Rethinking Trees, Species and Hybridization in Recent Human Evolution

Author(s): Eleanor Scerri

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis and Human Origins: Archaeological Perspectives" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Models of recent human evolution are fundamentally rooted in the idea of tree-like genealogies and species concepts, regardless of the specifics. The range of explanatory models has elicited some consideration of the need for flexibility, yet without a reconsideration of the fundamental heuristics, we are limited in our ability to fully describe processes of recent human evolution. In this paper, I will argue that the recency of the emergence of humans problematizes the concept of hybridization with more divergent hominins, problematically referred to as ‘archaics’. This is the case irrespective of the fact that the wellspring of contemporary humans lies in Africa. I will argue that the concept of dynamic metapopulations is a far more flexible conceptual framework than reticulating trees for understanding human origins and earliest prehistory. Moreover, this framework recognises that population structure exists, as it has always existed and did not come into being at a certain point in evolution as suggested by certain models (e.g. Classic Multiregionalism). Finally, this framework offers a way out of what have become overly polemical views of human origins that have affected interpretative approaches for too long.

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Rethinking Trees, Species and Hybridization in Recent Human Evolution. Eleanor Scerri. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450879)


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Abstract Id(s): 24995