12. The Paleobiology of Modern Human Emergence

  1. Fred H. Smith and
  2. James C. M. Ahern
  1. Erik Trinkaus

Published Online: 26 JUL 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118659991.ch12

The Origins of Modern Humans: Biology Reconsidered

The Origins of Modern Humans: Biology Reconsidered

How to Cite

Trinkaus, E. (2013) The Paleobiology of Modern Human Emergence, in The Origins of Modern Humans: Biology Reconsidered (eds F. H. Smith and J. C. M. Ahern), John Wiley & Sons, Inc, Hoboken, NJ. doi: 10.1002/9781118659991.ch12

Author Information

  1. Department of Anthropology, Washington University, St. Louis, MO

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 JUL 2013
  2. Published Print: 30 AUG 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470894095

Online ISBN: 9781118659991



  • chronology;
  • locomotion;
  • manipulation;
  • energetics;
  • mortality;
  • development;
  • burials;
  • art;
  • Africa;
  • Eurasia


The Late Pleistocene saw the emergence and establishment of early modern humans, and questions remain as to the reasons for their ultimate success relative to late archaic humans. A reassessment of human paleobiology in its Paleolithic context, in light of changes in perspective, chronology, the fossil record, and paleobiological analyses, indicates that there was a mosaic of stasis and change. Aspects related to mobility, energetics, macromammalian subsistence, life history parameters, patterns of stress and survival, and disposal of the dead changed little until well into the Upper Paleolithic. There were marked changes in projectile technology, body decoration, and art with the emergence of the Upper Paleolithic, but they show little correlation with human biological form prior to the early Upper Paleolithic. The only shifts that were associated primarily with early modern humans are reductions in the use of the anatomy for manipulation and in apparent stress levels. Most of the changes seem to be related, directly or indirectly, to modern human population expansion with the early and then mid Upper Paleolithic. Moreover, the prolonged and geochronologically uneven expansion of modern humans from eastern Africa argues for only subtle differences in adaptive effectiveness.