmodified cutting edges, made from locally available rhyolite. The occasional exploitation of other local raw materials, that fulfill distinct complementary needs, highlights the multi-functional nature of the occupation. The slightly younger Shi’bat Dihya 2 (SD2) site is characterized by a less elaborate production of flakes, together with some elements (blades and pointed flakes) similar to those found at SD1, and may indicate a cultural continuity between the two sites. The technological behaviors of the SD1 toolmakers present similarities with those documented from a number of nearly contemporaneous assemblages from southern Arabia, the Levant, the Horn of Africa and North Africa. However, they do not directly conform to any of the techno-complexes typical of the late Middle Paleolithic or late Middle Stone Age from these regions. This period would have witnessed the development of local Middle Paleolithic traditions in the Arabian Peninsula, which suggests more complex settlement dynamics and possible population interactions than commonly inferred by the current models of modern human expansion out of Africa.

Link

Evolutionary Anthropology DOI: 10.1002/evan.21308

The prehistory of the Arabian peninsula: Deserts, dispersals, and demography

Huw S. Groucutt, Michael D. Petraglia

As a geographic connection between Africa and the rest of Eurasia, the Arabian Peninsula occupies a central position in elucidating hominin evolution and dispersals. Arabia has been characterized by extreme environmental fluctuation in the Quaternary, with profound evolutionary and demographic consequences. Despite the importance of the region, Arabia remains understudied. Recent years, however, have seen major developments in environmental studies and archeology, revealing that the region contains important records that should play a significant role in future paleoanthropological narratives.1–3 The emerging picture of Arabia suggests that numerous dispersals of hominin populations into the region occurred. Populations subsequently followed autochthonous trajectories, creating a distinctive regional archeological record. Debates continue on the respective roles of regional hominin extinctions and population continuity, with the latter suggesting adaptation to arid conditions.

Link

HOMININ EVOLUTIONARY HISTORY IN THE ARABIAN DESERT AND THE THAR DESERT

Michael D. Petraglia, Huw Groucutt and James Blinkhorn

Link

Quaternary Science Reviews Volume 47, 30 July 2012, Pages 15–22

The dispersal of Homo sapiens across southern Asia: how early, how often, how complex?

Robin Dennell, Michael D. Petraglia


The timing and the paths of colonization of southern Asia by Homo sapiens are poorly known, though many population geneticists, paleoanthropologists, and archaeologists have contended that this process began with dispersal from East Africa, and occurred between 60,000 and 40,000 years ago. However, the evidence for this scenario is very weak, particularly the lack of human skeletal evidence between the Levant and Borneo before 40 ka, and other explanations are possible. Here we argue that environmental and archaeological information is increasingly indicating the likelihood that H. sapiens exited Africa much earlier than commonly thought, and may have colonized much of southern Asia well before 60,000 years ago. Additionally, we cannot exclude the possibility that several dispersal events occurred, from both North and East Africa, nor the likelihood that early populations of H. sapiens in southern Asia interbred with indigenous populations of Neanderthals, Denisovans and Homoerectus. The population history of southern Asia during the Upper Pleistocene is likely far more complex than currently envisaged.


Link

39 comments:

shenandoah said...

I think you have a valid argument, for the most part. One thing that I disagree about though, is that Wadi Surdud and the whole Arabian peninsula (particularly accounting for all those ancient rivers therein) -- don't seem all that "inland" to me. After all, River people were among the most ancient Humans, weren't they, in addition to seacoast people?

As for the whole Out of Africa theory, I think that was borne from the very earliest, initial studies of mtDNA, and is probably flawed somehow. After all, how is it that they can calculate that Africa mtDNA is really the most ancient kind? Maybe it isn't older, but just a different ~type.

I personally believe (and you know that I'm more intuitive, less educated, than most of you here) that either the Levant region or the Mediterranean region was where Humans originated. Then they spread out fairly early on into basically three different directions at around the same time: toward the North and Europe; toward Asia; and down into Africa.

Then, during certain environmental upheavals (like supervolcano eruptions and ice ages) many of them turned around and flowed back toward their singular point of origin: the Levant and Mediterranean regions. That's why so much Asian and African (also Caucasian) DNA is found in Arabia today. That area was like a perpetual cross-roads, like Grand Central Station, since the beginning of Human history.

Maju said...

I must agree that 60 Ka is an unsustainable date on light of the archaeological data. There likely succession of events is probably:

1. OoA to Arabia/Palestine c. 125 Ka (well documented nowadays, several groups, in some cases looking "coastal" per Armitage mostly - see here, here, here and here).
1b. Unlikely (not clearly supported) hypothetical migration further East - ???
2. Late OoA to Arabia/Palestine along the now dry rivers c. 90 Ka. (documented by Petraglia in several papers, see here).
3. Almost certain migration to South Asia c. 80 Ka. (Petraglia again but consistent with older data, first clear and abundant blades (mode 4) in South Asia soon after).

So there are some things that you should refine IMO:

1. South Asian blade (and later micro-blade) tech seems to precede West Asian by some 20,000 years (more in the micro-blade case), however it's not homogeneous in the subcontinent. Ref. Petraglia 2009, Synopsis of Paleo-India.

2. South African MSA has been located in Jawalpuram (Jurreru Valley, Southern India) at those dates of before and after Toba (c. 74 Ka. BP). Ref. Petraglia 2007.

3. There are some mtDNA lineages in Arabia and North Africa that totally look like OoA remnants (Behar 2008 and I must agree after my own critical analysis).

See also Petraglia 2010.

In any case it is most convenient to scrap the 60 Ka ago cliché, which is only based on molecular-clock-o-logy, a totally unreliable method.

Ponto said...

Science is one of those wonderful human activities which self corrects. The evidence is mounting for an earlier Out of Africa movement with the Arabian Peninsula in its green mode being the first Eden followed by a second in South Asia.

