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September 16, 2015

THE
GREATEST
JOURNEY
Umaima Nasir
Dr. Elizabeth M. Salter
ISIS 2305.001

Umaima Nasir
Dr. Elizabeth M. Salter
ISIS 2305.001
September 16, 2015
Greatest Journey
We all have old family photos laying in our house. We watch ourselves grow
in size. We see how we’ve matured over the years. We also see how similar we are
with our parents both physically and behavioral. We all have different stories, but
what’s surprising is that we are all linked together. We are all just a huge family. This
essay will cover the textbook “understanding humans” and the National Geographic
book “biological anthropology” to discuss how we are all linked and if we go all the
way back in time how they made the big journey. In the article the author first
proposes questions regarding the history of modern human in order to give the
reader a sense of structure of how and what the article will cover. Starting from the
origination of modern humans in Africa all the way to migration to the Americas.
According to Spencer Wells, a national geographic explorer-in-residence, the human
genome is 99.9 percent identical throughout the world. This means that we, as
humans, are a lot similar than we think. Very rarely do genomes tend to mutate and
change the code and when that occurs it’s passed down onto the next generations.
By tracing these mutations and comparing them to populations, we can easily trace
similar ancestors. Another way to trace the ancestry is if we compare mitochondrial
DNA (mtDNA) and Y chromosomes of various population. Allan Wilson and
colleagues at the University of California compared mtDNA from women around the
world. In result it showed that African women showed twice as much diversity

concluding that modern humans probably lived in Africa twice as long as anywhere
else. This means that all of our ancestors trace back to Africa. After extensive
research, scientists found traces of the founders in South and east African tribes.
Archaeologists believe that migration out of Africa was a behavioral revolution
because it allowed modern humans to challenge themselves and their survival
skills. As they approached Asia through either the Nile valley or Red sea , evidence
suggests they split into Middle East and the other half around the Arabian
peninsula, so towards India and beyond. Fossil evidence found in Asia and Europe
suggests that they share the same ancestors. After a millennial of steps and boat
rides, fossil evidence of a burial found in Australia suggest that Humans reached
across 45,000 years ago. What’s really strange is that there are no physical traces
of these people leading to Australia, so scientist concluded that they were probably
washed off because of the Ice Age. Towards the end of the Ice age, modern humans
overcame the ice barriers and progressed into the Neanderthals community. It is still
quite unsure on how the meeting took place, but the rare interbreeding evidence
suggests that they didn’t mingle as much. While modern humans kept advancing
further into Europe, the other human group from Middle East progressed into
Central Asia. Theodore Schurr, molecular anthropologist of University of
Pennsylvania, suggests that Native Americans came from Northern Europe. Most
scientists agree that the first Americans came through Siberia to Alaska and further
into Canada. But how did they travel to Alaska from Siberia? Theories suggest that
they probably walked along the coast and then walked through glaciers and found
land. By this time modern humans had widely spread all over the world. 700 years
ago Europeans explored and “found” America, fighting bloody wars to claim the
land was theirs. If one looked at the big picture, they were just fighting their own

brothers, their own kind over land that could’ve been easily settled and shared
amongst themselves. Spencer wells, National Geographic explorer-in-residence
along with Theodore Schurr are finally getting genetic information from thousands
of indigenous populations in order to increase our knowledge in ancient migrations.
The Seaconke-Wampanoag were the first Native American tribe to participate and
now other tribes have also participated helping this project. This project could also
be used to help describe how we are all linked to the same ancestors and hopefully
creates unity within people around us.
In the text book “Understanding Humans” the author discusses the
premodern Humans as a topic section rather than going through it over an entire
chapter. The way it’s structured in the book is that it’s divided into continents that
were the origins and further traveled by the modern humans. The first continent
discussed is Africa and that is where Humans were originated so it’s organized into
a timeline matter. As compared to the Nat Geo book which started from research
and then took the reader back in time. Just like the Nat geo book, this section also
keeps referring back to the fossil evidence that was found and they both have
similar theories about premodern humans as to how they were first originated in
Africa. In the Africa section it explains in detail about the skull parts that were found
in Zambia and how they knew it was of the Homo heidelbergensis. As compared to
the Nat Geo book, thus section goes in detail about the types and skulls of the
hominids. The book describes how the Homo heidelbergensis’s cranium had
massive bow ridge and extremely prominent occipital torus. The bones are thinner
and the cranial base is closely related to modern humans. Its estimated years are
predicted to 600,000-125,000 years. Another premodern fossil found in Zambia was
the Bodo that had a complete cranium. He reason why the Bodo cranium is so

interesting is because it has cut marks slashed across and you can see the
modification of the skulls as well. Researcher hypothesized that the reason why
could be that the Bodo was probably ripped apart, like his flesh and all resulting in
cannibalism. Or it could’ve been a religious ritual which is also quite interesting
considering that the hominids had matured enough to create rituals and knew about
religion. The books also mentions and goes in detail about the other hominids which
is quite different than the National Geographic book because that barely mentions
it. The textbook also mentions how hominids in South and East Africa show similar
and modern characteristics just like Kabwe. But the close similarities within
Florisbad and Laetoli and Elandsfontein indicate a very close relationship regardless
of location as they were all spread out and across Africa. The book then goes in a
Europe section and further describes the fossil hominins found there as travelled
across. Most of the European fossils date back to the Middle Pleistocene age. H.
heidelbergenisis are the most found fossils in Europe and they are easily identified
because their increased cranial space, less angled occiput and concentrated tooth
size. The book discusses Sima de los Huesos because they found more than 4,000
fossil fragments that prove that there were a lot of hominins buried there. This could
be their spiritual burial space where they bury their dead as it seems like a
chamber. The fossil also shows slight Neanderthal features on the cranium which is
also quite interesting because it shows that they might have mated which was also
mentioned in the National Geographic book. Lastly it mentions Asia in which the
premodern species have mixed characteristics. Some are like the H. erectus from
Zhoukodian because of their flat nose, which can still be seen in Asians currently
which means that their genes were continuous. Asian fossil evidence look extremely
similar to H. Sapiens cranium. So all in all the textbook discusses the same

continents and modern humans but the main difference is that the textbook goes in
detail with the various hominins whereas the Nat geo book talks about cultures and
mtDNA.
How might fossil evidence and genetics complement each other in
tracing ancient migration?
The way the research goes is that one leads to another. Fossil evidence leads
to genetic information and then further enhances that information. It all started
when researchers found fossils around the world of different hominins and started
their search on finding more. As mentioned in the textbook, they found various
craniums all around the world and that helped them build an understanding that
there were people in this world who lived before us. They remind us on how we
changed and evolve during this time yet in the end we all link back to the same
ancestors. The fossil evidence also showed culture and religious rituals as discussed
in Nat geo book they found a few craniums that were slashed across face indicating
that they were defleshed and then scarred. Why? Answer is it could either bee ritual
or cannibalism. And the only way the researchers can theorize that is because of
the fossil evidence, so it is quite essential to historians. Historians value fossil
evidence a lot because it is what starts a new theory and answers major questions
and concerns. Alongside with it is genetics which basically is used to improve our
knowledge. One example of genetics is using cheek’s cell samples and decoding the
DNA. The genetics basically is more refined and scientific way of calculating years
and ancestral linkages. Genetics is a much faster way and it doesn’t have as many
human errors as theorizing fossil evidence has. Although genetics is preferred way
of finding linkages, we would not have anything to work with if it weren’t for the
fossil evidence.

This essay discusses the various evidence found by historians and researches
across the globe and conclude that we are all linked together. In the end it helps us
look at the bigger picture and make us realize how similar we all are.