Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Man meets Homo erectus in America: lice give a clue

human louse
Human Louse, the possible proof of Homo erectus in America.
Copyright © 2011 by Austin Whittall

Despite the lack of conclusive evidence in the shape of tools or bones, there is a surprising proof that modern man and H. erectus did come into close contact relatively recently and, as I interpret the data, it corroborates that they met in America. The proof comes from lice.

There are three types of head louse (Pediculus humanus) living on humans today. One of them, which also includes body lice, has a global distribution (Type A), while the other is only found in North America and Europe (Type B).

Genetic analysis shows that these two varieties diverged from each other about 1.2 Million years ago. Type B has been thought to have evolved separately in America and brought back to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors in the sixteenth century after they discovered America[1][2]. The third Type, C, is very rare being found only in Nepal and Ethiopia – I wonder why there?

American Type B louse is believed to be the original erectus’ lice strain, and when a group of erectus left Africa for Asia 1.2 Million years ago, this louse hitchhiked on them and evolved isolated into a new variety quite different from the other lice that remained in Africa.

About 1.1 million years later, our human ancestors (Homo sapiens) who had evolved from the erectus stock that had remained in Africa, also migrated out of Africa, moving out with their own Type A variety of louse that had co-evolved with them from the primitive African H. erectus lice strain.

Thus two different ‘human’ varieties of lice had evolved, one (Type B) living on H. erectus the other (Type A) on us.

According to a paper published in 2004 by a group of scientist led by David Reed,[3] when modern humans and ancient H. erectus met in Asia the primeval louse lineage (Type B) jumped from erectus to sapiens, infesting modern man.

After this encounter, modern men took the ancient Type B louse with them into America, where it remained isolated again from the rest of mankind until the arrival of European explorers who took it back with them to Europe.

In the meantime Homo erectus had died out in Asia and its Type B lice with them, removing them and their lice from further contact with humans in Eurasia and Africa.[4] Modern humans therefore retained in the Old World their African Type A strain of lice.

Right theory but wrong place: sapiens met erectus in America not Asia

In my opinion, the theory has some fatal flaws:

Why did the lice only infest the humans that were moving on towards America and not the other sapiens that remained in Asia? Did these men die out after becoming infested? If so, how? What about all the other erectus dispersed across Eurasia, didn’t they also, have this ancient variety of B lice clinging to them? Why didn’t they infest the other humans they met?

There is a more plausible explanation that solves these issues: Homo erectus had moved out of Asia into America and by the time humans reached Asia erectus had died out in the Old World together with their Type B lice.

Erectus took its Type B lice with it into America, effectively isolating it from all modern men. When humans migrated to America with their Type A lice, they too became infested with erectus’ Type B lice.


[1] Raoult, D., et al., (2008). Molecular Identification of Lice from Pre-Columbian Mummies. The Journal of Infectious Diseases 2008;197:000–000. 0022-1899/2008/19704-00XX$15.00
[2] Fox, M., (2008). Head lice came with us out of Africa. Yahoo news. 02.06.08. Online.
[3] Reed, D., et al., (2004). Genetic Analysis of Lice Supports Direct Contact between Modern and Archaic Humans. PLoS Biol 2(11): e340 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020340.
[4] Science Daily, (2004). Of Lice And Men: Parasite Genes Reveal Modern & Archaic Humans Made Contact. 05.10.2004. Online

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2011 International Year of Forests
2011 International Year of Forests Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 


  1. I have a's probably the lice. ;)

  2. Hi Austin love your eclectic blog, have you seen this paper on head/body lice DNA? NeilB

    1. Neil, thanks for that link! it is very interesting and recent too (2014), it ratifies that clade B is native to America and spread from there to the world, it also indicates that clade A entered the New World from Eurasia. So who brought clade B into America before humans carrrying the A stuff??
      Clade C is also interesting, apparently the oldest clade.

    2. Hi Austin, glad you found that paper interesting. On the point about who and when clade B entered the Americas one possible answer could be that it may well have been an earlier hominin migration carried by Homo erectus. At least that was my best theory. What do you think?

    3. Neil, yes it is very feasible. I put that option in my book "Monsters of Patagonia" based on the 2004 paper by Reed, where I look into the H. erectus link to the clade B lice.

  3. Hi Austin love your eclectic blog! Have you seen this paper on head/body DNA?


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