Criteria for identifying the African origin of early Pleistocene mammalian fauna in Eurasia


en Comptes Rendus Palevol 17 (4-5) - Pages 262-275

Published on 30 June 2018

This article is a part of the thematic issue European early Pleistocene biogeography and ecology based on the mammal record: Case studies and preliminary syntheses

The “Migratory Wave Hypothesis” suggests that early Pleistocene Homo dispersed from Africa together with a suite of other large mammals. Support for this hypothesis has been found primarily at the sites of ‘Ubeidiya, (Israel) and Venta Micena (Spain) where a high number of African taxa have been identified. This paper presents a critical evaluation of how we can identify these taxa and suggest criteria for the identification of taxa of African origin present in Eurasia during the early Pleistocene. Biogeography, taxonomy and chronology are used to develop criteria that have an effect on how we defined or identify African taxa. By critically evaluating the number of African taxa in Eurasia through the lens of these criteria, the number of African taxa may be reduced from a maximum of 30 to a minimum of six. The actual number may be either one of these two numbers, or any number in between, depending on how rigorous we are in applying the criteria. Thus, while the criteria presented in this paper have face value, they are not in any way more “correct” than other criteria, but are heuristic in presenting the difficulties in assigning an African origin to fauna found in early Pleistocene sites. This points to the need to be cautious when making inferences about the relationship between the dispersal of Homo with that of other African taxa.


Biogeography, Chronology, Taxonomy, Dispersal, Out of Africa, Homo, Early Pleistocene

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