First Contact: The Day When Neanderthals and Modern Humans Met For The First Time
''.....The Sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.''
From My Collection: Flints, Hand-Axes, and Sewing Artifacts that range from 75-500,000 years ago
(Acquired from the Estate of a retired Professor of Anthropology at Rice University, Houston
Imagine the scene: A small band of Homo-Sapiens are fishing in a stream - using complex tools to catch their prey. One of them looks up and sees an astonishing sight. Just across the river is another being, much like themselves, and yet strikingly different. They are smaller, more brutish, and are attempting to do the same thing. But they are using their hands and other basic too. Imagine what would be going through the minds of each one. Imagine you were there, when the very first contact was ever made. And you an eyewitness. This is one of the greatest mysteries of all time.
Would these multiple species and multiple cultures been able to co-exist? What kind of political and cultural centers would we have developed? Would we have been able to come-together and perhaps cross-breed, or would we have remained separated?
Consider the idea that had Neanderthal lived, he might have served in the Greek Armies under Alexander the Great. Neanderthals might have been the perfect mercenary barrier to the Barbarians, Saxons and Huns of the Human-Middle Ages. They might have been utilized much like the trolls were in JRR Tolkiens ''Lord of the Rings.'' Perhaps they might have been able to catch on sophisticated thinking - leaving one to wonder what might have been.
Would the American story of Independence been able to promise that 'All Species of Homo-Sapiens and Neanderthals to be created equal?'' And I wonder exactly how Neanderthals might have played in the National Football League! Imagine the possibilities!
But there was indeed a time when Homo-Sapiens and Neanderthal met for the first time. Like everything else that seems to be part of Human history, this meeting happened in the current country of Israel.
No one knows exactly what happened next, but the Sapiens retreated, leaving Neanderthals as the dominant species over Asia and Europe for an additional 100,000 years or more.
The brains of early homo-sapiens were not quite yet what they are today. They were somewhat ahead of Neanderthal but not quite where we are today. Trying to get either to understand a language like English or try to explain the nature of God would have been a hopeless task. But contemplating and understanding how these individuals communicated with one another would have equally been as difficult for us.
This is one of the greatest 'What If's'' in all of history. This book takes a glimpse of what such a moment might have been like by looking at our own pasts.
I have worked on this for the better part of the past twenty years, traveling, researching, attending lectures, asking questions and doing an extensive amount of investigation of what I hope will be an interesting and easy to read book. I utilized notes from college courses I took and this has become an assimilation of all the information I have collected. While there is no new theories or groundbreaking discoveries, it does explain many confusing things in a hopefully interesting manner.
The human experience on the earth is well beyond all measure of imagination and of elegant truths, of exquisite relationships, and of the awesome machinery of evolution. We wonder about our origins, where we came from, and where we are ultimately going. Built into each of us is a nomadic impulse to explore and to seek answers for questions long thought to be nothing more than rhetorical. Are we to assume that ‘Creation’ is complete and that there is nothing more for us in the future?
It begins several million years ago and it has undergone many changes through time. We have lingered on the outskirts of our human understanding. But it is time for wandering deeper into the ocean of our time. Understanding gives birth to joy and knowledge is prerequisite to our survival.
I am on a quest to find answers. I have seen just a few of the corners of the planet and met countless people but still haven’t seen all there is to see. It stokes my curiosity and desire to learn new things. Nonetheless, I embarked on a journey almost twenty-five years ago to become a lifetime student of history, anthropology and paleontology.
The study of human history doesn’t begin in one of the cradles of civilization. It begins several million years ago and it has undergone many changes through time. We have lingered on the outskirts of our human understanding. But it is time for wandering deeper into the ocean of our time. Understanding gives birth to joy and knowledge is a prerequisite to our survival.
I am most excited by ‘Catalyst Moments’ in time. I wonder what it would have been like to be in the same room with Alexander Graham Bell when the telephone was first tested. I wonder what it would have been like to see the earth from outer space or to witness the Battle of Gettysburg. But imagine what it would have been like if you had just transverse thousands of miles, through rough terrain, losing loved ones along the way, only to discover you weren’t alone! What would go through your mind? Would you be afraid? Would you strike fear in those you encountered? What would that moment in time be like?
