Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Fossil Records of Early Modern Humans

  • Ian TattersallEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_1489


Efforts to understand the origin of Homo sapiens were bedeviled for decades by the inclusion within our species of a host of late Middle or Late Pleistocene “archaic” fossils possessing cranial morphologies that deviated, sometimes enormously, from those we see among humans living today. In recent years, however, it has begun to dawn on some paleoanthropologists that modern Homo sapiens is actually very distinctive, and highly derived in its morphology, and that it makes most biological sense to include within this species only fossils that bear significant osteodental hallmarks of the living form (Tattersall & Schwartz 2009; Schwartz & Tattersall 2010). This morphological requirement makes the search for the origins of Homo sapiens more straightforward, although not necessarily easier.


Without doubt, the single most significant cranial apomorphy of the living species Homo sapiensis the retraction of its small facial skeleton beneath the front of a more or...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Armitage, S.J., S. A. Jasim, A. E. Marks, A. G. Parker, V. I. Usik & H.-P. Uerpmann. 2011. The southern route “out of Africa”: Evidence for an early expansion of modern humans into Arabia. Science 331: 453-56.Google Scholar
  2. Arsuaga, J.-L., J. M. Bermudez De Castro & E. Carbonell. (ed.) 1997. Special issue: the Sima de los Huesos hominid site. Journal of Human Evolution 33: 105-421.Google Scholar
  3. Balter, M. 2011. Was North Africa the launch pad for modern human migrations? Science 331: 20-3.Google Scholar
  4. Barker, G. et al.. 2007. The “human revolution” in lowland tropical Southeast Asia: the antiquity and behavior of anatomically modern humans at Niah Cave (Sarawak, Borneo). Journal of Human Evolution 52: 243-61.Google Scholar
  5. Barton, R.N.E., A. Bouzouggar, S. N. Collcutt, J.-L. Schwenninger & L. Clark-Balzan. 2009. OSL dating of the Aterian levels at Dar es-Soltan I (Rabat, Morocco) and implications for the dispersal of modern Homo sapiens. Quaternary Science Reviews 28: 1914-31.Google Scholar
  6. Bar-Yosef, O. 1998. The chronology of the Middle Paleolithic of the Levant, in T. Akazawa, K. Aoki & O. Bar-Yosef (ed.) Neandertals and modern humans in western Asia: 39-56. New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bowler, J. M., H. Johnston, J. M. Olley , J. R. Prescott, R. G. Roberts, W. Shawcross, & N. A. Spooner. 2003. New ages for human occupation and climatic change at Lake Mungo, Australia. Nature 421:837–840.Google Scholar
  8. Brauer, G., Y. Yokoyama, C. Falgueres & E. Mbua. 1997. Modern human origins backdated. Nature 386: 337-8.Google Scholar
  9. Brauer, G., C. Groden, G. Delling, K. Kupzic, E. Mbua & M. Schultz. 2003. Pathological alterations in the archaic Homo sapiens cranium from Eliye Springs, Kenya. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 120: 200–4.Google Scholar
  10. Campbell, M. & S. A. Tishkoff. 2010. The evolution of human genetic and phenotypic variation in Africa. Current Biology 20: R166-R173.Google Scholar
  11. Day, M. & C. Stringer. 1982. A reconsideration of the Omo Kibish remains and the erectus-sapiens transition. Prétirage, 1er International Congrès de Humain Paléontologie, Nice: 814-46.Google Scholar
  12. Deacon, H. & M. Wilson. 1992. Peers Cave: “the cave the world forgot.” The Digging Stick 9: 2-5.Google Scholar
  13. Duarte, C., J. Msuricio, P. B. Pettitt, P. Souto, E. Trinkaus, H. van der Plicht & J. Zilháo. 1999. The early Upper Paleolithic human skeleton from the Abrigo do Lagar Velho (Portugal) and modern human emergence in Iberia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 96: 7604-9.Google Scholar
  14. Green, R. et al. 2010. A draft sequence of the Neandertal genome. Science 238: 710-22.Google Scholar
  15. Grün, R. et al. 2005. U-series and ESR analyses of bones and teeth relating to the human burials from Skhūl. Journal of Human Evolution 49: 316-34.Google Scholar
  16. Harpending, H. & A. R. Rogers. 2000. Genetic perspectives on human origins and differentiation. Annual Reviews of Genomics and Human Genetics 1: 361-85.Google Scholar
  17. Holloway, R. L., D. C. Broadfield & M. S. Yuan. 2004. The human fossil record. Volume 3: brain endocasts: the Paleoneurological evidence. Hoboken (NJ): Wiley-Liss.Google Scholar
  18. Lieberman, D. E. 2011. The evolution of the human head. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Lieberman, D. E., B. M. McBratney & G. Krovitz. 2002. The evolution and development of cranial form in Homo sapiens. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 99: 1134-9.Google Scholar
