Genetic and archaeological perspectives on the initial modern human colonization of southern Asia

Paul Mellars, Kevin C. Gori, Martin Carr, Pedro A. Soares, Martin B. Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

230 Citations (Scopus)


It has been argued recently that the initial dispersal of anatomically modern humans from Africa to southern Asia occurred before the volcanic "supereruption" of the Mount Toba volcano (Sumatra) at ~74,000 y before present (B.P.) - possibly as early as 120,000 y B.P. We show here that this "pre-Toba" dispersal model is in serious conflict with both themost recent genetic evidence fromboth Africa and Asia and the archaeological evidence fromSouth Asian sites.We present an alternative model based on a combination of genetic analyses and recent archaeological evidence from South Asia and Africa. These data support a coastally oriented dispersal of modern humans from eastern Africa to southern Asia ~60-50 thousand years ago (ka). This was associated with distinctively African microlithic and "backed- segment" technologies analogous to the African "Howiesons Poort" and related technologies, together with a range of distinctively "modern" cultural and symbolic features (highly shaped bone tools, personal ornaments, abstract artistic motifs, microblade technology, etc.), similar to those that accompanied the replacement of "archaic" Neanderthal by anatomically modern human populations in other regions of western Eurasia at a broadly similar date.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10699-10704
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2013


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