1.9 - 1.4 Million Years Ago, Homo-Ergaster set out for a journey that would take them along the African plains and into Europe and Asia. Then an ice-age happened that trapped our brethren into a small geography in Africa where for the next several million years we remained isolated in two worlds.
Pan paniscus Pan troglodytes
Humans have evolved to maximize their geography and climate in order to survive. The visible diversity in humans today are indicative of how we have overcome differences in our genetic code and then replicated the strengths and eliminated the weaknesses. We need to look no further at how climate and geographical evolution has affected the great primates.
Geography has a huge affect on evolutionary progress and Allopatric Speciation. It's very name gives us clues as to how Allopatric Speciation is defined. It tells us that one species can divide due to geographical events and become isolated from one another. Consider the recent geologic changes just two-t0-three million years ago. At that time, the rise of the Zaire River separated one common ancestor of todays primates. The geographic event had to happen quickly and decisively.
Geologists are somewhat divided over how this happened. The rapidly changing landscape of the African continent reminds us that we are still subjects to our planet. But how is it possible that these two primates are so vastly different in social behavior and physical differences? Researchers from the University of Florida noted that infanticide is almost unknown among bonobos. Their constant sexual activity obscures paternity.
This results in removing the incentive for infanticide, and the pervasive bonding of female bonobos, who form coalitions for mutual support and protection, removes the opportunity. Preventing infanticide is a huge evolutionary advantage for bonobo females, because more of their offspring will survive.
Geographic Range of Primates
Why, then, have chimps not evolved this social structure? The answer may lie in the history of the habitats they occupy. Both species of primates live in tropical forests along the Zaire River -- chimps north of the river, bonobos to the south. Their environments seem to be quite similar today. But about 2.5 million years ago, there seems to have been a lengthy drought in southern Zaire that wiped out the preferred food plants of gorillas and sent the primates packing. After the drought ended, the forests returned, but the gorillas did not.
This also may explain why bonobos are more apt to walk upright. In the environment that existed in the Pleistocene, bonobos had to go further and carry food back to the others. It answers a lot of other questions too. Bonobos are more apt to share than chimps are. In the world of chimpanzees the alpha-male will get his fill first. In the world of Bonobos, it is much more egalitarian.
North of the Zaire River, the chimpanzees had to compete with gorillas for fruit and fiber-rich foods. The social structure of the chimpanzee world requires that the females forage for food with their infants. Social bonds and structure don't favor females in the world of chimpanzees, and as a result, give way for more violence amongst them.
In the world of ever-changing discoveries, it seems as if we have stumbled upon another species of Great Apes, and perhaps two. The apes that live in the Bili forest in eastern Zaire have traits that exist in both Gorillas and Chimpanzees. They are said to be able to kill lions and certainly have the size and strength to do so. Like gorillas, they nest on the ground. But aside from a few observations, so little is known about them that we cannot even speculate as to whether their social structure is more paternal or maternal.
The few researchers who have actually come into contact with these apes report that they are ravenous meat-eaters and hunters. The local tribes say that they actively hunt in packs and have well coordinated hunting parties. Are these inbred species, or are we perhaps looking at another geographical Allopatric Speciation?
Bili or Bondo Ape
(Continued from above)
Homo-Ergaster seems to have evolved into Homo-Erectus (Neanderthal) and was living in the caves of Spain, France, and Germany. The other world saw Darwin’s evolution of multiple different humans whose survival was for the strongest only. Then the Ice Age ended as suddenly as it began. Once it subsided, Homo-Sapiens began to follow that same path out of Africa into Europe.
One day, probably between100,000 - 30,000 years ago, Homo-Sapiens met Homo-Erectus for the first time. Imagine that incredible moment. This chapter is from one of the greatest mystery stories of our human history that we could ever know. This detective story is going to require a collective effort and approach in order to solve. This will require Historians, Anthropologists, Archaeologists, Sociologists, Linguists, Art-Historians, Forensic-Historians, and Bio-Evolutionary Specialists. This first meeting must have been a life-changer for those who were eyewitnesses to it. It is absolutely one of the most seminal moments in the story of humanity.
