Yonatan Sahle, H. Reyes-Centeno, C. Bentz
Feb 23, 2018
Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues
Accumulating evidence from various fields of study has substantially advanced our understanding of modern human origins and dispersal. Fossil evidence in hand supports the African origin of our species, although its sparseness leaves many questions unanswered. Similarly, genetic studies provide unprecedented insights into the evolutionary history of our species, lending further support to its African origin and Late Pleistocene dispersal beyond the continent. On the other hand, inferring the origin and dispersal of a given hominin species based on archeological evidence is more difficult because Paleolithic technologies do not necessarily imply the taxonomic or genetic affinities of their makers. Perhaps most difficult of all is inferring the origin and evolution of behaviors, such as language, which leave hardly any trace in the Paleolithic record. With funding from the German Research Foundation, the DFG Center for Advanced Studies was established at the University of T€ ubingen two years ago with the ambitious goal of transcending traditional divides between biological and cultural sciences relevant to the study of our species’ evolution. At a symposium held November 3-4, 2017 in T€ ubingen, the Center brought together geneticists, paleontologists, archeologists, and linguists to assess the current state of knowledge and explore future research directions. The symposium, which highlighted the theme of modern human origins and dispersal, particularly focused on novel multidisciplinary research from eastern Africa. Based on ongoing investigations by the Center’s Junior Research Group (led by YS), as well as collaborative research by visiting fellows, the symposium envisioned a venue for discussing the biocultural evolution of modern humans. Speakers at the symposium presented new and ongoing research using both field and laboratory work, starting with background talks on the biological and behavioral evolution of our species. Ensuing talks and discussions explored a variety of controversial topics and perspectives, as well as methodological and contextual issues surrounding the origins and dispersal of modern humans (Table 1).