I think haplogroups are useful but it should be borne in mind that what exists today is a large number of subclades of a small number of original African and Out of Africa haplogroups most of which have died out and have no living representatives. Haplogroups are also indirectly subject to selection and by drift.

It is a good thing that the scientists have emphasized that modern human populations found in locations today are not autochthonous or representative of past human occupants of the same locations. In Europe that applies to the locations never ice covered, the three southern peninsulas and France, and those locations freed of ice by the Holocene thaw out. Forcing epineolithic European dna through Admixtures "sieves" composed of modern Europeans does not mean the result are identical to any of the modern Europeans.

Pat and Sawa Savage '07 said...

It's certainly true that the extreme version of a simple OOA is no longer valid, and modern humans were certainly in Arabia well before 60kya, but the debate about pre-Toba vs. post-Toba entry of humans further east is still very much open, as was made pretty clear in the Nature special issue.

Slumbery said...

Dienekes

I am not a fan of Coastal Out of Africa 60kya, but clear evidences against it fail to surface in this particular collection. These articles are full of data (and even more speculation) that are consistent with a few possible migration theories, so if the coastal out of Africa is dead, the cause is surely not this list of information.

As for this:

"People thrived inland during the supposed Out of Africa; if there were any Out-of-Africans around this time did not have to "follow the coast".

A valley settlement like 30 km from the coast, maybe 50 km at that time (+thousands of years after the supposed coastal migration) does hardly disprove the coastal migration, unless you think coastal migration means nobody go farther from the coast that 200m for 5 thousand years. You should rethink this part.

The article itself seems to concentrate on how developed and continuous this place, but this is not convincing either, because as far as we know from the data, they had thousand of years to develop on site, even if they are from coastal out of Africa.

Dienekes said...

A valley settlement like 30 km from the coast, maybe 50 km at that time (+thousands of years after the supposed coastal migration) does hardly disprove the coastal migration, unless you think coastal migration means nobody go farther from the coast that 200m for 5 thousand years. You should rethink this part.

I am not sure what you by "thousands of years after"; the sequence extends from 63 to 42ka. Also, the site was located 120km, not 50km from the coast.

More importantly, this is rooted in local traditions and shows no link to Africa. So, this is not a group of Out-of-Africans that moved inland.

If anyone wants to start arguing that "maybe they didn't stay very close to the coast", they're in big trouble, because there simply is no evidence at inland sites for an intrusive population of any kind, let alone of African origin.

"If the
authors of the SD1 assemblage were modern humans, they either
derived from the human groups who already occupied the Arabian
Peninsula during the Lower Paleolithic (Petraglia, 2003), or
descended from a population of modern humans whose members
dispersed into the Arabian Peninsula between 120 and 80 ka,
during the humid phases of MIS 5 (Petraglia et al., 2010; Armitage
et al., 2011; Rose et al., 2011). This would be in line with the recently
formulated hypotheses following the discoveries at Jebel Faya
(UAE), the Nefud desert (Saudi Arabia), and the region of Dhofar
(Oman) (Rose and Petraglia, 2009; Petraglia et al., 2010, 2011;
Armitage et al., 2011; Rose et al., 2011)."

Slumbery said...

Dienekes

I checked on Google, it is about 60-70 km from the current coast (I sent a second post with the Google link right after the first, haven't you received it?).

This is the category of coastal for me, surely not very inland. Even a strictly coastal migration could reaches this far in no time (even if the sea was farther than 100 km back then, that is still nothing, there is no significant geographical barrier between).

"I am not sure what you by "thousands of years after"; the sequence extends from 63 to 42ka,..."

The abstract says nowhere that the site has this time range. It only states that the arid environmental conditions taken place in that time frame. According to the text the "human occupation dated to 55 ka BP" in the older site from the two (the other one even younger). Since the place is very close to Africa, this is well behind the front wave of an assumed coastal out of Africa, with "thousands of years".

I cannot reach the full article, if that says otherwise about the dates, then you are right, but this what is in the abstract.

Now, the last point, the type of the tools, is the only possibly valid reasoning against the coastal out of Africa in this article. I can't evaluate it, because I have not too much knowledge in the field of the classification of these artefacts, but it is weakened by your other reasoning, namely that these material cultures cannot be clearly connected to population origin.

Still possible that you (and the authors) are completely right in this one (remember, I am not on the side of Coastal out of Africa, just do not like some particular reasoning here).

Dienekes said...

I checked on Google, it is about 60-70 km from the current coast (I sent a second post with the Google link right after the first, haven't you received it?).

"The geographic setting of the Wadi Surdud is consistent with
a significant expansion of Middle Paleolithic humans into inland
territories under arid climatic conditions. These sites are located in
a continental basin, which, according to bathymetric data from the
Red Sea (Siddall et al., 2003), was situated some 120 km from the
coast at the time of their occupation.
"

I cannot reach the full article, if that says otherwise about the dates, then you are right, but this what is in the abstract.

55ka is the mean age, individual dates vary greatly (63-42 ka as in the abstract, and with even an outlier 84ka). In any case, it does not seem that this is thousands of years after the supposed coastal migration; neither genetic nor archaeological dating techniques have the precision needed to place things within very short time windows.

Slumbery said...

Dienekes


I wrote in my last post, that the coast was 100+ back then. This distance, without any mentionable barrier, is still nothing. The word "inland" should not used like it is a middle of Kazakhstan.

As for the dates I believe you (the abstract is somewhat misleading with that sentence with the arid conditions). Especially with the outlying oldest material this does indeed make a 60kya coastal out of Africa source unlikely.

Though as an advocatus diaboly I could say that the 60ky in the theory is only an approximation. Anyway, I hope we will know more in a few years, things seems to be in movement.