On a rock in the desert in Tanzania is a seemingly pristine story, painted carefully on a wall with red-ochre. Like art through the ages, it transfers a message. It tells the story of humanity and of survival. Its artist probably did not know it would last so much longer than the generation of his or her own children. No one knows who did it, why they did it, where they came from, how they did it….we only knew it is very old. We cannot know for sure, but perhaps the intention of the artist was to perpetuate memories. It’s the beginning of the recording of our story.
It was a series of amazing luck, misfortune and bizarre coincidences that put life on this earth. When you look at the narrow window of events that had to happen in just such an order, it would seem like humankind was a highly unlikely occurrence. So many things could have gone wrong!
Science is great at telling us ‘what’ happened in time, but it cannot answer the question as to ‘why’. This is a separate matter of individual faith and whether it fits into our narrative or not is a matter of each person. And just as we wonder about dinosaurs, saber-tooth tigers and giant Mastodons, we wonder about the other species of Humankind and how different our lot may have been had we just happened into a few random changes. The more we learn about ourselves and our history, the more improbable our existence emerges.
Where do we come from? It is the question of the ages. Only now, at a most recent time in our existence are we even close to finding answers. We enter this world and exit it almost too fast to really learn what all of this is about. Can we know where we are going without knowing where we came from?
The search for where we came from spans over 300,000 generations. To put that vast number into perspective, most people born in 2015 had parents who were born thirty years earlier, 1985. A grandfather- by these numbers – would have been born in 1955. A great-grandfather, just THREE generations, would have likely been born in 1925. At FOUR generations, we have our Great-Great-Grand Father, born in 1895. And, at FIVE generations, you have an ancestor born at the end of the Civil War. That is a grand total of FIVE generations, assuming you are pro-creating every thirty years.
Mathematically, if you took your parents birth and then their births, and you took one of your parental lines backward in time, to 1635, you would have a mininum of 16 generations and your would have 69,476 direct-line relatives. This does not include cousins either. If you average - conservatively - that each sets of parents have even two siblings, the numbers go upward diametrically. The mathematical formula suggests that each person would have almost 100-million collaterol relatives! Its a mind boggling exercise!
As we go back in time, the average age of puberty in females was around eight years od age. Children were born at a much earlier age than they are now. In today’s world, a majority of people living in America had already brought one-human into the world by the age of 25. That equates to FOUR generations every One-Hundred Years. It would be 40 generations to equal 1000 years. You can then figure that conservatively – you would have 80 generations to return to the beginning of the modern era.
Since these numbers are conservative, the actual number of generations might be considerably lower. If you figure out the average birth age expectancy every decade and you examine Europe and later America into the averages, there might well be as few as 65 generations between ourselves and the time of Christ.
Our search seduces us to at least 300,000 generations. Instead of thousands of years, it’s millions of years. Considering how little we knew about the concept of time and how little we knew about science, to consider the leap of faith it must have taken for Anthropologists to look backward so far, in search of ourselves. Not even considered was the growing business of fossil hunters and having to consider an even much more vast expanse of time!
But the age of exploration captured the imaginations of the peoples of Europe and elsewhere. There are countless stories of wild animals, bizarre and strange peoples, absurd landscapes, and astonishing customs. Ships carrying precious cargo of historical artifacts, spices, and botanical examples of the environments they encountered only sparked the imaginations of the British, the Spanish, the French and especially the Germans.
Darwin’s breakout book ‘’The Origin of Species’’ came about due to the British sense of adventure and the desire to understand our own origins. It was an exciting time in history to be an explorer, for the sciences of Anthropology, Archaeology, and Paleontology were beginning to take off and were growing in popularity. Throughout the mid 1800s, the British Museum was the largest building in all of Europe. With every ship that returned to England, more and more antiquities and curiosities were brought back to the museum.
