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Comment on Dr. Wolpoff's review of Уthe origin of modern humans and the impact of chronometric datingФ

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AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 96:183-184 (1995)
Notes and Comments
Comment on Dr. Wolpoff’s Review
of “The Origin of Modern Humans
and the Impact of Chronometric
Dating”
C.B. Stringer
Department of Palaeontology, The Natural
History Museum, London SW7 5BD, England
I wish to respond to Wolpoffs recent
(1994) review of the publication which resulted from the 1992 Royal Society meeting
on modern human origins. That review presents an unpleasant mixture of selective fact
and innuendo, In order not to waste this
journal’s valuable space with a long reply, I
would like to provide some references which
will deal with most of the detailed points
raised, and finish with a few more direct
responses. Most of the questions that Wolpoff raises about the dating of the Middle/
Upper Palaeolithic and Neanderthavearly
modern interface in Europe were covered in
a previous exchange in Nature (Wolpoff and
Frayer, 1992; Stringer 1992a). Opinions or
misrepresentations repeated by Wolpoff
concerning the Recent African Origin model
(misleadingly dubbed by him “The Eve Theory”) and the Klasies, Border Cave, Skhul
and Qafzeh, WLH-50, Irhoud, Ngandong,
and Laetoli 18 hominids have been dealt
with in American Anthropologist (Stringer
and Brauer, 1994). Opinions or misleading
comments about replacement scenarios, language in Neanderthals, and the uses of genetic data in palaeoanthropology have been
covered in the Cambridge Archaeological
Journal (Stringer and Gamble, 1994). Wolpoffs view that no connections between behavioural and morphological differences can
be made in the Levantine Middle Palaeolithic has been effectively challenged in a
recent paper by Trinkaus (1993). Those who
believe, like Wolpoff, that Templeton’s critiques have eliminated genetic support for a
Recent African Origin for modern humans
0 1995 WILEY-LISS, INC.
should also keep an eye on current publications (see, for example, Harpending et al.,
1993; Hasegawa et al., 1993; Nei and Roychoudhury 1993; Ruvolo et al., 1993; Rzhetsky and Nei, 1993).
I dispute Wolpoffs suggestion of bias in
our planning of the meeting which was not,
in fact, primarily about Multiregional versus Recent African Origin models. Wolfpoff
and several like-minded colleagues were invited t o attend, with one (Fred Smith) invited to present a paper; and Wolpoff s close
associate, Alan Thorne, had been allotted
time to speak a t the accompanying CIBA
symposium, but had to withdraw because of
ill health. Readers should carefully compare
Wolpoffs review with my own account of the
meetings (Stringer, 1992b).For example, he
quotes my comment “We have seen significant growth in support for a Recent African
Origin of modern humans” as an example of
bias, but fails to quote the succeeding sentence: ‘(Therehas, however, been a parallel
increase in doubts about interpretations of
the new evidence.” As a final comment on
the question of unbalanced meetings, I
would like to conclude with a short quotation from Lewin (1993, pp. 63-64) about a
meeting held two years before the one I coorganized in London:
The program [of a session on “TheFossil Evidence for
Eve” at the 1990 American Association for the Advancement of Science] appeared to promise a balanced assessment of the fossil data, characterizedas
“the only direct evidence with the power of refutation.” In fact, the half-dozen speakers organized by
the University of Michigan’s Milford Wolpoff consistently reiterated a single point of view, declaring the
opposing interpretation demolished by their evidence. There is no absolute requirement, of course,
that scientific symposia balance equal opportunities
for proponents on both sides of any question. In the
context of general scientific gatherings like the
AAAS, however, one-sidedness is unusual. ‘It was
meant to be a sales pitch,”Wolpoff later admitted to a
Received February 2,1994; accepted April 7,1994.
184
C.B. STRINGER
reporter for Discover magazine: "we planned the
whole thing, rehearsed it, worked over the exact
phrasing."'
LITERATURE CITED
Harpending H, Sherry S, Rogers A, and Stoneking M
(1993) The genetic structure of ancient human populations. Curr. Anthropol. 34:483-496.
Hasegawa M, Di Rienzo A, Kocher T, and Wilson A
(1993) Towards a more accurate time scale for the
human mitochondrial DNA tree. J. Mol. Evol. 37:347354.
Lewin R (1993) The Origin of Modern Humans. New
York Scientific American Library, pp. 63-64.
Nei M, and Fbychoudhury AK (1993) Evolutionary relationships of human populations on a global scale. Mol.
Biol. Evol. 10:927-943.
Ruvolo M, Zehr S, von Dornum M, Pan D, Chang B, and
Lin J (1993) Mitochondria1 COII sequences and modern human origins. Mol. Biol. Evol. 10:1115-1135.
'For the original Wolpoff quote, see Shreeve (1990),p. 57
Rzhetsky A, and Nei M (1993) Theoretical foundation of
the minimum-evolution method of phylogenetic inference. Mol. Biol. Evol. 10:1073-1095.
Shreeve J (1990) Argument over a woman. Discover
11(8):52-59.
Stringer CB (1992a) Neanderthal dates debated. Nature. 356:201.
Stringer CB (1992b) Exploring modem human origins:
Progress and prospects. Curr. Anthropol. 33:600-603.
Stringer CB, and Gamble C (1994) The Neanderthal
world: Flat Earth or new horizons? Cambridge Arch.
J. 4:9&119.
Stringer CB, and Brauer G (1994) Methods, misreading
and bias. Am. Anthropol. 96:416-424.
Trinkaus E 11993) Femoral neck-shaft angles of the
Qafzeh-Skhul early modem humans, and activity levels among immature Near Eastern Middle Palaeolithic hominids. J. Hum. Evol. 25:393-416.
Wolpoff MH, and Frayer D (1992) Neanderthal dates
debated. Nature. 356:20&201.
Wolpoff MH (1994) Book Review. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 93:131-137.
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