Annie Mouse said...

I have NEVER believed in 60k first Out-of-Africa. It does not fit with the colonization of Australia, the proposed effects of the Toba eruption or the ages of mitochondrial halogroups. It was a product of philosophies on youthful ages of Y haplogroups that I never bought into.

The previous 80k estimate makes more sense to me. Although earlier dates are possible, multiple migrations are likely and I do think there was an important middle eastern staging settlement.

Coastal migrations make a lot of sense. There is a good source of food for gatherers (and hunters), it (the coast) can be navigated reproducibly and it is a path of least resistance at a time when this was important.

Yes to coastal migrations, 60k for the first event makes no sense.

mousterian said...

Just to weigh in on the coastal vs. inland question:

A number of archaeological survey projects across southern Arabia have scoured the littoral zone stretching from the Bab Al Mandeb all the way east to Ras Al Hadd. Simply put, there are no sites along the coastal plain or coastal mountain ranges. Nor is there much of a shelf (<5km) until you reach the area around Masirah Island, so the argument that these sites are now submerged is invalid.

Palaeolithic scatters, in nearly every case, are found on the interior plateaus. And samples sizes are now well over 500 sites, so we've got a fairly robust record at this point. More important than distance, it is necessary to look at the geomorphic settings of these findspots. While some may only be 40 km from the modern shoreline (as is the case with Nubian sites on the Nejd Plateau in Dhofar), this environment is worlds removed from the Salalah plain just a 2-day hike to the south. Nubian Levallois technology is entirely a terrestrial hunting toolkit aimed at the production of elongated spear points. Not only are the Nubians found on the open savannah and river valleys, in my opinion, their mobility patterns and technology indicate that they are spectacularly well-adapted to these landscapes.

Looking at Delagnes et al. 2012, SD1 is at the base of the Yemeni highlands in Wadi Surdud, which is definitely not a coastal environment. Moreover, despite the preserved faunal remains, there are no fish bones or shellfish to imply marine subsistence. Same goes for Jebel Faya, which falls within the Persian Gulf basin and I would link link to the Gulf Oasis.

I've found that most geneticists I've spoken with aren't willing to budge on the coalescence ages. So the compromise I would offer is this: we expand our geographic concept of Africa to include Arabia. The Red Sea is no obstacle, it's a red herring. All we can say for sure is that the L3-bearing population had moved in and beyond Arabia by 60 kya. As we argue in an upcoming manuscript, the Nubian culture group forms the base of the N expansion northward. As for M, still a lingering question… Gulf Oasis? South Asia? At this point, all bets are off.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Biagi and Starnini (2010) discusses the state of the South Asian archaeology in the relevant time period, although it is less definitive than one could want and seems to argue for Neanderthal at the mouth of the Indus River ca. 82,000 years ago. It also notes that "According to the few absolute dates so far available, Middle Palaeolithic complexes are represented in the region since roughly 150 ky, while the Late (Upper) Palaeolithic ones make their appearance at least just after 40 ky from the present, although the dispersal of modern individuals, following a coastal route, is suggested to have taken place some 10 ky before. The problem related to the makers of the Middle Palaeolithic tools is still debated, mainly because of the absence of fossil human remains of this period in the entire Subcontinent.

One of the most important issues consists of the south-easternmost spread of the Neanderthal Levalloisian assemblages that is so far badly defined. Although typical Levalloisian Mousterian industries are known from south-eastern Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, and former Soviet Central Asia, characteristic Levalloisian assemblages are almost unknown in the Indian Subcontinent, except for a few surface sites in Lower Sindh and the Indus Valley, which have been discussed in a recent paper." Shanidar in Iran is the furthest SE really definitive Neanderthal site.

This source relying on Pappu (2011) indicates that: "Current research in India therefore indicates that the Acheulean industry ranges from 1.5 million years ago to 120,000 years[.]" Acheulean is mostly associated with Homo Erectus. Some outlier more recent dates for Asian Homo Erectus have been determined to be inaccurately dated at 30,000-50,000 when the oldest definitive H. Erectus in Java is more like 150,000 years ago.

Petraglia (2007) with modern human artifacts below and above Toba ash in South Asia is the most definitive earlier out of Africa case.

The Aterian usually associated with modern humans is found in the Atlas Mountains of N. Africa ca. 82,000 years ago and arguably extended as far as Egypt at that time.

Maju said...

@Andrew: the Biagi & Starnini paper (rather short article) is interesting indeed but I would not take that quoted paragraph too seriously because you have to look at the reference footnotes, which act as the "small type". The UP-40Ka. ref. for Sindh is from 1995 and the 50 Ka. ref. is based on genetic speculations, if you have read Field's paper.

Field 2007 is otherwise very interesting because it estabilishes very solidly that, through South Asia, there are three possible low effort routes: two of them are riverine and well documented archaeologically (Narmada-Son and West coast plus Krishna river) and the third one is along the now submerged coast (not well documented archaeologically, except for the Western coast). But that paper can't be used to support a 50 Ka. arrival date for modern humans, because such a date is taken from genetic "molecular clock" speculations (older papers).

"Acheulean is mostly associated with Homo Erectus"...

Not only (also early Neanderthals and Sapiens). In India it's associated to the big brained Narmada hominin which could well be a Heidelbergensis or Neanderthal.

"Petraglia (2007) with modern human artifacts below and above Toba ash in South Asia is the most definitive earlier out of Africa case".

Out of Africa beyond Arabia yes. For Arabia there's a lot more data.

...

For those who questioned that there are no coastal sites in Arabia, Jebel Faya (Sarjah, UAE, Armitage 2011) is one such site dated to c. 125 Ka. ago.

bmdriver said...

It was Out of Africa, when it became obvious that Human desperation took place in South Asia, the effort was made to bring it back closer to the middle east, the biblical home of the Abrahamic faith, now its Out of Arabia. :)

formerjerseyboy said...

