a super(b) paper on human evolution

Brian MacWhinney macw at mac.com
Mon Aug 8 20:17:28 UTC 2005

Dear Tom et al.,
    The McBrearty and Brooks paper is truly excellent, as Tom notes.   
Let me also recommend two other related papers.  One is a lovely  
Scientific American article from June this year by Kate Wong based in  
large part on McBrearty and Brooks but integrating other material  
too.  Great pictures.  Another is
Eswaran, V., Harpending, H., & Rogers, A. (2005). Genomics refutes an  
exclusively African origin of humans. Journal of Human Evolution, 49,  

The idea of a sudden saltatory evolution looks less necessary when we  
see the archeological precursors in Africa going back at least to  
70,000 in Blombos Cave near the Cape and even further in some regards  
in other locales.  Of course, the ochre markings in that cave do not  
have the artistic scope of the European caves, but they are clearly  
planned markings.  What I found important in the Eswaran et al.  
article was the way in which it allows us to understand the evidence  
for an evolutionary bottleneck at about 70,000 years ago not in terms  
of a sudden jump, but a wave of diffusion.  Moreover, the people at  
the front of this wave were subject to additional interesting  
evolutionary pressures. This analysis allows us to believe that  
something unique did indeed happen in the late Pleistocene, but that  
it happened across a period of perhaps 30,000 years as a part of a  
gradualist, coevolutionary process.

--Brian MacWhinney

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