  20. Liu, W., Y.-Q. Zhang, Y.-J. Cai, S. Xin, X.-J. Wu, H. Cheng, R. L. Edwards, W.-S. Pan, D.-G. Qin, Z.-S.An, E. Trinkaus, X.-Z. Wu. 2010. Human remains from Zhirendong, South China, and modern human emergence in East Asia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 107: 19201-6.Google Scholar
  21. Maca-Meyer, N., A. M. Gonzalez, J. M. Larruga, C. Flores & V. M. Cabrera. 2001. Major genomic mitochondrial lineages delineate early human expansions. BMC Genetics 2: 13.Google Scholar
  22. McCown, T. D. & A. Keith. 1939. The Stone Age of Mount Carmel: the fossil remains from the Levalloiso-Mousterian. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  23. McDougall, I., F. H. Brown & J. G. Fleagle. 2005. Stratigraphic placement and age of modern humans from Kibish, Ethiopia. Nature 433: 733-6.Google Scholar
  24. Mellars, P. A. & J. French. 2011. Tenfold population increase in western Europe at the Neandertal-to-modern-human transition. Science 333: 623-7.Google Scholar
  25. Rougier, H., Ş. Milota, R. Rodrigo, M. Gherase, L. Sarcină, O. Moldavan, J. Zilhăo, S. Constantin, R. G. Franciscus, C. P. E. Zollikofer, M. Ponce de León, and E. Trinkaus. 2007. Peştera cu Oase 2 and the cranial morphology of early modern Europeans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 104: 1165-70.Google Scholar
  26. Sawyer, G. J. & B. Maley. 2005. Neanderthal reconstructed. Anatomical Record (New Anatomist) 283B: 23-31.Google Scholar
  27. Scheinfeldt, L. B., S. Soi & S. A. Tishkoff. 2010. Working toward a synthesis of archaeological, linguistic and genetic data for inferring African population history. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 107 (Supp. 2): 8931-8.Google Scholar
  28. Schwartz, J. H. & I. Tattersall. 2005. The human fossil record, Volume 4: craniodental morphology of early hominids (Genera Australopithecus, Paranthropus, Orrorin) and overview. New York: Wiley-Liss.Google Scholar
  29. - 2010. Fossil evidence for the origin of Homo sapiens. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 53: 94-121.Google Scholar
  30. Shang, H., H. Tong, S. Zhang, F. Chen & E. Trinkaus. 2007. An early modern human from Tianyuan Cave, Zhoukoudian, China. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA)104: 6573-78.Google Scholar
  31. Shen, G., W. Wang, Q. Wang, J. Zhao, K. Collerson, C. Zhou, P. V. Tobias. 2002. U-Series dating of Liujiang hominid site in Guanxi, southern China. Journal of Human Evolution 43: 817-29.Google Scholar
  32. Singer, R. & J. Wymer. 1982. The Middle Stone Age at Klasies River Mouth in South Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  33. Smith, T. M., P. Tafforeau, D. J. Reid, R. Grun, S. Eggins, M. Boutakiout & J.-J. Hublin. 2007. Earliest evidence of modern human life history in North African early Homo sapiens. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 104: 6128-33.Google Scholar
  34. Swisher, C. C., W. J. Rink, S. C. Anton, H. P. Schwarcz, G. H. Curtis, A. Suprijo, Widiasmoro. 1996. Latest Homo erectus of Java: Potential contemporaneity with Homo sapiens in Southeast Asia. Science 274: 1870-4.Google Scholar
  35. Tattersall, I. 2010. The Neanderthals and their place in human evolution, in B. Bajd (ed.) Where did we come from? Current views on human evolution: 111-26. Ljubljana: University of Ljubljana.Google Scholar
  36. Tattersall, I. & J. H. Schwartz. 2009. Evolution of the genus Homo. Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences 37: 67-92.Google Scholar
  37. Teschler-Nicola, M. (ed.) 2006. Early modern humans at the Moravian gate: the Mladeč Caves and their remains. Vienna: Springer Verlag.Google Scholar
  38. Vandermeersch, B. 1981. Les Hommes Fossiles de Qafzeh (Israel). Paris: CNRS.Google Scholar
  39. White, T. D., B. Asfaw, D. DeGusta, H. Gilbert, G. D. Richards, G. Suwa & F. C. Howell. 2003. Pleistocene Homo sapiens from Middle Awash, Ethiopia. Nature 423: 742-7.Google Scholar
  40. Wu, X. 2004. On the origin of modern humans in China. Quaternary International 117: 131-40.Google Scholar

Further Reading

  1. Bowler, J. M. et al. 2002. New ages for human occupation and climatic change at Lake Mungo, Australia. Nature 421: 837-40.Google Scholar
  2. Rougier, H. et al. 2007. Pestera cu Oase 2 and the cranial morphology of early modern Europeans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 105: 1165-70.Google Scholar
  3. Tattersall, I. 2009. Human origins: out of Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 106: 16018-21.Google Scholar
  4. Tillier, A.-M., B. Arensberg, H. Duday & B. Vandermeersch. 2001. Brief communication: an early case of hydrocephalus: the Middle Paleolithic Qafzeh 12 child (Israel). American Journal of Physical Anthropology 114: 166-70.Google Scholar
  5. Wu, L. et al. 2010. Human remains from Zhirendong, South China, and modern emergence in East Asia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 107: 19201-6.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of AnthropologyAmerican Museum of Natural HistoryNew YorkUSA