Forgotten Origin

Out of Africa Theory Has No Home

‘Out of Africa’ Theory Has No Home:

Sixty-Five Years and two Continents Apart With a Shared Australian Ancestry

By Steven & Evan Strong

This chapter is all about and inside one academic paper and a newspaper article. The paper is recent and is the product of one of the most respected archaeologist in the world, the other contribution features a highly qualified geographer from a much earlier time. They are separated by close to sixty-five years and completely different strands of science, yet for all intents and purposes come out the same. Put together, this may seem totally unrelated, however, the reality is that despite the many superficial differences the narrative, participants and underlying content is primarily the same with one location, Australia, being the only constant.

Archaeologist Christopher Stringer’s paper, Rethinking “Out of Africa,” is as much a defense of the belief modern humans originated in Africa as it is a concession that there are many anomalies that he never successfully melds into the current thinking nor can he dismiss. Stringer does not directly deal with the genetics, presence or evolution of Homo sapiens sapiens, his focus is elsewhere in that he is trying to find ways, some very convoluted, to accommodate quite a lot of contrary evidence found within three strands of hominins into his preferred choice of an African evolution.

The First Inconvenient Hominid Candidate

First up, on this list of inconvenient findings, is the least troubling candidate whose position alongside or on the edge of the Homo sapien tree is semi-tenuous at best. Stringer opens his investigation with an acknowledgement that Neanderthal’s ancestral place is nowhere near as secure as most have assumed and is far more “complicated”(1) and “extraordinary”(2) than initially claimed. Stringer is inclined to allocate a nearby accreditation for Neanderthals noting that “you could argue that they’re an extreme variant of homo sapiens, but a very different ‘race’ from anyone alive today, or, as I prefer to argue, they’re a separate species, with a separate evolutionary history.”(3) Even though “Neanderthals were closely related and probably potentially able to interbreed with modern humans,”(4) he still sees a clear distinction as they “had distinct behaviour and they evolved under different conditions from us, so I still think it’s useful to keep them as a separate species.”(5)

When discussing the presence of Neanderthal genes within Homo sapiens, Stringer concedes that “we don’t even know the circumstances of the interbreeding.”(6) Not only is this quest for certainty unresolved, any attempt to determine Neanderthal’s genetic status only creates even more questions. “And it can’t even have been common behaviour with the Neanderthals, because, of course, if modern humans came out of Africa and spread gradually across Europe, we would expect if there was continuing interbreeding with Neanderthals, then Europeans would actually have a lot more Neanderthal DNA than someone in China or someone in New Guinea.”(7)

Stringer’s problem here is compounded by an “if”(8) and compulsory location, Africa, which leads on to the “extraordinary.”(9) “The extraordinary thing is the level of DNA is about the same in a modern European, a modern Chinese and a modern New Guinean.”(10) If there are two groups of African modern humans emerging out of that continent as Stringer proposes, one slowly spreading through Europe at their leisure, and the other being a few intrepid explorers who veered to the east as they sped through Asia and sailed into Australia and New Guinea, such an even genetic spread throughout all races does not fit into this narrative.

Adding to the Tally

The next two associated complications are much harder to rationalise or dismiss while securely attached to the Out-of-Africa theory, whether big or small hominids there are fundamental elements in the genesis and existence of both the Denisovans and Homo floresiensis (‘hobbit’) that just do not add up no matter how the sums are arranged. So unexpected is the research being undertaken in both instances, Stringer was forced to admit he had no convincing explanation to offer. “We’ve got a whole unknown history there for the hobbit, just as we’ve got an unknown history for the Denisovans.”(11)

The taller hominids are an “enigmatic people called the Denisovans.”(12) At the moment the remains of these hominids are scarce, but still sufficient in number and genetic differences to acknowledge them as a distinct species. And it is their genetics that is responsible for “a further big surprise.”(13) Restricted in geography to the eastern section of Asia, with the possibility of walking in Europe over 600,000 years ago a strong possibility, it would be expected that the Asian and European races would bear witness to the highest percentage of Denisovan genes. However, “it turned out that there was one group of living humans that seemed to be related to the Denisovans, that had Denisovan DNA in them, and these people are down in Australasia. They’re in New Guinea, Australia, and some neighbouring islands, so that’s also very unexpected.”(14)

