The theory that has been in vogue about man’s origin is that he first evolved in Africa and from there spread out to colonise the rest of the world. This theory is known as the Out-of-Africa model. However, at a recent conference in London, anthropologists, archaeologists, geneticists, and climatologists met to review the evidence for African multiregionalism. Based on the discovery of 315,000-year-old human fossils in a cave in Morocco, they now hypothesise that humans did not evolve in one location in Africa - but in several parts of the continent.
After leading the multi-disciplinary Gondwanaland Expedition across the interiors of South Asia, West Asia and Africa, through regions of great significance in the evolution of flora, fauna and humans, I had written a paper on "Continental Drift and the Concurrent Evolution of Human Species - A Critique of the Out-of-Africa Theory" - which hypothesises that humans could have evolved separately, from the same ancestral material, in different parts of the planet - leading to the evolution of three races - Caucasian, Mongoloid and Negroid. It goes beyond the Out-of-Africa and the current African multiregionalism theories.
Fossils in Africa Don’t Tell the Whole Story
The fact that most of the oldest hominid fossils have been found around the Great Rift Valley lakes of Africa cannot make us decisively conclude that man originated in Africa. Perhaps older hominid fossils exist elsewhere in the world waiting to be discovered. Or, if they ever existed, these fossils have not been preserved by nature and are lost to science.
Fossils are more readily found in the African Rift valleys due to the layers of sediments and protective volcanic ash that help preserve them. Great Rift geology in Afar region of Ethiopia is ideal for creating fossils. It is a low area that collects sediments necessary to bury and preserve bones. There is also volcanic ash that allows scientists to date the sediments. Faulting along the rift helps by bringing old bones back to the surface where they can be found.
But just because the oldest hominid fossils have been found in regions where ideal conditions exist for their preservation, it cannot be concluded that man originated in Africa.
Motivation for Migration
Even if we are to assume that man did originate in Africa, what was the motivation for him to leave his homeland and migrate across inaccessible forests, deathly deserts and wide oceans and seas to lands and islands thousands of miles away? From the early stage of hominid evolution to, say, 50,000 years ago, when the hunter-gathers settled down to an agrarian life, the population was small, food abundant, and wars had not graduated to more than a bar room brawl, there was no reason or necessity for our ancestors to risk venturing from Africa to as far away as inaccessible Australia and all the places in-between.
If man migrated out of Africa and colonised the rest of the world, then other forms of life – plants, trees, ants, termites, butterflies, bees, crows, sparrows, hummingbirds, larks, lizards, bats, rats, squirrels, porcupines, horses, tigers, wolves – and everything else – can also be said to have made a nomadic exodus from the “home continent” of Africa and populated the planet without getting their feet wet.
It may be observed that traces of the Negroid race, outside of Africa, are in Australia-Papua New Guinea (Aborigines), Philippines (Aeta and Batak), Sri Lanka (Vedas), India (Sentinelese, Onge and Jarawas). Traces - because most of these original tribes inhabiting these lands have either been decimated or have mixed with other migrating races over the millennia. The remaining original tribes are marginalised and are on their way to extinction. But observe that these original inhabitants, of Negroid stock, are in countries and continents that were once a part of the super continent of Gondwanaland – that comprised of Africa, Australia, India, South America and Antarctica.
Did they all walk from Africa or could they have evolved independently? If the Negroid race could have evolved in Africa from mammals – then could the same mammals not also evolve into the Negroid race on the landmasses of South America, Australia-Papua New Guinea and India - that were once joined to Africa and shared similar ecosystem and ancestral conditions? Reason and Darwinian logic say it should be possible.
The India Story
Take the case of India. I hypothesise that the hominid race that originally evolved in India had Negroid features – their remnants being the Sentinelise, Jarawasas and the Onge on Andaman Islands. At one time, when their population was significant, they had occupied large tracts of the country. As groups of technologically superior Caucasians moved in from the North and into the Indian heartland, some of the original inhabitants were liquidated—by war and disease.
Then, overtime, the surviving numbers of the original Negroid population mixed with these migrants – the distant remnants of which probably are the present-day tribals of India, the adivasis, which include Gonds and Bhils of Central India, Bonda of Orissa, Birhor of Bihar, Cholanikan of Kerala, Chenchu of Andhra, etc.
Further mixing of these tribals with the continuing inflow of Caucasians resulted in what we call the Dravidian race. The Dravidians flourished in India for thousands of years and built great civilisations (that reached their peak in Mohanjodaro and Harappa 4,000– 4,600 years ago - around the same time when the Egyptian civilisation was at its zenith) and were later themselves pushed southwards by further waves of Caucasian migrants – who we call the Aryans.
Dravidians and Aryans are indeed from the same ancestral stock. Racial mixing between Aryans and Dravidians followed – and is still continuing.
Meanwhile, the handful of the remaining original Negroid population, confined to a few small islands in the Andaman Sea, faces extinction.
My hypothesis is similar to what is believed by the “multiregionalists” who are criticized for believing, against all Darwinian logic, that Homo sapiens arose independently in several places by some unknown process of parallel evolution. My hypothesis, by linking the continental drift theory and the theory of evolution, attempts to explain this “unknown” process – and does not defy Darwinian logic.
I do not claim that my theory is necessarily correct – just that it is as good or bad as other theories about man’s origin. The certainties about our past are at best transient.
My full paper on Continental Drift and Concurrent Evolution of Human Species can be read at: http://www.akhilbakshi.in/expdtn/Paper%20on%20Continental%20Drift.htm
(Akhil Bakshi is the author of Arctic to Antarctic: A Journey Across the Americas. This is This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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