By 1840, the museum began to sponsor Archaeology digs throughout the world. The result of these excavations was that the museum continued to grow and grow. By 1900-1930s, the museum saw even more growth with the famous research of Howard Carter, (Egypt excavation) and Leonard Wooley’s spectacular discovery of Ur and the incredible Sumerian tablets. But it was not only archaeology that was capturing the interest of the world, but anthropology. The many puzzle pieces of our existence seemed to be in the very beginning stages of discovery.
In later years historians would note that July 1, 1858, as the first public statement on the modern day theory of evolution. But at the time, Darwin’s paper hardly made a ripple. It was interesting, but not ground-breaking – yet. Ideas that contradict traditional theology are not easy to integrate into the every day lexicon.
In the progress of the idea of evolution we witness a distinctly modern phenomenon in the progress of science. Modern times brought new instruments of publicity, the printing press with its new powers of diffusion, scientific societies with their wider and more public forums. Suddenly there new mobility for the scientists themselves, and Darwin was at the forefront of the scientific renaissance.
In 1915, a young boy was looking for stone tools near his missionary home in Ethiopia. His name was Louis Leaky and so began a life-long obsession with human origins. Prior to this time, Anthropologist Raymond Dart, had uncovered the skull of a small child that was older than anything else he had seen. It was found in a nest with fossilized bird eggs. It was an odd discovery in an odd place.
While looking at the skull of a small hominoid, Dart realized that the space inside the skull cavity had been a fossilized brain. The appearance of the brain seemed ‘off’ to him. The brain looked too large for even a chimpanzee, but too small for a modern man. The base of the skull indicated the spine was upright, not bent over like a chimpanzee.
The skull was longer. Dart began to ask questions, and he began to wonder about the changes. But the biggest change was in their ability to walk upright, confirming this as a human ancestor. Was this the ‘Missing Link?’’ The earliest ancestor yet discovered and the first of its kind to be found in Africa, this was clearly going to rock the world as the Missing Link.
He found that the bones of primitive giraffes and saw that the bones were deliberately broken. There was a pattern and it suggested that the apes created crude weapons that would one day lead them to humanness. Many different weapons were found. Apes evolved brains to become better fighters and in-doing-so, became human. According to Dart, The engine for growth was violence.
He had discovered Australopithecus Africanus, the ‘’Southern Most African Man. (It was more commonly called Tuang child) His findings were the highlight of his career to that point. But he was shocked when his findings were completely rejected.
The findings revealed that it was the most remarkable discovery of the early 20th century. Despite these areas of success, his work wasn’t even included in the earliest textbooks. In an era of fierce Nationalism, Dart was not British born and it came at a great price for the scientist to pay. Dart was born in Australia, and his ‘’Ape-Man’’ was from Africa, not a prime contender for an Anglo-Specific thinkers of the time.
Anthropology of Darwin’s Era and How It Related to the Other Events of the World at that Time
The Forensic Mystery of Tuang Child
The Tuang Child was discovered in 1924 by quarrymen working for the Northern Lime Company in Tuang in South Africa. It would be defined as Australopithecus Africanus. Raymond Dart went to great lengths to describe it as a new species. It is now in repository at Witswatersrand University in South Africa.
Scientists were initially reluctant to accept that the Taung Child and the new genus Australopithecus were ancestral to modern humans. In the issue of Nature immediately following the one in which Dart's paper was published, several authorities in British paleoanthropology criticized Dart's conclusion. Dart's former mentor Arthur Keith, one of the most prominent anatomists of his time, claimed there was insufficient evidence to accept Dart's claim that Australopithecus was transitional between apes and humans. Grafton Elliot Smith stated that he needed more evidence – and a larger picture of the skull – before he could judge the significance of the new fossil. Arthur Smith Woodward dismissed the Taung Child as having "little bearing" on the issue of "whether the direct ancestors of man are to be sought in Asia or Africa".
