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Anthropology/Span of Homo sapiens sapiens


Hello! Just wondering how long modern humans have been around. When I try to look it up I get a variety of answers. Wikipedia says 200,000 years. Is that it? So if you put modern clothes on a 200,000 homo sapiens sapiens, they'd look just like us? And have the same brain capacity?
Really appreciate the chance to ask the question...

The oldest Homo sapiens fossils known thus far are from Omo Kibish, Ethiopia, and they date to 195,000 years ago.  A slightly younger set of early Homo sapiens fossils come from the Middle Awash Valley, also in Ethiopia, from a place called Herto.
What they looked like when clothed is, of course conjectural, but in body proportions, they would probably be tall and thin, like people from that part of Africa are today.  They would probably had dark skin, kinky black hair, and brown eyes, again, like most equatorial Africans.  Like all recent humans, they had a prominent chin and a high frontal bone (forehead).  Brain capacity was within the range of living humans, but that doesn't really tell one much about intelligence or behavior, at least not within a species.  They were probably very muscular, but wiry rather than bulked-up.  If you saw one of them in the prime of life walking down the street in modern clothes, you'd probably think they were track and field athletes.
Want further reading of a general nature, see my paper "Refuting a Myth of Human Origins",in American Scientist 2011 " available free online.
If you need more technical information, see the 2007 Journal of Human Evolution special issue on the paleoanthropology of the Omo Kibish Formation.  (You may need university library access to this.)  Fred Grine, John Fleagle, and Osbjorn Pearson are the physical anthropologists who described the Omo Kibish fossils most recently.  There are older descriptions of them by Michael Day and Richard Leakey.  For the Herto fossils, look up publications by Tim White.
John Shea


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John Shea


Questions about Old World prehistoric archaeology (especially Stone Age) of Europe, Africa, and Western Asia, prehistoric human and hominid behavior, primitive technology, origin of modern humans, extinction of the Neandertals. IMPORTANT: Between February 14 and September 01, 2014, I will be on sabbatical leave. During this time I will have limited access to email. This means that there may be very long periods (i.e., weeks) between your posting a question and my having time to answer it.


>20 years as a professional anthropologist based at a research university.

Journal of Field Archaeology, Journal of Archaeological Science, Lithic Technology, Evolutionary Anthropology, Current Anthropology, Mitekufat HaEven (Journal of the Israel Prehistoric Society), Paléorient, Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, American Anthropologist, Geoarchaeology.

Ph.D (Anthropology) Harvard University, 1991.
BA (Archaeology) Boston University, 1982.

Awards and Honors
Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer 2012-2014

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