So the basic premise of the Out Of Africa theory remains intact: the ancestors of anatomically modern humans originally came from Africa. What the new research shows is that the dating should be pushed farter back into antiquity, and that there are alternative routes and separate migration dates for the (presumed) different OOA migrations as well.

Anatomically modern humans still had to travel through Arabia and the Middle East on their way to India, this accident of geography had obviously nothing to do with the cliches associated with so-called "Abrahamic" ideology.

andrew said...

The most curious gap is the absence of any real solid evidence of SE Asia/Melanesian/East Asian hominins at all from about 100kya to 45 kya, with the possible exception of Flores. This is a huge geographic area and a huge time frames to be devoid of evidence and Toba's geographic range was far too narrow, by itself anyway, to affect all of it. All of these regions (except Melanesia) have some evidence of archaic hominins earlier and evidence of modern humans later.

But, it is startling to compare the very high resolution of data on the Neanderthal v. modern human contact from ca. 100kya to 29kya with the total absence of evidence, apart from Denisovian admixture in Melanesians, for what was going on in this period in Asia (excluding South Asia).

One can argue the fine details, put it seems pretty clear that Neanderthals never made it as far along the Southern route as Bangladesh, and certainly not as far as Burma. I've considered the likelihood that Asian archaics may have been thin on the ground relative to modern humans or Neanderthals and that they could have thinned out in the wake of Toba opening the door to modern humans to flood in. But, why isn't there mainland archaic admixture in addition to Neanderthal admixture in SE Asia/East Asia? Why isn't there megafauna extinction there when modern humans arrive? Why aren't there some hominin remains or hominin tools that allow the timelines to be filled in a bit more precisely?

Genetic evidence points to a very early split of proto-Eurasians into Eastern and Western branches. So where does each group live until ca. 45,000 years ago (when the break out into Europe, Australia, Melanesia, and Siberia begins)? Do we have the Western Eurasians in an Arabian river basin and the Eastern Eurasians in India? Whose in Iran?

Maju said...

@Andrew: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, Andrew, and besides a possible 60+ Ka for Tianyuan (Liujiang) man and a similar safer date for a foot bone from Luzon (Philippines) could well conspire against your constructions.

Also we have evidence of what are probably AMH tools in highland New Guinea c. 50 Ka., arguable AMH presence in Australia since maybe c. 60 Ka. and two human jaws (unknown species) in NE Asia (Japan, North China) dated to c. 110 Ka ago, plus stone industry in Japan of similar age.

There is no full unmistakable skull (unless you trust the first dating of Liujiang rather than the modern one of c. 40 Ka. - both are similarly dubious) but "so what?"

There is a problem in SE Asia of relative lack of archaeological research, aggravated by humid tropical conditions that are very bad for this kind of work. While in the latest years we have witnessed a renewed interest in Arabia and South Asia, with most interesting results, in SE Asia this new wave of research has been smaller and therefore less productive.

Still what you say can also be said for South Asia, Arabia, etc. There are no skulls anywhere for huge periods. But toolkits (and hence some kind of people) there are indeed.

"it seems pretty clear that Neanderthals never made it as far along the Southern route as Bangladesh"...

Don't be so sure: the closest thing to the Narmada (or Hathnora) hominin's vault is a Neanderthal vault. And the location is not really far from Bangla Desh.

"Do we have the Western Eurasians in an Arabian river basin and the Eastern Eurasians in India?"

No! South Asians are closest to West Eurasians no matter how you look at it. South Asia and SE Asia makes much better sense but the division does not need to have been "complete" until c. 50-60 Ka, because some "Eastern" lineages like Y-DNA MNOPS must have played an important role in the colonization of West Eurasia (Y-DNA P).

I propose a fast expansion from South Asia towards the East followed by some counterflows eventually culminating in the colonization of West Eurasia and NE Asia (North of Beijing) after the "Tropical/Subtropical Asian zone" became "crowded". This 1st Eurasian Expansion phase would be between c. 80-55 Ka. and would include flows and counterflows until it eventually overflowed to less desirable regions in the Western "Neanderlands" and the cold areas of the North.

mousterian said...

@Maju regarding Jebel Faya - I would disagree as to this being a coastal site. I've worked there; not only is it 50 km from the current shoreline, but during the Late Pleistocene it was at the periphery of the Gulf Oasis freshwater marshlands.

What we are dancing around here is an issue more fundamental than simply coastal vs. interior, early vs. late. If it was an expansion (or wave of expansions) during MIS 5 through the interior, these are hunter-gatherers tracking a known ecosystem. If a late expansion during MIS 4 or early MIS 3 along the coast, these represents some innovative cultural adaptation that has enabled them to exploit a new ecosystem and rapidly disperse through it (i.e. the rim of the Indian Ocean). In other words, were we lucky hunter-gatherers in the right place at the right time during the Last Interglacial, or crafty beachcombers struggling for survival across the post-apocalyptic post-Toba landscape? Pushed out of Africa, or pulled into Arabia? In my mind, this is the real disparity between the two models.

Interestingly, all of the Palaeolithic archaeologists working in Arabia unanimously agree on the "lucky hunter-gatherers" MIS 5 scenario. Granted, it’s not as sexy as believing we are somehow fundamentally different, new, and improved. That’s the problem with fact versus fiction.

Maju said...

Alright Mousterian, obviously you know what you're talking about, but:

(1) should not we consider Jebel Faya in relation with the Arabian Sea rather than the Gulf Oasis?

(2) should not we ponder how that site shows up, ONLY 50 km away from shore (a day's walk for active people - we're talking nomadic hunter-gatherers not sedentary bureaucrats), with no other known inland connection? There's the Nubian culture of Dhofar but in principle it's not the same thing at all. And otherwise we must go to Africa for any relation.

