Dispersals of Early Humans: Adaptations, Frontiers, and New Territories

  • Michael BolusEmail author
Reference work entry


Fossils of early hominins have been found exclusively in Africa. While the australopiths only spread within Africa, members of the genus Homo were the first to leave their home continent, roughly 2 million years ago, thus expanding their settlement area considerably. Once “out of Africa,” groups of Homo ergaster, Homo erectus, or other early Homo species moved in several waves to East and Southeast Asia, while other groups, possibly through the Levantine Corridor and crossing the Caucasus, entered Europe. The oldest artifact assemblages outside of Africa are of Oldowan type, while in Africa at the same time the techno-complex of the Acheulean had begun to evolve, which came to Eurasia much later. In Europe, the Neanderthals, the only indigenous European hominins, evolved out of later populations of Homo heidelbergensis. At the end of the last glacial period, the Neanderthals enlarged their originally exclusive European settlement area, expanding into the Near East, parts of Central Asia, and even as far as the Altai region in Siberia. While the Neanderthals apparently never entered Africa, they started their movement “out of Europe” and into Asia at about the same time that anatomically modern humans (AMH), who originated in Africa, started their movement “out of Africa,” also heading first into Asia. Sahul was colonized by AMH earlier than Europe, which was first entered about 45,000 years ago, when the Neanderthals were still living there. Today, modern humans are the only existing hominin species, inhabiting nearly every part of the world. During their expansions, the Neanderthals and AMH not only mixed with each other – at least in the Near East – but apparently both interbred with a third hominin group, the Denisovans, who seem to have moved specifically into East and/or Southeast Asia.


Before Present Dispersal Wave Stone Artifact Early Homo Human Fossil 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and HumanitiesResearch Project ROCEEH at the University of TübingenTübingenGermany

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