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Human Origins Essay

1417 words - 6 pages

Since the discoveries of Charles Darwin and other nineteenth century explorers, humans have created an analogy of the evolution of our own species. This view of our evolution is often represented by an all-too-familiar branching tree. Recent studies, however, suggest that this interpretation should be replaced with a map of human derivation in the form of an interwoven “tapestry.” These lineages would come together in kinships over time (Finlayson). Two recent studies have proved that Neanderthal DNA is still present in modern human keratin, the protein that helps produce skin, hair, and nails (Yong). Today, there is much uncertainty in the work of anthropologists. Any new discovery in ...view middle of the document...

This selection pressure began a trend toward an expansion of the cerebral cortex and other neuronal systems necessary for the survival of humans: thinking and communicating through speech (Parnell, 312-317). Recently, a 1.42 million-year-old metacarpal from an ancient human hand was found. This bone displays a styloid process, which allows for more pressure to be applied to the hand and wrist from a grasping thumb and fingers. This discovery yields evidence that the modern human hand had increased in complexity more than 600,000 years earlier than previously thought (Roberts). Perhaps our ancestor’s mental abilities, such as using evolved hand muscles to use tools, was the tipping point for evolutionary segregation between Homo sapiens and other archaic forms such as Neanderthals and Homo erectus.
Due to field research and observations over the past thirty years, two contradictory hypotheses have been made that attempt to explain modern human evolution. The first hypothesis, called the regional continuity model, was proposed by Milford Wolpoff in the 1980’s. Also known as the multiregional evolution model, this model states that modern humans evolved almost simultaneously, while isolated in all major regions of the world. Those who support this model believe that modern human’s ultimate ancestor was an early Homo erectus in Africa around 1.8 million years ago. This model also states that adequate gene flow between Europe, Africa, and Asia has prevented reproductive isolation and ensuing distinct regional species. Furthermore, subspecies of humans are assumed to have existed (O’Neil, 3). The fossil record, along with observations and comparisons of some anatomical traits in modern humans, is used to support the regional continuity model. The regional continuity model recognizes that early human migrated to different countries.
The second hypothesis, proposed by Christopher Stringer and Peter Andrews, is called the replacement model. This model is often referred to as the “out of Africa,” and “Noah’s Ark.” The replacement model estimates that modern humans began to descend from archaic humans 200,000-150,000 years ago only in Africa. Some of these early modern humans migrated to other parts of the world and replaced Neandertals and other early humans. Therefore, all descendents of Homo erectus became extinct (O’Neil, 2). Recent studies have also confirmed that modern humans and Neanderthals interbred. This concept has often been a biological expectation, considering how morphologically similar the two species are (Finlayson). The replacement model could prove that anatomical differences that we see today among humans in different parts of the world are rather recent developments. Most of these characteristics could have appeared within the last 40,000 years. Two sources of evidence that support this model are the fossil record and DNA. (O'Neil, 3). The replacement model seems to be supported more than the regional continuity model, mainly...

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