3. A River Runs through It

Modern Human Origins in East Asia

  1. Fred H. Smith and
  2. James C. M. Ahern
  1. Karen R. Rosenberg1 and
  2. Xinzhi Wu2

Published Online: 26 JUL 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118659991.ch3

The Origins of Modern Humans: Biology Reconsidered

The Origins of Modern Humans: Biology Reconsidered

How to Cite

Rosenberg, K. R. and Wu, X. (2013) A River Runs through It, 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.ch3

Author Information

  1. 1

    Department of Anthropology, University of Delaware, Newark, DE

  2. 2

    Key Laboratory of Vertebrate Evolution and Human Origins of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Publication History

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

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470894095

Online ISBN: 9781118659991



  • archaic humans;
  • modern human origins;
  • China;
  • multiregional evolution;
  • Middle Paleolithic;
  • Upper Paleolithic;
  • Pleistocene


The human fossil record in East Asia has expanded in the nearly 30 years since the first edition of this book was published. We review this record in light of competing hypotheses of modern human origins and argue that the East Asian record is most consistent with models of human evolution that propose the emergence of modern humans as a complex evolutionary process involving local continuity coupled with genetic exchange with other regions (such as the Continuity with Hybridization Model). Human evolution within the region can be seen as one stream of the intertwining river of evolutionary change that flows all over the areas of the globe where human habitation occurred. Evidence supporting this view comes from (1) the presence and continuation of morphological features that occur in higher frequencies in East Asia than elsewhere in the world (regionally predominant traits); (2) individual specimens that contain mosaics of primitive and derived features, some of which occur earlier in time than would be consistent with replacement of indigenous East Asian populations by humans from outside the region; (3) the occurrence in East Asia of some morphological features that are generally characteristic of other global regions, but no evidence of distinctly African morphology among anatomically modern East Asian specimens; and (4) the archaeological record that provides no evidence for discontinuity in the form of change in technology that might signal the influx of a new species or population of humans bringing with them a new technology.