The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

The dispersal of Modern Humans in Asia: the Northern Route Revisited


1Department of Evolutionary Genetics, Max-Planck-Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany, 2Department of Human Evolution, Max-Planck-Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany, 3Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis, California, 95616, USA

March 27, 2015 10:15, Grand Ballroom D Add to calendar

The emergence of full-fledged Upper Paleolithic traditions is often regarded as a proxy for the first appearance of Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH) in Europe. Alternatively, Initial Upper Paleolithic (IUP) assemblages, e.g. the Emirean/Bohunician technocomplex could represent pioneer AMH migrations into Europe. Human groups would take advantage of the Greenland Interstadial 12 (GI 12) temperate climate to partly fill the “demographic vacuum” left by the preceding Heinrich 5 cold period.

In Asia, a single dispersal along the southern route is unlikely to account for the diversity of the fossil and/or archeological record. Instead, several routes, multiple dispersal or other mechanisms such as gene flow could be considered. The recent discovery of a 45 000 year old femur from Ust’-Ishim, Western Siberia, confirms that modern humans were half way between the Urals and the Altai during GI 12. Chronologically, it coincides with the appearance of the Asian counterpart of the Emireo-Bohunician, the Northeast Asian IUP, documented between the Altai and Mongolia. The disappearance of this technocomplex around the Heinrich 4 event is consistent with the genetic data showing that the UI individual was close to the common ancestor of present-day European and Asian populations but did not have direct descendants among current populations.

All in all, the data presented suggest that AMH dispersed in Northern Asia prior to the appearance of a full-fledged Upper Palaeolithic. This could represent an unsuccessful pioneer radiation predating the definitive colonization of Eurasia, reinforcing the significance of the Eurasian steppe belt to modern human expansions into Asia.