Early Humans Settled India Before Europe, Study Suggests

Brian Vastag
for National Geographic News
November 14, 2005

Modern humans migrated out of Africa and into India much earlier than once believed, driving older hominids in present-day India to extinction and creating some of the earliest art and architecture, a new study suggests.

The research places modern humans in India tens of thousands of years before their arrival in Europe.

University of Cambridge researchers Michael Petraglia and Hannah James developed the new theory after analyzing decades' worth of existing fieldwork in India. They outline their research in the journal Current Anthropology.

"He's putting all the pieces together, which no one has done before," Sheela Athreya, an anthropologist at Texas A&M University, said of Petraglia.

Modern humans arrived in Europe around 40,000 years ago, leaving behind cave paintings, jewelry, and evidence that they drove the Neandertals to extinction.

Petraglia and James argue that similar events took place in India when modern humans arrived there about 70,000 years ago.

The Indian subcontinent was once home to Homo heidelbergensis, a hominid species that left Africa about 800,000 years ago, Petraglia explained.

"I realized that, my god, modern humans might have wiped out Homo heidelbergensis in India," he said. "Modern humans may have been responsible for wiping out all sorts of ancestors around the world."

"Our model of India is talking about that entire wave of dispersal," he added. "[T]hat's a huge implication for paleoanthropology and human evolution."

A New Model

Petraglia and James reached their conclusions by pulling together fossils, artifacts, and genetic data.

The evidence points to an early human migration through the Middle East and into India, arriving in Australia by 45,000 to 60,000 years ago, they say.

Continued on Next Page >>


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