These critiques became more fervent a few months later. Elliot Smith concluded that the Taung fossil was "essentially identical" to the skull of "the infant gorilla and chimpanzee" Addressing the claim that the fossil was "the missing link between ape and human", Arthur Keith stated in a letter to Nature that, ''.....an examination of the casts... will satisfy geologists that this claim is preposterous. The skull is that of a young anthropoid ape... and showing so many points of affinity with the two living African anthropoids, the gorilla and chimpanzee, that there cannot be a moment's hesitation in placing the fossil form in this living group.''
Anthropology of Darwin’s Era and How It Related to the Other Events of the World at that Time
Another aspect of Dart’s findings seemed to imply that our ancestors were indeed dark-skinned, hairy and unattractive. Things just didn’t seem to ‘’fit’’ the idea of such a finding. For instance, Tuang-Child had human teeth, but ape-like facial features and a smaller brain than they expected for a ‘’Missing Link.’’
This was certain to shake up the European scholars for the simple fact that half-a-world away, America was in the throes of slavery of dark-skinned individuals and it was not exactly frowned upon anywhere in Europe. In fact, abolition of slavery was seldom even addressed in Europe. To be sure, profiteers were still making money in the slave trade that was in existence in Southern Africa and elsewhere on the globe.
This general misunderstanding began to erode as Europeans colonized the world. European debate over the levels of humanity moved from theology to biology. By classifying all mankind into a single species, Homo Sapiens, Linneaeus seemed in the mid-eighteenth century to join the party of Bartomolew Las Casas was a 15th century priest who was among the very first to ask the Pope to suspend colonial efforts in the New World.
He would become a heroic champion of Native Americans and would raise awareness of indigenous people – something the European people were thirsty for. Linneaus followed that example and began to write articles that changed world perception.
He listed five types of Homo Sapiens. Without knowing exactly how these men lived, he listed them as ‘’Wild-Men,’’ ‘’American, ‘’European, Asiatic and African’’ and based on education. It was an early try at a complicated answer, and for the most part, people understood what the message was meant to be.
Tuang Child – 2.5 Million Years ago a small, 3’2’’ child wandered too far from her mother and was picked up by a huge eagle. The perils were many during this period due to a very weak method of defense.
Humans had barely begin walking upright and were prone to attack.
The Tools of Our Ancestor Handy Man, ‘’Homo-Halibus’’ Note the craftsmanship.
To see a progression of skulls starting in Tanzania and moving north was logical. Africanus lived over two-million years ago and Halibus was 1.3Million years ago. They stumbled on a nearly complete skull. It came out of the rock quite easily and they knew they had unearthed a pivotal find. And yet, there had to be more and more bones within the Four-Million year old rocks and gullies. Outside of Hadar in Ethiopia, almost an entire skeleton was found. She had been small, maybe only 3.5’’ tall. Australopithecus Africanus, Lucy, would forever change the way we viewed our human story.
In 1975 Leaky found another skull from he same period – but it was quite clearly from a different species. This was much more human and less ape-like. It changed the way we looked at Hominoids. We never knew that more than one group was alive at any one time, and yet, we are the lone survivors. It changed our earliest pictures of our origins.
Every ancestral remains of hominoid is extinct accept for one. We humans are the sole survivor, and it is a mystery for all of mankind.
How the Geographic and Climate Change Affected Early Humans
For fifteen million years, subterranean forces have been ripping Africa apart. The mighty forces that bend and shape continents were pulling the center of Pangaea in two. Africa is riddled with volcanoes and plate tectonics. The mighty forces that bend and shape continents created a giant rift valley and chasm. Five million years ago, the land was not nearly as dry as it is now. In fact, it was a wild, plush landscape.
With incredible clarity, the soft volcanic ash made for a soft and permanent record of the first record of our walking upright. We may never know if they were fleeing the volcanic eruption or if they were just out for a walk. But we do know is that it consists of two adult males and two children and they left the first record of upright walking. The ash hardened when it rained, and Mary Leakey happened upon them. It was Australopithecus and it is one of the earliest type of human.
The world here was very different five million years ago. It was primordial savannah and the soil was lush with green. The animal kingdom ruled the earth then as they do now. There were big cats – only then they were even larger. Even scavengers like Hyena were large too. Most of them we would easily recognize today.