Until further data shows up clarifying the matter, there's a good chance IMO that Jebel Faya correlates with a coastal now hidden by changing sea levels and limited research. There are indications of inland migrations later on, c. 90 Ka. but not so early (even the Dhofar case is rather close to coast even if no specific coastal findings have been located yet).

"were we lucky hunter-gatherers in the right place at the right time during the Last Interglacial, or crafty beachcombers struggling for survival across the post-apocalyptic post-Toba landscape?"

The first. I don't see much evidence of a "Toba apocalypse" (it must have been short-term dramatic for some groups but the general data suggests continuity, not radical disruption). Also the data suggests pre-Toba migration not post-Toba one.

But while you may be interested in this aspect, for many others it's a matter of whether humans were already making and using some kind of boats/rafts (like those made of three trunks or six bamboos) or were rather like chimpanzees scared of the water. I think it's the first but some people is obsessed with denying boating capacity to migrant hunter-gatherers and favoring a purely walker model instead that I find highly unlikely (not only they needed to exploit and overcome coasts but also rivers, lakes, swamps...)

Incidentally there is a strictly coastal site in Eritrea (Walter 2000), dated to c. 125 Ka ago.

mousterian said...

@Maju - you raise one of the most vexing issues to come out of the Dhofar Nubian discovery: how and why did they cross the Red Sea?

My team has now mapped 260 Nubian sites across Dhofar, and every single one of them is on the Nejd Plateau. This is an interior-draining scabland that is separated from the coastal plain by the Jebel Qara mountain range. We do not find Nubians in Jebel Qara or on the Salalah plain. We've scoured the coastal plain for years looking for sites, they simply aren't there and we can no longer invoke the "haven't found it yet" explanation. There is no shelf, so they are not underwater. The Nubian toolkit seems specialized for hunting of savanna ungulates. No question, they are not marine adapted and have no interest in the coast. Yet...the Nubians didn't come down from Sinai, they crossed from the Horn (at least, that's what the known site distribution tells us so far). While I have the sneaking suspicion we'll soon learn about Nubians in Saudi, it is clear they were never in Sinai. So, while I am 100% against coastal adaptation, I have to acknowledge that it is most likely they crossed the Red Sea by boat (or swum across).

I agree with you as well that the inhabitants of Faya likely exploited the Gulf Oasis. I do not think they would traveled across the Musandam peninsula to the Gulf of Oman. There is a large, daunting mountain range just east of Faya that would have made transhumance across this zone difficult, to say the least. Moreover, the chert deposits end at the foothills of the Hajar mountains near Faya, and there is no knappable material on the eastern side of the range. Not to mention the lack of freshwater on the west side of the Hajar range. I have to admit, I don't necessarily buy the explanation that the Faya toolmakers were AMH. It is just as plausible they were an archaic holdover from pre-MIS 5 that survived around the Gulf refugium. Yes, ultimately from Africa, but perhaps the Fayan's ancestors came to Arabia 150+ kya.

Abdur Reef (the Walter 2000 article) seems to have been another red herring. The site is in secondary position and the faunal material recovered was primarily terrestrial mammals. Although the researchers initially reported bivalve exploitation, it was later discovered that the shellfish all died natural deaths and were not part of an ancient midden. The lithic toolkit, again, suggests terrestrial hunting. No fish hooks, no microliths, no harpoons.

terryt said...

"One day, it may be worth for someone to chart how this idea came to prominence and wide acceptance, despite having very little in its favor".

I'm old enough to remember the time before the theory first appeared. I first saw it on a TV program by Spenser Wells. His argument was full of holes and seems to have been concocted to combine the development of the Upper Paleolithic with the near simultaneous human arrival in Australia. This comment from Dienekes' post sums the problem up:

"There is a widespread belief in the simultaneous spread of Upper Paleolithic technology and modern human populations in Eurasia. But, this is not what the actual evidence shows us. However, the evidence for an earlier appearance of UP industries in the Levant than either Arabia or India makes this hypothesis problematic. It renders the coastal migration hypothesis doubly so, because if modern humans with new technology followed the coast all the way to Australia then it is troublesome that the MP stone tools persist in the regions most adjacent to this migration route. A better explanation may be that the UP revolution should be decoupled from the migration paths of modern humans, and that it was a cultural phenomenon which originated probably in the Levant, rather than being part and parcel of the early migrating humans wherever they were found".

This follows from that:

"This indicates that stone tools are a poor indicator of the species of the hominin that made them: changes in hominin type did not necessarily result in changes in lithic technology".

I have been trying to point that out to a regular blogger for some years now.

"unless you think coastal migration means nobody go farther from the coast that 200m for 5 thousand years".

But how distant from the coast are you prepared to go? Before long the term 'coastal' becomes meaningless.

"Coastal migrations make a lot of sense. There is a good source of food for gatherers (and hunters), it (the coast) can be navigated reproducibly and it is a path of least resistance at a time when this was important".

Not really. Large stretches of the coast would be completely unsuitable habitat, and impassable.

"After all, River people were among the most ancient Humans, weren't they, in addition to seacoast people?"

Unlikely. It is true that humans need fresh water but that need not necessarily be supplied by a river. My guess is that the preferred human habitat has always been the margin between forest and grassland. Humans have not moved far into forest and did not venture far out into the open grassland until pushed.

"If it was an expansion (or wave of expansions) during MIS 5 through the interior, these are hunter-gatherers tracking a known ecosystem".

Agreed. By far the most likely scenario.

"All we can say for sure is that the L3-bearing population had moved in and beyond Arabia by 60 kya. As we argue in an upcoming manuscript, the Nubian culture group forms the base of the N expansion northward".

