Three Global Human Migrations in Eurasia: the Origin of Humans and the Peopling of Southwestern, Southern, Eastern and Southeastern Asia and the Caucasus
The ancestral home of the genus of Homo is Africa. This axiom is not disputed by geneticists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and representatives of other disciplines dealing with the issue of the human origin. However, due to the fragmentary nature and scarcity of the paleoanthropological remains of australopithecines, anthropologists are not unanimous about the evolutionary chain of the hominid development in the sapient direction up to the Homo genus. A. afarensis , A. africanus and other australopithecine species are accepted as the immediate ancestors of humans. The fact that australopithecines lived in various landscapes and ecological zones (i.e. in savannas) on the border with forests, and in forest zones, predetermined the following: the development of various adaptation strategies, the enhancement of memory capabilities, the necessity of sharing skills with the offspring and of passing on knowledge. The later australopithecines were, most likely, capable of manufacturing the simplest tools.
The issue of tool manufacturing activities of animals, primates and australopithecines is a multiple-aspect one. It is difficult to reach a consensus while dealing with this issue, primarily in the understanding of the concept itself; that is, what we should and can consider as a tool. There are many examples of the use of various natural materials by primates; however, these do not necessarily speak to or reflect conscious animals’ tool activity.
The first obvious stone tools aged 2.6 (2.5)–2.3 (2.2) Ma BP were discovered in the northeastern portion of the Great African Rift, in the Middle Awash River (Kada Gona, Bouri, Hadar), on Lake Turkana (Omo, West Turkana), on Lake Victoria (Kanjera), and also to the west of the Rift (Senga 5А). These industries have been classified by specialists differently: the Oldowan, pre-Oldowan or archaic Oldowan, zero industry, Sungura facies, industrial complex Omo, Nachukui facies, Nachukui industry, and so on.
There are two main problems in the discussion of the industries referring to the time range between 2.6 and 1.6 Ma BP. One group of specialists represents the opinion that in this chronological interval there were several local variants of industry development in Eastern Africa. Other researchers refer to all of the known techniques and methods of stone treatment as the Oldowan industry (Mode 1), which existed for one million years (2.6–1.6 Ma BP).
In our opinion, two distinct lines can be identified in these industries: one of them is clearly identified and followed through on the materials of the Kada Gona, Lokalalei 1 and 2C localities, and the other one in the Omo River basin and at the Senga 5A site.
These two Late Pliocene industries of the localities in the Kada Gona and Omo valleys represent different lines of development; however, both the first pebble-flake and the second microlithoid industries are not homogenous. The Late Pliocene industries could not be homogenous due to a series of circumstances. According to the opinion of the majority of archaeologists and anthropologists, during the Late Pliocene, tools could have been produced in Eastern Africa by the representatives of not only species, but genera representatives as well. At that time, three Homo species were settling Eastern and Southern Africa: rudolfensis, habilis, and ergaster-erectus. All the three were competent in stone treatment. Australopithecines, A. garhi and A. Boisei , according to the opinion of some researchers, could also have possessed such skills. Therefore, it is very possible that representatives of several different taxons started conscious and systematic production of stone tools. The transition to artificial stone flaking was most likely not spontaneous around 2.6 Ma BP; it happened gradually and started somewhat later than 3 Ma BP. In the case of some of the taxons, this process was proceeding convergently, which did not exclude the possibility of transferring innovations from one taxon to another either, if they settled in neighboring areas or in the same territory. The latter variant could have been the case, but it was very unlikely, due to the fact that relationships between representatives of different species within the same genus could hardly be complimentary.
During the Late Pliocene, ancient hominid and hominin populations were in a state of divergence and were separated by large distances. It must be also noted that they lived in different climatic zones. Variability of climatic conditions, landscapes and raw material sources – all of this definitely facilitated the search for new adaptation strategies by australopithecines and early Homo population representatives. Taking into consideration similar cognitive and sensomotor capabilities, representatives of various taxons could have shown similar or close reactions to their environment, including development of similar stone treatment techniques. All of this, in our opinion, explains the possibility of the development of local variants of stone treatment within a single taxon, or the appearance of different lines of industry development within taxons of various species and genera. This hypothesis is supported by significant differences in the technical level of stone treatment between the Koobi Fora and Oma localities, on one side, and Lokalalei 1 and 2C localities, on the other. At the same time, however, the limited variability of hominids and hominins at the dawn of the tool-related activities created an effect of resemblance and uniformity.
The peopling of Eurasia by humans (Homo ergaster–erectus) started around 1.8 Ma BP. We suggest that the two industries, which started spreading with the first migration wave, should be called a pebble-flake industry (with preservation of general designation Mode 1) and a microlithoid industry. It is necessary to stop naming the Early Paleolithic industries of Europe and Asia as “Oldowan” ones, because the Oldowan industry belonged to the taxon that never left the African continent.
Industries within the geographical range from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean and temporally ranging between 1.8 – 0.4 Ma BP refer to the Oldowan industry in Eurasia. It is impossible to agree with this designation, as, during almost one and a half million years, one and the same industry could not get preserved in the conditions of divergence in a large territory and in various environments. A certain degree of affinity to primary and secondary stone treatment techniques, stone tool types, and so forth, can be explained by low variability in the stone treatment possibilities and the similar needs of humans for the most useful tools. People needed heavyduty chopping tools, side-scrapers, end-scrapers, knives, burins, cutting tools, points, and borers already at the beginning of their manufacturing activities.