In the forest, primates found a nourishing cradle in the trees that also provided protection. We are close to these primates, sharing 95%-98% of our genes with Chimpanzees. But something came between us. The rift valley was split into two, with a desert on one side, and tropical grassland on another. These tree-dwelling ancestors of ours attempted to walk upright in their pathway to development. Instead of walking on their two front limbs, they could walk upright and carry things. It had a profound effect on community for the simple reason you could now carry your kill, and then share it. And walking upright was revolutionary. In doing so, they became the first to journey upright and started our own beginnings.
Three Million years ago, Lucy that left the intriguing trail of footsteps. Later, just about five-hundred miles away from the finding of Lucy was another monumental find in Anthropological History. It was a stunning find. When it is incredible to find a shin-bone, to find such a skeleton forever changed the landscape of humanity. In all, 40% of a complete skeleton was found in 2009.
But Lucy started all of this. The finding in Ethiopia showed changes in skeletal structure. Her spine was straightened so it could walk upright. Her teeth showed that they were vegetarians designed for chewing roots and complex fibers. Our best information is that there were many differences between her and apes. She did have long arms and short legs, like an ape, and hands that clearly showed she was a tree-swinger.
Most of our early ancestors were more human than ape. Others were more ape than human. It is just as interesting to see the ones that didn’t end up making it through the evolutionary cycle as those who did. After all, it is a chance to understand and celebrate the many imperfections in our own physical beings today.
Males: Average 4ft 4’’
Females: average 3 ft 11 inches (120 centimeters)
Weight: Males 125 lbs (55 kg)
Females: average 110 lbs (50 kg)
Height & Weight Supplemental Information:
The only body size estimate scientists have made so far is based on the partial female skeleton ARA-VP-6/500 ("Ardi"). She is estimated to have stood 3 ft 11 in (120 cm) tall, weighed approximately 110 lbs (50 kg). Based on the size of the upper canine teeth in males is not much larger than the canines of females, scientists don’t expect Ar. ramidus to have shown much body size sexual dimorphism - so a male individual would have been similar to a female in size. It’s possible that Ar. ramidus males did not compete against each other for dominance, and therefore did not need to grow bigger in size.
The Forensic Mystery of Turkana Boy
In 1984, Dr. Leaky was still working on fossil finds in the area around Lake Turkana Kenya. One of Leaky’s team uncovered a fragment of what looked like a Homo-Erectus. Soon the entire skeleton – brand new to science – were uncovered. It was the first human skeleton ever discovered and he was called ‘’Turkana Boy.’’ (Sometimes called Narakotome Boy)
The find was on the bottom of an ancient lake-bed, semi-face down and caught on the rocks. Leakey knew to follow the path of the ancient river. More bones were found in the silt. And as the boy’s body began to decompose, its genetic materials were disintegrating. It became a quest to uncover what caused his death.
Compared to the Australopithecines around him, there were stark differences. He was with smaller brow, but his bones were huge. (The huge brow on the forehead of Neanderthals were an adaptation that made their jaws incredibly strong and resilient, which was essential for chewing raw meat. From the shape of his backbone and pelvis, we know he was highly mobile. He apparently shared the landscape with others much like himself and bore the name ‘’Homo-Ergaster’ (ἐργαστήρ) or ‘’Working Man.’’
It was suspected that Turkana Boy suffered from a congenital disorder, either of dwarfism or scoliosis. This was because the rib bones appeared asymmetrical to the spine and the reason was attributed to skeletal dysplasia. However, in 2013, a new study showed that when the rib bones were carefully rearranged, it became symmetrical against the spine, and that unusual structure of the vertebrae was characteristics of the early hominins. However, the fossil definitely showed lumbar disc herniation, an injury implicated with his death. He also had a diseased mandible.
His skeleton tells us he was 5’3’’ tall. At first glance he looks like he was a young teenager. His skull has a large brain capacity and lower forehead but otherwise is remarkably close to modern humans. His overall body shape is just like ours. His jaw was lower and larger, and had a more forward position of their palms when they ran. This is evident to the fact that there is a slight twist in the shoulder blade.
