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Replacement Model of Human Origin: Attributes, Claims & Arguments

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has an M.A in instructional education.

According to the Replacement model of human origin, ''Homo sapiens'' originated in Africa and replaced humans in Asia and Europe who were less evolved. Explore the attributes, claims, and arguments of the Replacement model, review the theory's perspectives on the origin of Homo sapiens, and consider studies and criticisms of the model. Updated: 10/28/2021


I'm guessing that today's lesson on the Replacement model of human origin will be very new to most of us. For this reason, we're going to stick to the very basics of this rather complex theory. However, before we get to these basics, we need to spend some time digging into the word 'theory.'

A theory is a supposition used to account for a situation or justify a course of action. A theory is not set in stone, nor is it proven fact. Due to this, science, especially archaeology, often finds itself unearthing things that call old theories into question. Today's lesson on the Replacement model will be an excellent example of one such theory, as many scholars disagree with the validity of its suppositions. Stating it plainly, some would consider it incorrect at best.

With this little warning of sorts, let's get down to business. I'll first give the scholarly definition of the model. Then, we'll work to break it down into more digestible terms.

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Coming up next: Partial Replacement Model of Human Origin: Aspects, Theories & Critiques

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  • 0:08 Theory
  • 1:04 Replacement Model
  • 1:48 Origin of Homo Sapiens
  • 2:34 Studies & Criticisms
  • 3:23 Lesson Summary
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Replacement Model

The Replacement model asserts that there was a single origin of Homo sapiens in Africa and that these anatomically modern humans migrated out from Africa and replaced all other less evolved humans throughout Europe and Asia - hence the name, Replacement model.

With the official definition fresh in our minds, let's try to break it down a bit. First of all, when science uses the term Homo sapiens, it's referring to the species of humans that exist today. In other words, you and I are Homo sapiens.

When science uses words like 'less evolved humans,' they're referring to the theory made famous by Charles Darwin, that humans advanced over a vast amount of time, moving along the evolutionary ladder from apes to Homo sapiens.

Origin of Homo Sapiens

Putting this all together, the Replacement model asserts that Homo sapiens originated or evolved only in Africa, then spread out over Europe and Asia. When speaking of this theory, the word 'only' is probably one of the most important words since the hallmark of the theory is that Homo sapiens only evolved in Africa. Then as these Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa, the model asserts that all lesser-evolved human species somehow became extinct, leaving Homo sapiens as the only remaining human species. For this reason, the Replacement model is also referred to as the Out of Africa model.

Drawing from this, proponents of the Replacement or Out of Africa model assert that all humans alive today can trace their ancient, ancient ancestry back to Africa.

Studies & Criticism

Leaning greatly on biological science, some studies have seemed to support the idea that all modern-day humans originated from Africa. These studies assert that the DNA record of humans does, in fact, seem to lean toward the idea that there is one main branch of human DNA from which the other more modern branches sprung from and that this main branch did originate in Africa. These findings have helped to elevate this theory to one of the most agreed upon within the scientific community.

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