That this science is part of “also,”(15) needs further consideration, the repetition of an event “very unexpected”(16) could suggest that it may be while imposing African parameters these “surprises”(17) will be the norm. Stringer did not challenge these findings, he only stated the obvious when observing that “the Denisovans are only known from their DNA in Siberia. Down in New Guinea and Australia, there is Denisovan DNA in living people.”(18) I am one such living person as my Denisovan DNA count is 4.7%, and because of these high numbers Stringer had to find a ‘user-friendly’ explanation. It certainly is an enforced case of hedging bets here as in the next paragraph he makes it clear that “we don’t know the circumstances of the interbreeding,”(19) nevertheless he still finds there is a “best way to explain this at the moment.”(20) By falling back on a small African group on their way to Australia getting up close and personal when passing through Denisovan country, Stringer feels this brief tryst will be sufficient.

The problem and illogicality this presents is that exactly the same explanation is used in explaining why the genetic count was the same everywhere with Neanderthals. But the percentage tally is up to three times larger in my case alone and with the current Original readings running up to 6%, this just cannot be due to a brief stopover, but something far more protracted.  In claiming “these people have got a double archaic dose”(21) he has omitted a 3-400% Denisovan increase when compared to the Neanderthal dosage. Surely as the Neanderthal figures sit between 1.5-2.5% and in Europe it is agreed the two hominids existed side by side for no less than 15,000 years, then to get a dramatically higher reading needs even more direct contact over a lengthy period. The scientific fact that as of today nearly one twentieth of my genomes are Denisovan cannot be due to a fleeting encounter, but something much longer and intentional.

As difficult as it is trying to bind Denisovan ancestry and genetics into the frayed edges of this unravelling theory of an African exit and exclusive input into Australia, it gets much harder when trying to account for the ‘hobbits’ arrival and presence on Flores Island. Again, Stringer does try to find a way to explain all of the anomalies away using the same African theory, but being a professional has to preface his explanation by admitting “although we’ve got no evidence of it happening yet.”(22)

Who is on the Boat, From Where and When did it set Sail?

“Until 2004, we thought that only modern humans had got across the Wallace line. The Wallace line was named after the zoologist Alfred Russel Wallace, who recognised significant changes in the flora and fauna in Southeast Asia as we move from places like Java across into the islands leading to New Guinea and Australia. The view was ancient humans like Homo erectus got as far as Java, but they didn’t get any further-the assumption was that only modern humans with boats were able to get into the islands leading into New Guinea and Australia.”(23)

What Stringer never overtly stated, but is implied, was that the modern humans were African and that such a journey involved technological and communication skills that is the sole province of sapiens. All other inferior hominids were deemed incapable of sailing to Flores, or further on, as the feat needed superior intellect. The problem being according to every accepted measurement, is that Homo erectus did not have the wits or wherewithal to organise, build and convince others to board the boat. There just were not enough cubic centimetres in the cranium, it was that simple, but the complication this creates is that the hobbit has far less cranium capacity, about half that of erectus.

With occupation dates of 90-17,000 years confirmed in an island that was never part of any land-bridge and thus separated by 23 kilometres from the mainland, for any hominid to settle in numbers great enough to negate in-breeding requires a boat of considerable dimensions. All of these qualities were assumed to be part and parcel of what makes Homo sapiens sapiens unique and superior.

It is the conventional expectations Stringer pays allegiance to when proposing an earlier African exodus by a lesser clientele. Despite according this being a lesser status than erectus in declaring that there are “a number of features that seem to be more primitive than even the ones we find in Homo erectus. The suggestion is now that this might represent an even earlier stage of human evolution, one that’s closer to Homo habilis or even to Australopithecus, creatures that lived more than two million years ago.”(24) If so, does that not mean that all hominids evolving after this archaic off-shoot are smarter and must also have no less than the same intellectual capacity that led to these small folk sailing to an island which requires a great deal of thought, reflection and technology to reach.