Still, in order to reconstruct his life, we needed to further examine his skeleton. The detective work is just beginning. Had he grown to his full height, this ancient hominoid would have been an exceptional sight to see. He could have been well over 6’5''. This is unlike any other species of Homo today.
On the lakeside plains of Eastern Africa, this boy’s structure was completely new to us. As mentioned, he was tall and he was muscular. Special adaptations turned him into a lean young man. His muscular structure was much like ours but there was a subtle difference in the tibia and fibula. These were actually longer in Turkana Boy than in any homo-sapien alive today.
Almost at once, questions arose regarding some of the more unusual traits uncovered by Turkana Boy. In order to understand just how he died, we need to examine how he lived. Unraveling this mystery would uncover startling finds in our own human story. In order to accomplish this – we needed to answer some crucial questions.
Why did he grow to such a height at such a young age? Initially, anthropologists hadn’t considered the importance of childhood development in ancient hominoids. But humans have a relatively long childhood when compared to apes. We don’t reach maturity until we are about fourteen or fifteen, resulting in a longer time of dependency on parents for survival and protection. In contrast, apes have a much shorter childhood and are sexually mature when they reach about seven years of age.
In order to survive, the growth of Turkana Boy was more like a chimpanzee. As humans evolved our childhood was extended. A chimpanzee's brain will be fully developed by the age of three or four. With humans it can be almost twenty years before the brain is fully developed. (Just consider any teenager today!)
This is the mystery of prolonged childhood, and it is something that took anthropologists many years to uncover. Homo-Erectus had no advantage in having children with a long child-cycle where there was dependency on the parents. And this is how we find Turkana Boy. He walked upright and was blessed with a brain twice as large as a chimp but still decidedly smaller than our own.
In the brain of Turkana Boy, we initially assumed he had the gift of communication. But we did not know just what that communication would have been like. His brain had a slight slant in the cortex, which is imperative for speech. But like any good mystery - we uncovered evidence to the contrary. This is crucial to developing a written story. The ability to make speech is a must-have in developing any kind of society.
One of the areas I am presently researching is how chimpanzees and other primates communicate with one another. While they are without the ability to speak, they aren't without the ability communicate. Sounds, gestures, non-verbal cues that are all a part of life as a chimpanzee.
At the Primarily Primates sanctuary in San Antonio, long observations of the chimpanzees show a definite communal instinct for communication.
Using squeals, screams, grunts, hoots and barks, they let others know about danger. They also use these to provide team work in hunting other rival chimps. Each call is individual and thus each person Still, we have identified fewer than 30 calls, proving that understanding cross-communication between species.
The Birth of Language
How Does Language Develop? Noam Chomsky is one of the foremost specialists on Linguistics. He says that language is a uniquely human development and that all children have what is called an innate language acquisition device (LAD). Theoretically, the LAD is an area of the brain that has a set of universal syntactic rules for all languages.
Biologically, Brain size and diaphragm development are crucial to speaking. It appears that only modern human has these traits.
Consider the figurines of modern human from 25,000 years ago. From one area of human culture to another, there is a commonality amongst the early humans based on their artwork and possible religious purposes. In order to have these figurines in multiple locations, made the same way and with he same materials, they require a common definition for what these figurines are. Neanderthals just didn’t have that capability and in the end, it set them apart from Modern Humans.
In addition, it seems as if Neanderthal didn't have the ability to plan ahead. We know this because we readily find enzymes of salmon in cave bear fossils but few in Neanderthals. It seems as if Neanderthal was more of an opportunist and a scavenger, unable to predict where or when certain animals migrated aside from following them directly.
Body hair is another trait that we humans have that separated us ethnographically. Sweat glands were slowly developing and humans began to decline in panting in order to stay cool. If you are not panting, you have the breath with which to make audible sounds, and with human ingenuity, we begin to put patterns of speech together to form words.
Roughly two-million years ago, homo-sapiens began to lose their body hair. Furthermore, there was a real lack of changes in technology with regards to hunting. As we shall see, humans made very little progress. It was because homo-erectus had to compensate for the lack of spears. Spears are a long-range weapon and were unknown at this time.
