Written by Graham | Created: Thursday 5th September 2019 @ 1100hrs | Revised: Thursday 8th October 2020 @ 0052hrs
The earliest fossil evidence for our own species comes from Jebel Irhoud, a site in modern-day Morocco east of the city of Safi on the Atlantic coast. The remains found at the site are those of people who lived around 315,000 years ago. Amazingly, these individuals share strong affinities with the bearers of the Aterian and Iberomaurusian culture who dwelt in the region from about 150,000 years ago until as recently as 11,000 years ago.
By 200,000 years ago, Homo sapiens had followed in the footsteps of Homo erectus and migrated out of Africa, leaving evidence for early activity in the Apidima Cave, Greece. Interestingly, this group of early pioneers seems to have left no trace on the DNA of modern humans, and these first European H. sapiens were soon replaced by their Neanderthal cousins.
One of the earliest groups whose descendants are still present to this day were the so-called "Proto-Australoids." These early Australoids - a group incorporating the indigenous populations of Australia (Australian Aboriginals, native Tasmanians and Torres Strait Islanders), the Papuans of New Guinea, the Melanesians, the Andamanese, the so-called "Negritos" (including certain groups among the Orang Asli of Malaysia, the Aeta and Ati of the Philippines and various indigenous South Asian population groups, as well, perhaps, as some South Arabian populations - have been present in the region for over 50,000 years.
The earliest people to populate the Siberian region after the Denisovans are represented by the remains of two Upper Paleolithic cultures. The Mal'ta-Buret' culture lasted from about 22,000 BC to 13,000 BC and is found in the region of the upper Angara River west of Lake Baikal. Mal'ta Boy (MA-1) lived towards the beginning of this time period, and died at a young age. Phenotypically, his appearance was similar to that of modern inhabitants of eastern and north-eastern Asia. Genetic evidence suggests that the population to which he belonged contributed to the ancestry of both the Eastern Hunter-Gatherers of Europe (and, by extension, modern Europeans) and, in combination with the Early East Asians, the Native Americans.
Other remains were discovered at Afontova Gora on the Yenisei River. The people here had links, both cultural and genetic, with the Mal'ta-Buret' people. Human remains from this culture include Afontova Gora 2 (AG-2), a male individual who lived around 15,000 BC who was more closely related to Native Americans than the Han Chinese, and AG-3, a girl who died at about the age of 15 about 300 years after AG-2. Interestingly, she carried an allele associated with blondism among Europeans.