The Case for Saltational Events in Human Evolution

Ian Tattersall

in The Speciation of Modern Homo Sapiens

Published by British Academy

Published in print January 2004 | ISBN: 9780197263112
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734885 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

The Case for Saltational Events in Human Evolution

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This chapter argues the case that the speciation of modern Homo sapiens exemplifies the principle of punctuated equilibria, i.e. it is a saltational change. Evolutionary saltation is a rather ill-defined Victorian concept that may contrast in various ways with gradual (linear) evolution. The discussion looks at the human morphological and behavioural records in an attempt to discern pattern in human evolution, and particularly in the emergence of Homo sapiens. Homo sapiens is a variable species, although not notably more so than Homo neanderthalensis, which can itself be understood only in the context of its membership in a diverse clade of endemic European species. The record clearly indicates that both modern human morphology and modern human cognitive processes appeared rather suddenly, even saltationally, although not at the same time.

Keywords: human evolution; Homo sapiens; saltational change; evolutionary saltation; Homo neanderthalensis

Chapter.  4992 words. 

Subjects: Prehistoric Archaeology

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