I have become involved in endless argument whenever I have proposed such a northward movement, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

"I propose a fast expansion from South Asia towards the East"

There is another option, but I won't argue with Maju here. Although from Dienekes' post:

"Perhaps the pre-100ky wave went much further to the east, to India and Southeast Asia".

And/or further north?

terryt said...

"But, why isn't there mainland archaic admixture in addition to Neanderthal admixture in SE Asia/East Asia?"

My guess is that there is. We just haven't found it yet.

"Why isn't there megafauna extinction there when modern humans arrive?"

There have been extinctions but the megafauna was primarily rainforest-adapted, and humans have only recently been able to move into much of it. The megafauna is now rapidly disappearing.

"Why aren't there some hominin remains or hominin tools that allow the timelines to be filled in a bit more precisely?"

Evidence of sparse settlement? I think the main reason is that humans were not too common in the region. The whole region is largely tropical rainforest and so less that ideal habitat.

eurologist said...

This indicates that stone tools are a poor indicator of the species of the hominin that made them: changes in hominin type did not necessarily result in changes in lithic technology

Perhaps the pre-100ky wave went much further to the east, to India and Southeast Asia.


I agree with both points.

Not only (also early Neanderthals and Sapiens). In India it's associated to the big brained Narmada hominin which could well be a Heidelbergensis or Neanderthal.

Maju,

I agree - but would definitely link this to heidelbergensis-like, for many reasons.

So the basic premise of the Out Of Africa theory remains intact: the ancestors of anatomically modern humans originally came from Africa.

formerjerseyboy,
That may not be correct. Firstly, even ignoring older gene flow, since about 800,000 ya, there appears to be co-evolution in Europe, West Asia, and Africa - until about 350,000 ya when gene transfer was cut off due to climatic reasons. So, ooA is post 350,000 ya, but likely pre-100,000 ya. A very narrow window. And it then involved documented admixture with at least two of the former European/Asian groups.

What we are dancing around here is an issue more fundamental than simply coastal vs. interior, early vs. late. If it was an expansion (or wave of expansions) during MIS 5 through the interior, these are hunter-gatherers tracking a known ecosystem. If a late expansion during MIS 4 or early MIS 3 along the coast, these represents some innovative cultural adaptation that has enabled them to exploit a new ecosystem and rapidly disperse through it (i.e. the rim of the Indian Ocean). In other words, were we lucky hunter-gatherers in the right place at the right time during the Last Interglacial, or crafty beachcombers struggling for survival across the post-apocalyptic post-Toba landscape? Pushed out of Africa, or pulled into Arabia? In my mind, this is the real disparity between the two models.

mousterian,
I fully agree - and I take the view that many modern humans during a climatically advantageous period surely agree more with Occam's razor than a few lucky ones that, by all means, should never have made it.

andrew said...

"What we are dancing around here is an issue more fundamental than simply coastal vs. interior, early vs. late. If it was an expansion (or wave of expansions) during MIS 5 through the interior, these are hunter-gatherers tracking a known ecosystem. If a late expansion during MIS 4 or early MIS 3 along the coast, these represents some innovative cultural adaptation that has enabled them to exploit a new ecosystem and rapidly disperse through it (i.e. the rim of the Indian Ocean)."

During what windows of time expressed in terms of years ago, would Arabia have been habitable for terrestrial Paleolithic hunter-gathers? Was there more than one in the last 150,000 years or so?

I've seen some chronologies for the Sahara fleshed out with statements about fauna and flora in those time periods, but I am much more fuzzy about how that translates into Arabian habitability at particular times and the current terrain is so bleak it is hard to project back.

mousterian said...

@andrew

"During what windows of time expressed in terms of years ago, would Arabia have been habitable for terrestrial Paleolithic hunter-gathers? Was there more than one in the last 150,000 years or so?"

There are several episodes of varying magnitude that have left a "pluvial" imprint on the landscape (e.g., speleothem growth, lacustrine sediments, wadi aggradation, etc...). Perhaps most surprisingly, an ancient lake deposit in Sharjah, of several meters accumulation, has recently been dated to the middle of MIS 6 (~160 - 150 ka BP). This may have been the initial priming of the pump that drew the first AMH wave of Fayans into Arabia (pardon the term, couldn't think of anything else to call these ambiguous people).

Easily the clearest and strongest pluvial signal comes during the Last Interglacial, ~130 - 120 ka BP. Although not pronounced, the section at Aybut Auwal shows subsequent wadi activation around MIS 5c (~110 - 100 ka BP). MIS 5a (~85 - 75 ka BP) is the last gasp of heightened precipitation before the onset of rapidly deteriorating conditions associated with MIS 4.

There is new evidence about to be published for a return to wetter conditions between roughly 60 - 55 ka BP. From my perspective, this period is particularly important by enabling bottlenecked communities within Arabian refugia to re-expand. In particular, there may be cultural connections between South Arabia and the southern Levant around this time. What is so attractive about this explanation (imo) is that it would finally explain from where the mysterious Initial Upper Palaeolithic in the Levant actually came. Since its discovery in the late 70s, nobody has ever sufficiently explained the origins of the core reduction technology seen at Boker Tachtit or Ain Difla. Why, suddenly, the emphasis on distal preparation of Levallois point cores? Sounds kind of Nubian-ish to me...

Continuing with the pluvial chronology: it used to be accepted that there was another wet phase in the middle of MIS 3 (~40 - 30 ka BP); however, there is now doubt about these old C14 dates. The verdict is still out for this timeframe.

Finally, rainfall begins to picks up again around 12 ka BP, at the onset of the Holocene Climatic Optimum. So, there are several windows of opportunity for expansion into Arabia (see Rosenberg et al. 2011). It is important to keep in mind that there were probably demographic expansions during every one of these windows, and not necessarily only coming from one source in East Africa. Imagine groups moving every which way, coming and going from all directions. After all, these are highly mobile hunter-gatheres we are talking about. Moving is what they do best.

