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Keywords:

  • genetics;
  • modern human origins;
  • population size;
  • Neandertals;
  • natural selection

Abstract

The genetic evidence for modern human origins was reviewed recently in Evolutionary Anthropology by Pearson,1 so our goal is to highlight new developments rather than attempt a comprehensive review. For years, polarized Multiregional and Out-of-Africa models for modern human origins were debated vigorously, but today there is substantial agreement among specialists. One area of broad consensus is that Africa or, more accurately, sub-Saharan Africa, played a predominant role in the origins of modern humans. This view is found even among researchers who argue against complete replacement of nonmodern Eurasians.2–7 The importance of Africa is clear not only from genetics, but also from the fossil record.1, 8 On the other hand, most researchers also agree that, at least in principle, modern humans and nonmodern Eurasians, such as Neandertals, could have interbred with each other. The fossil record suggests that Neandertals and modern humans constituted independent evolutionary lineages,9 but their recent common ancestry leaves open the possibility of admixture.10 The open question is whether there is any evidence of admixture.1