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Early modern human (EMH) or anatomically modern human (AMH)[2] are terms used to distinguish Homo sapiens (the only extant human species) that are anatomically consistent with the range of phenotypes seen in contemporary humans from extinct archaic human species. This distinction is useful especially for times and regions where anatomically modern and archaic humans co-existed, for example, in Paleolithic Europe. As of 2017, the oldest known skeleton of an anatomically modern human is the Omo-Kibish I, which dates to about 196,000 years ago.[3]

Extinct species of the genus Homo include Homo erectus (extant from roughly 2 to 0.1 million years ago) and a number of other species (by some authors considered subspecies of either H. sapiens or H. erectus). The divergence of the lineage leading to H. sapiens out of ancestral H. erectus (or an intermediate species such as Homo antecessor) is estimated to have occurred in Africa roughly 500,000 years ago. The earliest fossil evidence of early modern humans appears in Africa around 300,000 years ago, with the earliest genetic splits among modern people, according to some evidence, dating to around the same time.[4][5][note 1][8] Sustained archaic human admixture with modern humans is known to have taken place both in Africa and (following the recent Out-Of-Africa expansion) in Eurasia, between about 100,000 and 30,000 years ago.[9]

Name and taxonomy

The binomial name Homo sapiens was coined by Linnaeus, 1758.[10] The Latin noun [2] are terms used to distinguish Homo sapiens (the only extant human species) that are anatomically consistent with the range of phenotypes seen in contemporary humans from extinct archaic human species. This distinction is useful especially for times and regions where anatomically modern and archaic humans co-existed, for example, in Paleolithic Europe. As of 2017, the oldest known skeleton of an anatomically modern human is the Omo-Kibish I, which dates to about 196,000 years ago.[3]

Extinct species of the genus Homo include Homo erectus (extant from roughly 2 to 0.1 million years ago) and a number of other species (by some authors considered subspecies of either H. sapiens or H. erectus). The divergence of the lineage leading to H. sapiens out of ancestral H. erectus (or an intermediate species such as Homo antecessor) is estimated to have occurred in Africa roughly 500,000 years ago. The earliest fossil evidence of early modern humans appears in Africa around 300,000 years ago, with the earliest genetic splits among modern people, according to some evidence, dating to around the same time.[4][5][note 1][8] Sustained archaic human admixture with modern humans is known to have taken place both in Africa and (following the recent Out-Of-Africa expansion) in Eurasia, between about 100,000 and 30,000 years ago.[9]

The binomial name Homo sapiens was coined by Linnaeus, 1758.[10] The Latin noun homō (genitive hominis) means "human being", while the participle sapiēns means "discerning, wise, sensible".

The species was initially thought to have emerged from a predecessor within the genus Homo around 300,000 to 200,000 years ago.[note 2] A problem with the morphological classification of "anatomically modern" was that it would not have included certain extant populations. For this reason, a lineage-based (cladistic) definition of H. sapiens has been suggested, in which H. sapiens would by definition refer to the modern human lineage following the split from the Neanderthal lineage. Such a cladistic definition would extend the age of H. sapiens to over 500,000 years.[note 3]

Estimates for the split between the Homo sapiens line and combined Neanderthal/Denisovan line range from between 503,000 and 565,000 years ago;[15] between 550,000 and 765,000 years ago;[16] and (based on rates of dental evolution) possibly more than 800,000 years ago.[17]

Extant human populations have historically been divided into subspecies, but since around the 1980s all extant groups have tended to be subsumed into a single species, H. sapiens, avoiding division into subspecies altogether.[note 4]

Some sources show Neanderthals (H. neanderthalensis) as a subspecies (H. sapiens neanderthalensis).[21][22] Similarly, the discovered specimens of the H. rhodesiensis species have been classified by some as a subspecies (H. sapiens rhodesiensis), although it remains more common to treat these last two as separate species within the genus Homo rather than as subspecies within H. sapiens.[23]

All humans are considered to be a part of the subspecies H. sapiens sapiens,[24] a designation which has been a matter of debate since a species is usually not given a subspecies category unless there is evidence of multiple distinct subspecies.[24]

Age and speciation process