Stringer continues his explanation of this journey and once again prefaces this account with an uncertain and open-ended “somehow.”(25) “The argument is that one or more of those more primitive forms got out of Africa more than two million years ago, somehow found its way over to southeast Asia, survived in isolation on the island of Flores until 17,000 years ago.”(26) “Somehow”(27) it made its way from Africa to the far south-eastern tip of the Asian landmass, then somehow decided to sail off to a small island in the distant horizon, then somehow managed to adapt to new environment, resources and food sources to thrive until extinction, which was assumed to be 17,000 years ago. There are a lot of somehows in this hypothetical summary and very few, if any, definites.

In ascribing ownership of the first recorded maritime journey across a large stretch of sea in a boat that if able to sail that distance, could obviously sail further, the hominid deemed to be responsible had a brain size only marginally larger than a chimp. Stringer is surely aware of this and in the paragraph that followed made sure no-one took his earlier tenuous explanation as the final word. “Where did it come from? Well, that’s also still a mystery.”(28)

However, current expectations still hold fast and each hobbit model is predicated upon the belief that “the hobbits came from the north.”(29) Since every aspect of their existence is couched in provisos and equivocations, why is it that a direction can be proclaimed and delivered in absolute terms? Why not the south, the continent of Australia is very close and whatever the type of boat that was used to reach this island can undoubtedly handle the extra distance.

Back at Home-Base

Returning to Africa, it should be remembered that Stringer is defending the credentials of the Out-of-Africa theory, but cannot commit with the same conviction as he did before. “I think the idea that modern humans originated in Africa is still a sound concept. Behaviorally and physically, we began our story there, but I’ve come around to thinking that it wasn’t a simple origin.”(30) So many inconsistencies are part of the changing scenery and because of these facts, Stringer had no choice but to add “now I don’t think it was that simple, either within or outside Africa.”(31)

“Within”(32) Africa, in particular Nigeria, is yet another piece of archaeology that runs counter to a smooth ascension from lesser hominids to the supposed pinnacle of the tree-Homo sapiens sapiens. It was assumed that in the supposed cradle of modern humans, as the years progressed the lower levels of hominins were outwitted or fell into infertile genetic cul-de-sacs, and that well before 13,000 years the coast was clear. Wherever Stringer looked he was compelled to be candid and honest in sharing his unease with the newer state of affairs. That “there were further surprises”(33) in store when analysing the results of work done on a Nigerian skull, should actually be ‘par for the course.’ But while trying to find another ingenious way to explain how a human “fossil from Nigeria”(34) which is “about 13,000 years old and yet if you look at it, you would say from its shape that it’s more than 100,000 years old,”(35) there can only be “further surprises”(36) ahead.

This single discovery is reminiscent of the mass discovery of over 20 separate individuals in Australia that were incredibly robust, markedly different from their Original gracile neighbours and far more ancient-looking. The problem was the dates ranged from around the same date in Nigeria into the mid 20,000 year range. The major difference is that individual recovered in Nigeria still exists, whereas in Australia all of the robust bones received a less welcoming reception and have mysteriously disappeared while being investigated through official channels. It would be a fascinating contrast to make across continents, but alas, twenty odd sets of human Original bones are missing through selective neglect and inaction.

As opposed to bolstering the standing of the Out-of-Africa theory this commentary does the opposite. Some of the many flaws are examined and never satisfactorily explained away and it is for those reasons Stringer concludes by admitting that “so which area will eventually turn out to be the place of origin of the genus Homo is a still an open question.”(37)

Out of Africa and Into America

One of the lynchpins of the Out-of-Africa theory and entry into Australia is a maximum date of 60,000 years, there is a little bit of give and take in the numbers, but once it reaches six figures this theory is well out of its depth. That number, or something very close by, is sacrosanct and cannot be violated, but what comes out of America at least 65 years earlier than Stringer’s paper and is comfortably positioned well into six figures.

