Out of Africa I: Who, Where, and When

September 27, 2005
Stony Brook University

Genetic and paleontological evidence indicates that the human lineage diverged from that of the African Apes sometime between 5 and 10 million years ago. For most of our history, human evolution has been an African phenomenon. Until recently, all evidence seemed to indicate that hominids first left Africa approximately one million years ago.

However, in the past decade, discoveries in many parts of the world now indicate that the initial dispersal of hominids out of Africa took place nearly a million years earlier. There is now evidence for early hominids or hominid behavior in Israel, the Republic of Georgia, Indonesia, and China between 1.5 and 2.0 million years ago, very soon after the first appearance of the genus Homo in the African fossil record.

This symposium provided a critical overview of the current evidence for the earliest dispersal of hominids out of the African continent and into Asia. The Participants addressed a wide range of important issues surrounding this major event in human evolution. What factors led to the initial dispersal of hominids out of Africa? Was the dispersal of hominids part of a broader faunal expansion into the northern continents? What were the global climatic conditions that enabled this event? What is the nature of the evidence for the earliest appearance of hominids in Israel, Georgia, India, China, and Indonesia? Do the appearances indicate a single dispersal event or several? Was the “Out of Africa” dispersal a one way event?