Behaviorally Modern Humans: The Origin of Us

Current evidence indicates that multiple upright-walking, tool-dependent species in the genus Homo co-existed in the Old World (Africa, Asia and Europe) for most of the last 2 million years. Yet only one surviving species of Homo exists today. Even 100,000 years ago, at least four Homo species shared the Old World. One of the enduring questions of human origins is when, where and how we "Behaviorally Modern Humans" emerged and why and how we eventually replaced all the other human-like species. In the past, competing theories have generated much controversy and even some acrimonious debate. This symposium set aside such theories and debates and took a fresh look at the situation today. The focus was on critical examination of the available evidence from multiple sources, including climate proxies, geology, fossils, archaeology, linguistics, immunology, genetics and genomics, as well as evolutionary neuroscience/cognitive archaeology. While the symposium may not have come to any definitive conclusions, it offered the best interpretation of current evidence, and suggested research agendas for the future. (from

South African Archaeological Evidence. Lyn Wadley (Univ of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg) contends that the manufacture of compound adhesives and compound paints by 100,000 years ago in South Africa is clear evidence for modern thought processes that involve, for example, multi-tasking. Some early hunting technologies support this conclusion. Cultural traditions, reminiscent of hunter-gatherer ones practiced in historic times, are also evident in South Africa's Middle Stone Age, by not less than 100,000 years ago.

4. South African Archaeological Evidence

Go to the Series Home or watch other lectures:

1. African Climate of the Last 400,000 Years
2. Fossil Record of Anatomically Modern Humans
3. East African Archaeological Evidence
4. South African Archaeological Evidence
5. Interbreeding with Archaic Humans in Africa
6. Relationships of Ancient African Languages
7. Evidence for the Spread of Modern Humans
8. Interbreeding with Archaic Humans Outside Africa
9. Stone Tools and Cognition: Lessons from Australia