Due to the fact that H. habilis had never left the African continent, and also taking into consideration that so far we do not know the industry of H. ergaster/erectus in their African original homeland, we advise to mark the Early Paleolithic industry of Eurasia as a pebble-flake one or as Mode 1. This does not exclude the possibility of the appearance of special names for industries or cultures in certain regions: Dmanisian, for example, for the earliest discovered culture in the Caucasus, or designations for the cultures in China, where, for over one and a half million years, industries were developing in an autochthonous way and, in terms of many techno-typological characteristics, are clearly different from the western ones, especially from those in Europe and Africa.
The appearance and spreading of the Early Paleolithic microlithoid industry in Eurasia is a phenomenon which requires special inquiry. The factual material on the early localities in Africa and Eurasia collected by this point allows putting forward a hypothesis that, in 1.8–1.5 Ma BP, two human migration flows were moving out of Africa, carrying the pebble-flake (Mode 1) industry and microindustry.
In the Near East, in Israel, the pebble-flake industry was identified at the Erk el Ahmar site, aged 2–1.7 Ma BP, and the microlithoid industry at the Evron (2.4–1.5 Ma BP) and Bisat Ruhama (around 1 Ma BP) sites. Further to the east in Eurasia, the earliest locality aged 1.8–1.7 Ma BP was discovered in Dmanisi (Eastern Georgia), where unique paleoanthropological and archaeological finds were identified. The newly discovered localities of Dagestan refer to the same time period. In the central part of Dagestan, the following localities with the pebble-flake industry aged 1.8–1.5 Ma BP were discovered – Mukhkai-1, 2, Ainikab-1, 2, and Gegalashur-1, 2, 3 and in South-eastern Dagestan, Rubas 1 and Darvagchai sites withthe microlithoid industry and age range between 1.7 and 0.8 Ma BP were found. In the Northern Caucasus, the Rodniki and Bogatyri localities aged 1.4–1.2 Ma BP with pebble-flake industry were discovered. Artifacts at the Riwat locality in Pakistan, aged around 2 Ma BP, require more thorough diagnostics and age clarification. In China, two industries referring to the Early Paleolithic were identified: pebble-flake and microlithoid. The Chinese localities with the pebble-flake industry, such as Longgupo, Xihoudu, and Yuanmou, dated in the chronological range between 1.8–1.5 Ma BP, have to be further studied and seriously substantiated in terms of chronology and the presence of obvious man-made tools. The paleoanthropological finds at some of these localities are also not obvious. In Northern China, the most vividly represented is the microlithoid industry, found in the Nihewan basin. In this basin, over 14 localities were discovered, aged from 1.7 to 0.8 Ma BP. At these localities, a techno-typological complex of the microlithic industry is vividly seen in primary flaking and in the discovered tool sets. In Southeastern Asia, on the Java Island, H. erectus remains aged 1.8–1.6 Ma BP have been found; however, no stone tools of this age have yet been found in this area.
Europe was peopled by the erectus representatives later than Asia. This can possibly be explained by the fact that the shortest path from Africa into Europe, i.e. through the narrow straights of the Mediterranean, was quite problematic for Early Paleolithic humans. For example, the Strait of Gibraltar is 14–44 km wide, and its minimum and maximum depth values are 338 m and over 1000 m, respectively. Even in the case of maximum lowering of the sea level, there always remained some water space that separated Africa from Europe, and it is difficult to determine whether the archanthrops were capable of overcoming it. Movement of the migration flow across the Near East, Asia Minor and Northern Caucasus was extremely slow due to the fact that the environmental conditions in these territories were quite different than those in Eastern Africa. The Vallone locality near the Orse settlement and the other sites dated by the researchers at 1.5 Ma BP are questionable from the viewpoints of dates and stone tool presence at these localities. The oldest locality, which does not cause any doubts, is the Sima del Elefante site in Atapuerka, where artifacts and a fragment of a lower jaw aged 1.3–1.2 Ma BP were found.
In our opinion, one thing is certain: humans settling Eurasia were choosing the most favorable environments and often followed animals, the migrations of which were also determined by these conditions. At the same time, while settling the new territories with favourable conditions, humans had to develop, and often quite significantly, new adaptational strategies, which facilitated evolvement of cognitive abilities. This process was happening particularly fast when the erectoid populations were getting into more extreme conditions. The evidence from the Karama locality in the Altai, situated at 52oN and aged approximately 800 ka BP, points to a higher sapientation level of the erectuses.
Some of the conclusions suggested in this book should be considered as preliminary. The problem of original peopling of Eurasia is considered to be one of the most complicated ones in archaeology and anthropology. This has to do with a relatively small number of localities in Eurasia, referring to the first half of the Early Pleistocene. At the same time, not all of the sites have a sufficient base to allow their chronological interpretation and recognition of man-made tools. The paleoanthropological material is even scantier. Therefore, interpretation of the available material by anthropologists and archaeologists is quite contradictory.
Academician Anatoly Panteleevich Derevianko, an outstanding scholar in the field of archaeology and ancient history, is widely known among scientists. He has made a great contribution to the study of the Stone Age of Asia and America and the peopling of Eurasia. Professor Derevianko has organized multidisciplinary investigations into prehistoric sites in the Altai, Mongolia, and western Central Asia, revising the chronology of the Paleolithic cultures in Eurasian arid zone, and reconstructing ancient history of the Amur River basin and the Far East from the Paleolithic to the early Middle Ages. He has discovered and investigated hundreds of first-rate sites in North and Central and Southeastern Asia and Southwestern and Eastern Europe. Professor Derevianko is a prominent organizer of humanity studies in Russia and Siberia. He has been a full member of the History and Philology Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the head of the United Academic Council in the Humanities of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science, the scientific director of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a member of the Presidium at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
(Anatoly Derevianko Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences)
(Source: Research Center for World Archaeology, Shanghai Academy)