"...the behaviour of most present day humans remains moderated by magical thinking-type mental processes (lack of integration between the left prefrontal cortical areas and memory), underwritten by sub-optimal cause and effect perception."

Robert G. Bednarik, An aetiology of hominin behaviour, Homo, 2012

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Why are we not all logical when it concerns multiregionalism?

The evidence as set forth by Chris Stringer (2014) in his opinion article in the journal Cell “Why we are not all multiregionalists now” makes little sense. Consider the second sentence of the first paragraph.

“The fact that small portions of the DNA of recent Homo sapiens derive from ancient populations in more than one region of the world makes our origins ‘multiregional’, but does that mean that the multiregional model of modern human origins has been proved correct?”

By recognising that the evidence supports a multiregional origin Stringer implicitly contradicts the title of his own piece. This is nonsensical and he proceeds to provide a humpty dumpty argument in favour of his “personal thoughts” about whether or not multiregionalism has been proven correct when what science demands is refutation. Multiregionalism does not imply unconstrained interbreeding but recognises that it occurs. Any model involving reticular introgression is essentially in accordance with Weidenreich’s 1946 “trellis” model of polycentric human evolution (Bednarik 2011). The “personal view” put forward seems hardly relevant in the context of the biological definition of distinct species. It relies on a perceived morphological separation between ancient hominin fossils and so-called modern humans. Stringer presents this idea by hypothetically juxtaposing archaic characteristics with modern, suggesting this would result in simultaneously opposed features. Indeed this ignores completely the abundant fossil evidence presenting a mosaic of archaic and modern features (Bednarik 2011). Foetalization (neoteny) and self-domestication as advanced by Bednarik (2011) are not addressed providing as they do the only coherent explanation for the rapid gracilisation evident in the fossil record occurring as it did at approximately the same time in all four continents. A period which saw brain volume decrease at a rate 37 times that of the previous expansion observed throughout the latter part of the Pleistocene at a time (between 50-30,000 years ago) when brains size was supposedly at a premium (Bednarik 2014).

Stringer attempts to ridicule Bednarik’s suggestion that Out of Africa models were formulated on the basis of a hoax by quoting a 1975 paper by Protsch instead of the original hypothesis of 1973 cited by Bednarik (2011). Bednarik notes that it was Brauer who “recycled” the ideas and fake data of Protsch in 1984 by using these and other unsound and since refuted information. It was Brauer’s work which according to Bednarik inspired the “replacement hypothesis” later dubbed the African Eve theory by the media. And it was the replacement model or Eve theory that Stringer so actively promoted. Critically this model categorically excludes the possibility of any genetic contribution from robusts (archaics) once these “moderns” had arisen. In other words, the claim that these “African ancestors” were incapable of interbreeding with contemporaneous hominins was central to the specific ‘version’ of OA Chris Stringer promoted across the mass media and now firmly entrenched in the Anglo-American Pleistocene archaeological narrative. Stringer fails to address why these false datings were not picked up earlier by either himself or his colleagues, especially when as Bednarik (2011) reminds us, that concerning the Stetten specimens from Vogelherd “…it had always been perfectly transparent that they were much younger deriving from intrusive Neolithic interments”.

Fundamental errors, such as drawing inference from direct comparisons between the genes of present day humans and ancient humans living 20-30,000 years ago, escape discussion. Yet it is clear that neither could interbreed because they did not exist at the same time. We now have confirmation that there was no biological barrier and this is exactly what the Eve theory could not tolerate. Further inference is made to perceived behavioural gaps in the archaeological record between perceived groups of archaic hominins which pays no heed at all to taphonomic logic nor accumulating evidence that there was never a “replacement” as demanded by Eve theory. The Aurgnacian has now been demonstrated to be directly associated with Neanderthals (Bednarik 2011) but it seems Stringer may be one of the last to comprehend the full ramifications and extent to which the dominant Pleistocene archaeological narrative he has been spearheading has lead the Anglo-American school so far astray.

Ultimately Stringer makes another stab in the dark to salvage the genetic argument by making an un referenced claim that several thousand genetic mutations fixed in present populations are further evidence of modern human’s uniqueness rather than accept the most parsimonious explanation that culturally determined sexual selection guaranteed the survival of these and other maladaptive mutations contrary to natural selection. There is no refutation to the detailed examinations of many of these deleterious mutations and their often very recent aetiology in the history of the human species as put forward by Bednarik (2011, 2012).

One of the key issues is the failure of Stringer to recognise that the hominin fossil record cannot be considered to be representative of population sizes or distribution and therefore it should come as no surprise to learn that he concludes the piece by surmising that in the “big picture” we are predominantly of Recent African Origin, a position he has in many ways ungracefully cornered himself into.


This commentary was first published on 12/04/2014



Bednarik, R. G., 2008. The Mythical Moderns. Journal of World Prehistory: 1-18.

Bednarik, R. G., 2011. The Human Condition, Springer, New York.

Bednarik, R. G., 2012. Aeitology of Hominin behaviour, HOMO—Journal of Comparative Human Biology 63: 319-335.

Bednarik, R. G. 2014. Exograms, Rock Art Research 31(1): 47-62.