Maju said...

@Mousterian: What you say about a 60-50 Ka BP "pluvial signal" is interesting and, if confirmed, could certainly explain partly how AMHs became enticed by the Western Eurasian regions again, which, in the contact zone, are and were rather arid and inhospitable.

But, from the genetic data, I perceive as quite strong the signal of a backflow from South Asia (and in some cases maybe from as far as SE Asia ultimately) and instead no obvious signal of "Fayan" re-expansion (although there are indeed remnant matrilineages, I see no obvious surviving "Fayan" patrilineages, all of which derive from macro-haplogroup F, which is most diverse in South Asia and hence most likely original from the subcontinent).

Also the archaeology of late MP India, for the little I know of it, is full of mentions to "blades" in the toolkits, what is at least suggestive of evolution towards the UP/mode 4 techno-cultural phenomenon, tightly associated with the expansion of H. sapiens in "the Neanderlands" of the West. These sites (Patpara, Patne, Bhimbetka) are all in the North. In general the transition to UP technological modes in South Asia is at the very least not later than in West Eurasia and can well be older. This requires more research but is consistent with what I think is quite self-evident in the genetic patterns.

Dienekes said...

I see no obvious surviving "Fayan" patrilineages, all of which derive from macro-haplogroup F, which is most diverse in South Asia and hence most likely original from the subcontinent).

That is inaccurate.

mousterian said...

@Maju do you mean back flow from South Asia into Arabia? If so, my concern is that there are so few inhabitants of Arabia left from the Late Pleistocene. And, based on Fernandes et al. (2012), the few mtDNA signatures that have been detected bear traces of N.

You touched upon a major conundrum in the archaeological record. The Middle Palaeolithic sites around the Gulf (Jebel Barakah, Jebel Faya, & Fili surface scatters) are predominantly radial core technologies with trace Levallois elements, in conjunction with bifacial foliates. I agree with you, this doesn't bear a shred of resemblance to South Asia post-MIS 5. Moreover, Assemblages B and A at Faya, linked to MIS 3, suggest an isolated community that has wandered off on its own unique technological trajectory. Thus, archaeologically, the Gulf folks are distinct from MIS 4/MIS 3 groups in South Asia.

Note, however, that the Wadi Surdud sites, dated between 60 - 40 ka BP, ARE dominated almost exclusively by blade reduction. Albeit undated, Dhofar is absolutely covered in similar blade sites. More so even than Nubian Levallois, this is the most common type of lithic technology encountered there. If then, for arguments sake, these blade technologies in Arabia and India are somehow linked, why doesn't this show up around the Gulf? Hmm...maybe those sites are somewhere off Qatar, submerged under 40m of water?

Maju said...

@Dienekes: I should have written "most basally diverse" but otherwise haplogroup F is divided into:

· F* (paraphyletic clade found in various areas but notably in India)
· F1 (Sri Lanka)
· F2 (SE Asia)
· F3 (India and West Eurasia)
· F4 (India)
· G (West Eurasia)
· H (South Asia)
· IJK (across Eurasia)

So 6/8 basal subclades of F are from South Asia (many of them very specifically so). No other continental region even approaches such high levels of basal diversity of Y-DNA F.

Let's get real, please: F looks very much as coalesced in South Asia.

Maju said...

@Mousterian:

"do you mean back flow from South Asia into Arabia?"

Into West Eurasia in general (West and Central Asia, Europe) with overflow into parts of Africa, notably the North but also the East (via Arabia).

I have not yet read Fernandes 2012 (it's PPV until two weeks from now if I'm correct) but I'm actually considering L(xM,N) lineages mentioned by Behar 2008 - and which I have personally looked at with some interest reaching to similar conclusions. My methods and Behar's are somewhat different but my independent conclusions on his data are very similar to his, so I'd say it's quite unquestionable, both the mtDNA cradle in the Upper Nile (not necessarily Ethiopia as he claims) and the presence of very old L(xM,N) lineages in Arabia and North Africa that can't be explained by the slave trade (they are very rare lineages or do not exist in Africa at all anymore).

However I look forward to read the Fernandes paper mostly to see if it really brings new data on the sometimes hotly debated origins of mtDNA N, which I would consider as SE Asian, based on the scatter of "her" basal descendants (but new evidence might change that - or not).

"... archaeologically, the Gulf folks are distinct from MIS 4/MIS 3 groups in South Asia".

We still do not know all (actually most of what we are discussing here is less than five or even two years old by date of publication). Jebel Faya looks a bit too old to be directly related to Jawalpuram and such.

Also Jawalpuram appears (per Petraglia 2007) to be almost identical typologically to Southern African MSA (and not East African one, quite intriguingly) so maybe there was a rapid coastal migration after all and most of the evidence is underwater nowadays.

"Hmm...maybe those sites are somewhere off Qatar, submerged under 40m of water?"

We can't discard that on light to the present evidence. Actually there should be sites under the Persian Gulf and lots of sediments but finding them is more than just your normal archaeo-challenge, right?

Dienekes said...

So 6/8 basal subclades of F are from South Asia (many of them very specifically so). No other continental region even approaches such high levels of basal diversity of Y-DNA F.

You list 7 subclades, not 8.

If we are to follow your "logic" then we will conclude that IJK is West Eurasian, since West Eurasia is the only region harboring both IJ and K.

F1 belongs to the H lineage (Karafet et al. 2008); it is not an independent basal clade of F.

The minor subclades which you refer to as "Indian" are rarely studied in European samples, although such samples are often assigned to F* as indeed have been prehistoric Europeans.

