Postcranial remains and the origin of modern humans


  • Osbjorn M. Pearson

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    • Osbjorn Pearson is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. His primary interests include the origin of modern humans and the effects of activity on the strength and morphology of bones. He has written several articles on the postcranial remains relevant to the origin of modern humans including “Activity, climate, and postcranial robusticity: Implications for modern human origins and scenarios of adaptive change,” in press in Current Anthropology


The nature, timing, and location of the origin of modern humans has been the subject of intense controversy for the last 15 years.1–4 Genetic data and new radiometric dates for key fossils that lie beyond the range of radiocarbon dating have substantially added to the knowledge derived from the fossil evidence documenting the transition from archaic to modern humans. These new data, however, have failed to resolve the problem in its entirety. Most authorities now accept that Africa played an important, and probably central, role in the origin of modern humans.7–13 The genetic evidence seems to be particularly emphatic that an African population that existed between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago (100 ka) is ancestral to all living humans.6,7 Controversy still surrounds the question of how much, if at all, archaic humans from outside of Africa, such as Neandertals, late archaic Chinese hominins such as Jinniushan, and the Indonesian Ngandong hominins, may have contributed to the morphological and genetic diversity present in living populations and the morphology of the earliest fossils of modern humans.10