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African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity Hardcover – July, 1997
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Ever since Darwin first suggested that humans are descended from apes, the theory of evolution has engendered a firestorm of controversy. But the schism between creationism and evolution is by no means the only source of disagreement; even within the evolutionist camp there are fierce divisions. Are all humans part of a single species comprised of many different varieties? Or is each race a separate species? Even Darwin had no easy answer for that one. Some scientists, including Carleton Coon, believe that Homo erectus began in Africa, then migrated to different locations in the world, where it evolved into Homo sapiens at different rates--Europeans and Asians evolved quickly, while other races remained more "primitive." Others, such as author Christopher Stringer, agree that Homo erectus spread across Asia and Europe, but became extinct everywhere but in Africa, where they continued to evolve. Eventually, a new and improved Homo sapiens swept once more out of Africa--this time to stay.
There's plenty of paleontological and genetic evidence to support Stringer's point of view, and he argues it convincingly. Short of the invention of a time machine, African Exodus is the next best way to revisit the origins of modern man.
From Library Journal
In sharp contrast to the multiregional interpretation of hominid development offered by Milford Wolpoff and Rachel Caspari in Race and Human Evolution (LJ 12/96), Stringer, director of the Human Origins group at London's Natural History Museum, and McKie, science editor of the Observer, argue for a single-origin theory for the recent emergence and essential unity of our species. The authors maintain that the erectus-sapiens transition happened only once, with Homo sapiens sapiens migrating out of Africa about 100,000 years ago and subsequently spreading worldwide. To make their case, they examine fossils, artifacts, and especially genes (e.g., the Kibish skull from Ethiopia, the Katanda culture of Zaire, and ongoing nuclear DNA findings). Special attention is given to the ape-human split, the so-called Neanderthal problem, and Cro-Magnon sociocultural advancements. The complex issues surrounding hominid evolution are made apparent here. Enhanced by numerous illustrations and extensive notes, this work is recommended for large anthropology collections.?H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, N.Y.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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They summarize, "an upright, small-brained ape gave rise to several different hominid lines and eventually... led to the emergence of Homo sapiens... one group of our immediate predecessors, the Neanderthals... [were] an intelligent species in their own right---although... we have learned that they are not the ancestors of human beings today, but are more like... cousins." (Pg. 83)
They argue, "Of course, there was clearly no single exodus, no one triumphant army of early hunter-gatherers who were led Out of Africa toward a new world by a Paleolithic Moses. Instead, our exodus would have occurred in trickles as our ancestors slowly seeped out of the continent, expanding their hunting ranges and taking over new territory." (Pg. 160-161)
They state, "The progeny of the people who found Australia 50,000 years ago, and the descendants of the tribes who poured down the Americas 12,000 years ago, as well as the heirs to all those other settlers of Europe, Africa, and Asia, share a common biological bond. They are all the children of those Africans who emerged from their homeland only a few ticks ago on our evolutionary clock... underneath our species has scarcely differentiated at all." (Pg. 177) They add, "Our exodus's timescale is so brief that only slight differences, if any, in intellect and innate behavior are likely to have evolved between modern human populations." (Pg. 183) They suggest, "it was the genetic capacity to speak a complex language that raised modern humans from the millennia-long doldrums we were sharing with the Neanderthals until 40,000 years ago. It gave us the power to take over the world." (Pg. 205)
This book will be of definite interest (whether or not one accepts all of the arguments and evidence presented) to anyone studying the orgins of humanity, as well as various modern ethnic groups.
This is not to say that it is perfectly logical. I found the book's low point to be the authors' reasoning for the higher prevalence of Rh-negative blood among very old Western European groups (such as the Basques), which somehow they explain away by those groups' relative isolation from new agricultural societies with higher counts of Rh-positive blood coming in from the East. Also, I didn't care to take sides in an intellectual (and personal) argument with other scientists who don't share the Out of Africa theory, which seems a hidden objective of this book. As for "African Exodus" being a response to "The Bell Curve", I didn't quite get the authors' punch line. This last point, however, didn't bother me at all since The Bell Curve is so obviously discredited by itself.
Read this book if you want to be informed, period.
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