Evolutionary Biology

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 1–11 | Cite as

The Hybrid Origin of “Modern” Humans

  • Rebecca Rogers AckermannEmail author
  • Alex Mackay
  • Michael L. Arnold
Synthesis Paper


Recent genomic research has shown that hybridization between substantially diverged lineages is the rule, not the exception, in human evolution. However, the importance of hybridization in shaping the genotype and phenotype of Homo sapiens remains debated. Here we argue that current evidence for hybridization in human evolution suggests not only that it was important, but that it was an essential creative force in the emergence of our variable, adaptable species. We then extend this argument to a reappraisal of the archaeological record, proposing that the exchange of cultural information between divergent groups may have facilitated the emergence of cultural innovation. We discuss the implications of this Divergence and Hybridization Model for considering the taxonomy of our lineage.


Cultural and biological modernity Hybridization Frontiers Neanderthals Denisovans 



We would like to thank Charles Roseman and Dietmar Zinner for their comments that greatly improved this manuscript. RRA hybrid research supported by Grants from the National Research Foundation of South Africa and the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences (COE-Pal).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca Rogers Ackermann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alex Mackay
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael L. Arnold
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa
  2. 2.Centre for Archaeological ScienceUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  3. 3.Department of GeneticsUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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