Stephen Oppenheimer’s model of Human Migration from Africa


I would like to talk to you about the work of Stephen Oppenheimer who in 2003 worked on the maternal mitochondrial DNA in an effort to establish who are we as a people, the homo sapeins. His story begins somewhere in 150,000 years ago but I prefer to start the story about 85,000 years ago when a group of individuals left Africa and walked along the coastal areas, Sindh, Iran-Sindh and the triangular part of India all the way to Sumatra all the way to Taiwan. So Stephen Oppenheimer states that all the non-African people of the world are related to this group of people of Africa. Two questions. What was their migration model? Why did they not head westwards? Why did they come eastwards? The migration model was never one of people saying, hey lets walk all the way to Australia. It was never one of those things. Rather the situation was that a group of people living in a place after maybe a few years after the waters are polluted or the resources have run dry or some issues are there. The whole family goes just 1 km down the road and starts a new life. So it is a generation by generation movement. It never was a continuous, focused walking, walking, walking till they find some place. Generation by generation migration. The best model we have is the bushman society. Bushman do not have possessions. We are all tied to the land because we have a house or a flat or land or something, you have a car, your kids go to school somewhere. So we cant uproot ourselves and go to another place. We are tied over here. But ancient society they had nothing. They could easily move from one place to another, no big deal at all. They could easily do things like that. So this is the model.

Why did they not head westwards? Well, in the time frame under question, there was one more species of human living in Europe as well as up to Iran up to Chagai hills and this species is called Neanderthals. Today the Homo sapiens after generations of good nutrition, we are about 6 ft. tall, about 70 kgs and those kinds of things. But the early homo sapiens was about 4 ft. – 4.5 ft. tall maybe about 40 kgs – 50 kgs. He did not want to confront the more bigger Neanderthal. So they head along the beach and they walked on this path and Stephen Oppenheimer provides some archaeological evidence also to support such an assertion.

74,000 years ago there was a super volcano in Sumatra. It was called the Mount Toba event. It caused a 6 year nuclear winter and an instant 1000 year ice age with a dramatic population crash to less than 10,000 breeding individuals. Volcanic ash from this eruptions covered an area of India and Pakistan up to 5 meters. If you can imagine 5 meters of ash all over India and Pakistan and extincting the human race. This picture over here shows you an excavation in Jwalapuram in Andhra Pradesh where even today they find the ash layer and here is the most exciting piece of news. Under the ash layer they find human artifacts showing that humans had lived before the Toba event and then you find the ash layer and then later artifacts and so on, The researcher who works on this is Ravi Korisetta. He is the one who works in this.

65,000 years or so the ice ages have ended and warming of western Europe took place and that warming coincided with the extinction of the Neanderthal. It just disappeared from the fossil record. You don’t find them. You don’t find them anymore. We don’t know whether they died by disease, or war or what happened, but they left a vacuum and that vacuum was filled in by the homo sapiens. Homo sapiens from this part of the world approximately Sindh and Gujarat they are the ones who apparently left and crossed the Bosphorus and moved on and became the future Europeans. Approximately 40,000 years ago groups of people from this part of India, from Sumeria, from eastern part of India and from other regions, they joined in Siberia and crossed the land bridge at that time the Bearing Strait through the north and south America who became the later native Americans. So this is the story of the ancient human migration according to the maternal mitochondrial DNA as laid out in a very early time frame 2003 by Stephen Oppenheimer.

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