Science @ the Hub: Human Evolution

The Global Dispersal of Homo Sapiens and the Archaeology of Computational Complexity

Dr. John Hoeffecker, from the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado Boulder was November’s featured speaker for the science talk.

The Hub specializes in creating moments and situations where folks representing diverse viewpoints and backgrounds mingle.  The exchange of ideas is essential to culture and society and at the Hub we do our part to help in the free flow of ideas.

Dr. Hoeffecker’s talk was wide ranging and deep and possessed a great deal of interaction with the event’s attendees.  He took all questions seriously which helped make the talk feel more like a conversation.

Below is an excerpt from elsewhere on, copied and pasted here because they say it better than I ever could:

Anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) dispersed out of Africa several times after 300,000 years ago, but only one of the dispersals (beginning ~60,000 years ago), was ultimately global in scope, including Australia, the Eurasian arctic, and Western Hemisphere. The global dispersal entailed occupation of habitats and climate zones never previously occupied by earlier forms of Homo, probably because of relatively low plant and animal productivity and extreme winter temperatures. Adaptation to these habitats and climates required technologies of structural and functional complexity
comparable to those of recent hunter-gatherers in similar settings, including mechanical artifacts and insulated clothing. Archaeological evidence of such technologies is found in Africa after ~100,000 years ago and associated with the spread of modern humans into Eurasia and beyond. The quantum jump in technological complexity suggests an
increase in the complexity of the computations that underlie the design of artifacts, which in turn suggests that changes in human cognitive faculties underlie the global dispersal of Homo sapiens.

John F. Hoffecker ● since 1998, research faculty at Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado at Boulder
● BA in archaeology (Yale 1975), MA in anthropology (University of Alaska 1979)
● investigated archaeological sites in central Alaska related to early occupation of Beringia during 1980s (Science paper in 1993)
● PhD in anthropology (U of Chicago 1986) with focus on Paleolithic archaeology of Russia and Ukraine
● research scientist at Argonne National Laboratory (1984–1998)
● researched Neanderthal sites in northern Caucasus with Russian colleagues in 1990s (including Mezmaiskaya Cave, which yielded Neanderthal skeletal remains)
● author of Desolate Landscapes: Ice-Age Settlement in Eastern Europe (Rutgers U Press, 2002)
● researched earliest known modern human occupations in Eastern Europe (central plain) with Russian colleagues during 2001–2009 (Science paper in 2007)
● author (with co-author Scott Elias) of Human Ecology of Beringia (Columbia U Press 2007)
● researched early Inuit sites in northwest Alaska during 2000–2011
● researched early modern human sites on East European Plain with Ukrainian and Russian colleagues during 2012–2018 with focus on geochronology
● author of Modern Humans: Their African Origin and Global Dispersal (Columbia U Press 2017) (Choice “outstanding academic title” 2019)

EDITOR:  Jesse Gilbertson  Logo Design: Terry Kirkham

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Music: A Himitsu – Adventures (unedited, used under Creative Commons License)