Before Farming

Global human variation

polarised positions and alternative perspectives

Before Farming (2010), 2010, (3), 1–21.

Abstract

For three decades, the relative merits of two models for the origin of modern humans - Regional Continuity (Multiregionalism) and Replacement (Out of Africa) - have been hotly contested. Evidence from Australia has been central to both models. This paper examines some of the concepts that underpin this debate and highlights the points on which the differences turn. It is argued that although the different models are largely irreconcilable, understanding of individual philosophical orientations might allow researchers to translate between models. Assimilation, often presented as a convergent or synthetic view, is modelled with counter-intuitive results. The problems inherent in construction of sophisticated models based on limited data with insecure chronology are addressed. Finally, the phylogenetic question of the ancestry of some of the ancient Australian individuals is turned on it head and descendant populations are examined. Morphological similarities between terminal Pleistocene skeletons from Kow Swamp and Coobool, and their much younger late Holocene regional descendants, demonstrate that small scale regional continuity can persist for millennia in the face of significant environmental change.

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Pardoe, Colin