Multi-Regional Continuity: The Fossil Evidence
With regards to the multi-regional continuity model of human evolution, there is without a doubt a preponderance of fossil data that supports the diverse origins of Homo sapiens in different regions of the globe. Skulls displaying a wide variety of mixed modern and archaic features have been found in every corner of the world. The mere existence of these fossils is evidence enough to prove that human evolution was far less cut-and-dried a process than the advocates of the replacement model of human evolution would like to suggest, and, in fact, rather astonishingly complex.
It is useful before discussing the individual fossil specimens to to preface with what exactly is meant by the terms “modern'; and “archaic'; in reference to skull morphology. “Modern'; features in skull morphology as the word is used here include thin cranial walls, small supraorbital ridges, small teeth, small eye sockets, broad, flat foreheads, large cranial volume (above 1200 cc.), low prognathism in the area of the lower face, and a high, vaulted shape in the area of the cranium. “Archaic'; features in skull morphology include thick cranial walls, heavy supraorbital ridges, large teeth, large eye sockets, sloping foreheads, low cranial volume (below 1200 cc.), high prognathism in the area of the lower face, and a small, football-shaped cranium. The presence of various mixtures of these modern and archaic traits forms the basis for identifying a fossil as transitional modern/archaic in accordance with the multi-regional continuity model of human evolution.
As an example of transitional fossils found outside of Africa and in accordance with the multi-regional model of human evolution, the remains found in the Ngangdong beds of the Solo River in Indonesia are an excellent beginning. Dating from roughly 250,000 years ago, the skulls of the thirteen individual recovered lack faces, but the crania are markedly archaic, football-shaped and flattened in general contour (Poirier 1987: 222). Other archaic features include heavy supraorbital ridges and thick cranial walls (222). Their archaic features put the Solo remains in the classification of Homo erectus, but the skulls display at least one distinctive modern tra...
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...he replacement modelers might argue, the examples given for the multi-regional model are isolated freaks. This claim, too, however, is easily disproved by examples of transitionals from outside Africa for which large fossil sample populations exist, as in the case of the Solo River and Arago Cave examples detailed earlier. What becomes clear in the process of examining the many-and-varied fossil examples of transitions between modern and archaic features is that human evolution was more of a tangled, convoluted web than it is the neatly pruned tree that many textbooks are so fond of depicting in illustration. Not all of those specimens detailed here could be the ancestors of modern humans...their odd mixture of features is testament enough to that. But that human evolution was an unfocused, even chaotic process seems less-and-less an overstatement, the more evidence is reviewed. The definition of what are commonly referred to as “modern'; and “archaic'; features may be the results finally of no more than luck of the evolutionary draw, as it were.
Poirier, Frank E.
1987 Understanding Human Evolution. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, Inc.
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