Our Aborigines’ Cousins “Went to America 100,000 Years ago”(38)

That headline along with an extensive report appeared in a Sydney paper, Sunday Herald (Sunday, January 18, 1953). The research, dates and associated claims made, whether sixty-five years ago or yesterday, are at the very least sensational. “A prominent American archaeologist and geographer believes he has found evidence of a human trek 5,000 miles across the top of the world more than 100,000 years ago to America. Dr. George F. Carter, chairman of the Isaiah Bowman School of Geography, at the Johns Hopkins University, bases his theory on a handful of primitive stone tools he discovered in southern California. He claims they were made and used by American descendants of Asian tribes who reached southern California between the Third and Fourth Ice Ages-and also, incidentally, that the origin of those people was the same as that of the Australian aborigines.”(39)

To begin with Carter was unsure of whether bothering to either look further or do any research. “He said that when he first found the blades three years ago near san Diego, where the Sweetwater, Otay and Tia Juana rivers empty into the Pacific, he disregarded them despite the fact their location in gravel terraces indicated they were 100,000 years or more old.

“I ‘knew’ that wasn’t possible,” he explained, with a suggestion of a twinkle in his eyes, “because every knowledgeable archaeologist has said there were no humans in this country earlier than 10,000 years ago. But when I found more I finally said, “To hell with it. I’ll investigate fully.”(40)

In total Carter “spent two years examining the stones and the areas where he found them.”(41) And in doing so “used two geological time recorders: soil analysis and a study of sea-level changes.”(42) In analysing the chemistry of the soil he detected “the presence of certain minerals and the absence of others in the terrace in which he found the blades he deduces that the soil was formed at a time when the San Diego area, which now has 10 inches of rain a year, had 20 or 30 inches. Such soil is considered to be a heritage from glacial periods.”(43)

In seeking corroborating evidence, Carter knew that “ocean levels around the world, dropped far below the present beaches during each glacial advance and rose above the present levels when the ice caps melted. But after each successive glacial period the sea rose to lesser heights, causing rivers to drop their silt at successively lower stages. As the next Ice Age followed and the sea dropped again the rivers cut deeper into these alluvial soils, leaving a series of distinct terraces along the flanks of the streams-with the oldest terraces on top. It was at the point where the third glacial terrace was cut by roads and gravel pits that Dr. Carter discovered the stone blades.”(44)

According to this eminent geographer, “they began their migration … at the onset of the Third Ice Age (400,000 years ago),”(45) so it is obvious the cautious 100,000 year estimate also supplied by Carter is the absolute minimum date of the lowest and most recent level.

“Similar to the Australian Aboriginal and natives of Terra del Fuego.”(46)

It is one thing to use geography and soil chemistry in establishing a date, but as for who these people were, that is another story, and one Carter was correct in pursuing. Of one fact there can be no doubt, finding a genetic link in the soil, gravel beds or through assessing the level of the sea is impossible. What is both encouraging and indicative of a scholar of the highest order is that his choice of an Original presence, which was an extremely radical selection so long ago, is now almost accepted as a genetic fact today.

But if going back sixty-five years such talk was tantamount to archaeological heresy, to even suggest “that some of the earliest skulls found in America-in California- showed that early Californian man had similar origins to the Australian aboriginal,”(47) [sic] is guaranteed to be met with nothing less than scorn with the real possibility his archaeological credentials will be vigorously challenged.

Nonetheless, Carter had solid archaeology upon which to base his claims that the “skulls found in California are a marked Australoid type… We have learned also from relics and fragments that man in California had a similar cultural background. He had a curved throwing stick similar to the boomerang, and a ‘bullroarer’ rather like the Australian aboriginal’s”(48) [sic].

