Based on the analysis of genetic and archaeological findings, Italian molecular anthropologists have developed a new theory of the colonization of Eurasia by Homo Sapiens. The proposed model describes three waves of settlement across the mainland, which emanate from a single historical center.
A study of the ancient remains of Homo Sapiens found in Bacho Kiro in Bulgaria showed that the cave dweller, who died about 45 thousand years ago, was genetically closer to modern East Asians than to Europeans. In a new paper, molecular anthropologists from the University of Bologna and the University of Padua linked this find to one of the waves of unsuccessful settling of Europe by Homo Sapiens. The scientists’ work was published in the journal Genome Biology and Evolution.
Scientists believe that the colonization of Eurasia by our species occurred as a result of several waves of active expansion, which ended in partial extinction. The distribution of all waves, according to scientists, was carried out from a single center, the ancestral home of all Eurasians, which was formed after Homo Sapiens first left Africa about 60-70 thousand years ago. According to anthropologists, the exact location of this center is not yet known, but they believe that it should be sought in the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula.
The first expansion took place over 45 thousand years ago and ended in failure. The remains of the only representative (more precisely, the only representative) of this migration wave were found in the town of Zlaty Kun in the Czech Republic. Genetic analysis of the woman’s skull showed no links to either modern Europeans or modern Asians. The researchers note that it is not yet clear how widely representatives of this wave have spread across Eurasia.
Then, about 45 thousand years ago, a new wave of expansion began from the center of distribution, which captured a vast territory from Europe to East Asia and Oceania. This wave is associated with the production and use of stone tools dating back to the early Upper Paleolithic.
Leonardo Vallini, molecular anthropologist at the University of Padua and leader of the study
As the researchers note, the fate of the second wave of expansion turned out to be different: the settlers who settled in Asia, for the most part, survived and became the ancestors of the modern inhabitants of this part of the world. At the same time, almost nothing remained of the European part of this migratory wave except for individual finds, for example, the remains from Bacho Quiro in Bulgaria, from Peshtera cu Oase in Romania and some others. Scientists note that the last Neanderthals died out around the same time.
“Finally, the last expansion took place about 38,000 years ago. These settlers re-colonized Europe from the same population center, the location of which has yet to be clarified,” says Luca Pagani, co-author of the study from the University of Padua.
Anthropologists believe that in Europe there were only rare, random interactions between new settlers and the surviving descendants of second-wave colonizers. Extensive and massive mixing between representatives of the two waves occurred only in Siberia and led to the creation of a special genotype, known as the Ancient North Eurasian. These settlers later became the ancestors of the indigenous peoples of America.
Scientists associate the third wave of colonization with the cultural finds of the Upper (Late) Paleolithic. The researchers note that they differ significantly from the finds of the initial Upper Paleolithic of the second wave.
Notably, from a cultural perspective, the new Upper Paleolithic stone tools were often portrayed as an independent development rather than a development of pre-existing technology in Europe. It’s nice to see that the complex scenario integrates genetic and cultural data.
Telmo Pievani, study co-author at the University of Padua
Scientists plan to continue their work to establish where the center, the single ancestral home of the Eurasians, was located. In addition, they want to understand what causes each of the waves of settlement.