Out of Africa?

Many anthropologists believe that our direct ancestors, Homo sapiens , originated in Africa and left the continent about 100,000 years ago. This is popularly known as the "Out of Africa' theory. Others, however, say that H sapiens evolved independently in separate locations. A new analysis of an ancient Australian skeleton tilts the balance against the Out of Africa point of view. Discovered in 1974 in a dry lake in New South Wales, the skeleton was originally thought to be about 40,000 years old. Alan Thorne of Australian National University in Canberra combined three dating methods and found that the bones are at least 60,000 years old. Based on this, he suggests that the first modern humans may have reached the northern Australian coast not less than 70,000 years ago. Moreover, the earliest H sapiens from Africa have a more robust build than their delicate Australian counterparts. On the other hand, as Thorne points out, "If the Out of Africa people are right, then the first Australians should look like those humans'. He proposes that ancestral humans emerged from Africa nearly two million years ago and developed into separate races in widely dispersed locations ( Discover , Vol 20, No 10).

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