What is as endemic as it is predictable is that the American location, artefacts and bones he was referring to, spent another fifty years banished into obscurity before Dr. Silvia Gonzales picked up this baton and began to run with the truth. The identity of the ancient Pericu , a group of pre-Clovis people who lived near Baja, California, is an issue of great interest to Gonzales. Her examination of the Penon Woman, who she claimed to be “20,000 years” (49) old, coupled with an expectation “that descendants of Penon Woman had survived until a few hundred years ago thrilled prehistorians,”(50) has upset quite a few of her colleagues. In what only added to the enigmatic nature of the discoveries, Gonzales was convinced “the Penon Woman (and by implication the Pericu and Guaycura) were not related to modern Amerind populations but instead had affiliations with Australians.”(51)

“Several dozen Pericu skulls,”(52) which are normally stored at the “Regional Museum of La Paz in Baja California Sur in Mexico”(53), were recently allowed to be examined in detail. In what only reinforced Gonzales’ research “they turn out to be something far more enigmatic. What they are is still not entirely clear but they do not seem to be Amerind … Their closest relatives seem to be the Fuegians, the Australians, some Papua-Newguineans and the other populations of Pacific and Indian Ocean areas.”(54)

Tragically, but to be realistic it is so much part of the global colonial legacy, “these people are now extinct, but their combined demise was quite recent and they were still thriving when the Spanish invaded their lands. The written accounts of the invaders depicted a nomadic society of sea-faring people coping extremely well and showed no signs of stress or oppression. The Pericu exhibited an aversion towards any activity that necessitated leaving the earth upturned and exposed, and left “no trace of agricultural practises.”(55) In keeping with traditions of the Dreaming the hierarchy and positions of leadership was never discriminated against through gender, and control “went mostly to males but occasionally positions of leadership were held by women.”(56) Their religious practises seem to resonate to the precepts as ordained by the Dreaming. The Pericu religion “was a basically shamanistic system,”(57) with unique burial rituals that included the liberal servings of red ochre and a method of disposal claimed to create corpses resembling “mummies.”(58) The men, who “normally went naked,”(59) hunted with the assistance of woomeras to propel their spears, which the Spanish referred to as “atlatls (spear throwers).”(60) Throw in Carter’s boomerang  and the observations and descriptions supplied by the Spanish virtually echo the commentaries made by the British when they began their quest to confiscate Australian Original tribal lands.

Two Times two Equals …

What all of this adds up to is two experts separated by thousands of kilometres and many decades, ostensibly researching two entirely separate archaeological topics, yet their research keeps returning like a boomerang to the same location and race: the Original people of Australia. Without doubt credit must be given to Stringer for boldly “rethinking,”(61) but in Carter’s case he went a few steps further down an ancient path in repositioning everything into a continent he knew his colleagues would never approve. Carter’s minimum date has many implications, first and foremost it dispenses with every version of the Out-of-Africa and into Australia exodus.

If the Adnyamathanha are correct in declaring that “it begins here, it will end here and begin again here,”(62) there is no room in this equation for Africa, nor America or anywhere else, it can only be Australia first, then everyone else get in line.

REFERENCES:  

(1) Christopher Stringer, Nov 29th 2018 “Rethinking “out of Africa”, Edge.org,

https://www.edge.org/conversation/christopher_stringer-rethinking-out-of-africa

(2) – (37) Ibid.

(38) From A Staff Correspondent in New York, 18th Jan. 1953, “Our Aborigine’s Cousins “Went To America” “, Sunday Herald (Sydney , N.S.W.), p. 11.

(39) – (48) Ibid.

(49) George Weber. “Pericu People (Baja California Sur, Mexico)”, 54. Possible Relatives in the Americas (2007),

Originally: http://www.andaman.org/book/chapter54/text-Pericu/text-pericu.htm

Now: https://web.archive.org/web/20070714215938/%20http://www.andaman.org/book/chapter54/text-Pericu/text-pericu.htm

(50)-(60) Ibid.

(61) Stringer, 2018, “Rethinking …”

(62) Fiona Reynolds, Personal Communication.

 

 

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