In short, there is absolutely no strong evidence that Y-haplogroup F emerged in South Asia. The evidence as it is does not really allow us to determine where F originated, although the most obvious candidate is West Asia, since that is where the ancestral bottleneck leading to Eurasians from Africans must have happened, where the earliest Homo sapiens outside Africa is found, and where the Upper Paleolithic probably originated.

Maju said...

@Dienekes:

"You list 7 subclades, not 8".

Fair enough. F* could be other 7 clades however we do not know for sure. Whatever the case it should be counted as the equivalent of at least one clade (because it's clearly not within any of the rest).

"If we are to follow your "logic" then we will conclude that IJK is West Eurasian, since West Eurasia is the only region harboring both IJ and K".

It can well be argued. However the number of basal branches to consider is very small, causing error margins to grow considerably. Considering what is upstream (F) and downstream by the K side, I'd rather suspect a Pakistani or generic NW South Asian origin instead. But debatable, of course.

"F1 belongs to the H lineage (Karafet et al. 2008)"...

ISOGG still lists it (with the same markers as in 2006, 2007) as hanging from the F basal node. I doubt that ISOGG is in such a flagrant error and, would be the case, you should notify them.

I'll check the matter myself later anyhow.

"The minor subclades which you refer to as "Indian" are rarely studied in European samples, although such samples are often assigned to F* as indeed have been prehistoric Europeans".

Well, we always work with the data we have, right? I'm open to be amended in this but I would ask for clear data. This data has failed to show up and instead has rather mounted in support of a South Asian coalescence scenario.

This would be consistent with the mtDNA data, if we consider that Y-DNA F and mtDNA M were the main lineages of early Eurasians expanding from South Asia. (MtDNA N and Y-DNA C and D appear to have Eastern Asian origins to my eye but are less important excepted mtDNA R, which IMO flowed back westward with Y-DNA MNOPS (P in the West), which ISOGG now calls, confusingly K(xLT)).

It's a long complicated debate and I would not like to hijack the thread with it... but that's how I see it in any case (based on repeated observation and geographical evaluation of the available data, both in the mtDNA and Y-DNA sides).

Maju said...

Re. H and F1, there's a mention in Karafet about the mutation M69:

"The Apt polymorphism has the derived state at M69 and defines the H-Apt (H2) branch, not the F1 branch as previously reported (Jobling and Tyler-Smith 2003)".

But this is distinct from the Haplogroup F1 as defined in either ISOGG or Karafet 2008, which is defined by mutations P91 and P104. No changes between then and today (or even before, as I checked the ISOGG builds up to 2006).

I think it's convenient to clarify this even if it's just one of many clades relevant.

terryt said...

"The evidence as it is does not really allow us to determine where F originated, although the most obvious candidate is West Asia, since that is where the ancestral bottleneck leading to Eurasians from Africans must have happened, where the earliest Homo sapiens outside Africa is found, and where the Upper Paleolithic probably originated".

The last part of your statement ignores earlier comments disconnecting the earliest 'modern' human expansion from the Upper Paleolithic. Apart from that, I agree.

"F1 belongs to the H lineage (Karafet et al. 2008); it is not an independent basal clade of F".

Thanks. I wasn't aware of that.

"If we are to follow your 'logic' then we will conclude that IJK is West Eurasian, since West Eurasia is the only region harboring both IJ and K".

I think that logic is correct. At least 'West Asia'.

Dienekes said...

The last part of your statement ignores earlier comments disconnecting the earliest 'modern' human expansion from the Upper Paleolithic. Apart from that, I agree.

The point is that anything that could be tied to an expansion across large swathes of Eurasia originated or passed through West Asia.

India is a population sink, not source, and the Indian population is the result of fairly recent admixture; even one of the haplogroups listed by Maju as "Indian" is limited to Austroasiatic tribes, and the bulk of Indian Y-chromosomes that exist in India must have accompanied the majority Caucasoid component in that population.

However the number of basal branches to consider is very small, causing error margins to grow considerably.

The true phylogeny is nearly always bifurcating, except for the unlikely case that one man had 3+ sons who all happen to have descendants today.

Counting basal clades is no way to determine a haplogroup's origin, until the phylogeny is resolved in its binary structure. A few years ago, when IJK was I, J, K one would argue that there were +2 basal clades of F in West Eurasia.

So, when the tree is resolved through FGS we may perhaps know where F is likely to have originated, but India is an unlikely candidate as there are no known processes emanating from it and the current population is of recent tri-racial origin.

Maju said...

"The true phylogeny is nearly always bifurcating"...

In full agreement here, Dienekes, at least for Y-DNA where we can well expect mutations to happen in every single generation (it would not be the case in mtDNA however because the DNA chain is too short and the mutation tic-toc probably corresponds to more than one millennium on average).

But we do not know for a fact, as of now, how exactly F bifurcates before those mentioned subhaplogroups. We have to work with that we have, and what we have is overwhelmingly looking South Asian (and also in the mtDNA side).

Dienekes said...

overwhelmingly looking South Asian

Learn to count. Even going by your own reckoning, 3 of 7 sublineages are "South Asian", 4 of 7 are not South Asian. F is overwhelmingly nothing.

Maju said...

F1, F3, F4, H and IJK are South Asian (F3 and IJK shared with other areas), and also most of the paraphyletic F* (which you must count as well). The only "not South Asian" lineages are G and F2, one to each side.

Denial is not scientific.

Dienekes said...

F1, F3, F4, H and IJK are South Asian (F3 and IJK shared with other areas)

Already explained that according to your "logic" IJK is West Eurasian since West Eurasia has both IJ and K, while all other regions have only K. Even if you don't take it as West Eurasian, saying that it is "South Asian" and shared with other regions is to stretch the evidence by a great amount.

It was already explained to you that counting "basal" clades is irrelevant, since the full bifurcating structure of F remains to be determined.

But, hey, flexible logic is a good way to prop up a bad argument.