The idea that a single population was the ancestor of all living humans is neat and convenient, but it is not consistent with the data.
The origin of modern humans is one of the most popular and hotly debated topics in the history of human evolution research. Researchers have produced a thick literature, both scholarly and public. I want to take issue with the two statements contained within this dominant paleoanthropological narrative: first, the suggestion that there is an identifiable point in time and place to call an origin; and second, the related implication that there exists a definable entity called “modern humans.” These two statements are taken as premises and remained largely unquestioned until recently. New research and a new generation of researchers are challenging these presuppositions at the heart of the discipline, and evidence is mounting to suggest that modern humans do not have an origin. Instead, we may be looking at fuzzy boundaries and messy origins. These terms are not as clean, but they are more likely to get us closer to true story of human evolution.