The success of failed Homo sapiens dispersals out of Africa and into Asia
The evidence for an early dispersal of Homo sapiens from Africa into the Levant during Marine Isotope Stage 5 (MIS-5) 126–74 ka (thousand years ago) was characterized for many years as an ‘abortive’ expansion: a precursor to a sustained dispersal from which all extant human populations can be traced. Recent archaeological and genetic data from both western and eastern parts of Eurasia and from Australia are starting to challenge that interpretation. This Perspective reviews the current evidence for a scenario where the MIS-5 dispersal encompassed a much greater geographic distribution and temporal duration. The implications of this for tracking and understanding early human dispersal in Southeast Asia specifically are considered, and the validity of measuring dispersal success only through genetic continuity into the present is examined.