Thus, the only way Turkana Boy was going to eat meat was if the animals were caught at close range and seized upon by a group working together. These people had to be upright and lean, able to run long distances with great stamina. By chasing animals to exhaustion, they were able to use small hand-axes to attack the animals at close range. The prey would often fall victim to exhaustion.
Doctors examining the boy discovered the spine was bent and compressed. This individual showed he suffered from Scoliosis. Scientists knew that humans this young rarely suffered from this affliction. But there was more. The bones were very large, and very strong. At 1.5 Million years, this was Homo-Erectus, and later generations would spread out of Africa, and migrate all the way to Java, some 6,000 miles away. The ‘’Missing Link’’ seemed far more advanced and far more like us than ever imagined.
Turkana Boy and his group took the practice of scavenging meat killed by other animals. It is certainly a practical use of the predators ability. In body-shape and behavior, they were pioneering and very human in lifestyle. They were the first to use a home-base for tools. (Meaning that they were systematic and repeating of scientific endeavors) Secondly, they discovered that bone-marrow tasted good and was badly needed nutrition for them.
They discovered that Eraster was the first meat-eater. The meat-eating life of Turkana-Boy was very different from the Austalopithicines – which like Lucy, were vegetarian. The chest of Turkana Boy was barrel shaped and his posture, upright. Lucy was short and squat, not likely to grow much past four feet. This suited each of their dietary cuisines as the complications of vegetarianism
restricted the rapid development of an intestinal system.
Ergaster used special rocks to butcher meat and smash bones. They chiseled their hand-axes to have stone-flakes on both sides for sharp knives. This change in diet was a smart move. To grow a big brain you needed to give up. The difference between Lucy and Turkana Boy was that Lucy gave up weight and build. The carnivore-man evolved over time, and soon made their way, where, literally, no man had travelled before – Out of Africa.
Two-Million Years ago, Ergaster began to follow the game. Before long, They pushed out through the old-world, through the Middle-East and into Europe in one direction and Asia in the other. It appeared as if the discovery of Homo-Erectus was the end of a mystery. But doubts began to arise. The earlier supposition of speech was now open to new debate.
Consider this --- The vertebrae in the neck is critical to speech. The spinal chord needs space to include speech and breathing. It is our ability to breathe that allows us to communicate. In contrast, the vertebrae was very small compared to our own. Homo-Erectus was a close relative, but not quite there yet. There is a mystery as to whether these individuals could speak based on their skeletal structure. It was without the ability to communicate with one another.
Ergaster seems to have finally harnessed fire around 1.7 million years ago. It let to a controversial and monumental stage of our evolution which began to yield an immediate impact. It broke the shackles in their minds and let their ideas fly free. With fire, we could migrate freely and in a few thousand generations, they will grow and dominate around the world. Millions of years went by with very little in the way of technological advancement. In a recently uncovered kill zone from the era, additional stone-hand axes were found.
And yet, their brains had not changed their course of everyday life. They were mired in the ‘here’ and ‘now.’ There would have been a moment where the struggle of the desire for survival was set aside. Under the star-lit skies, our ancestors took the time to do the most important of all things – simply relax. We don’t know precisely where and when it happened, but there would have been before them a technological achievement to such a revolutionary degree that we now had the safer means with which to survive. The gift that Fire gave to us was the gift of Time.
And time, perhaps next to space, is a limited boundary. So how we make use of time is the difference between living and dying. Consider the concept of Time. Time- outside the struggle of survival. Time - to contemplate an after world. Time - to carefully consider natural aspects of this world. Time - to see the cycles of birth, life, and death, in the natural world around them.
You will notice that in many of these archaeological sites, random human kind are found isolated in death. It was as if they were simply left there to die, by themselves. Aside from everything else, they just walk away from their dead, leaving them there in the wilderness. It isn't as if that is a cruel thing for the day and age. They are still trapped in their own mind of the here and now.
They know not that they are even trapped in such a space. To do anything aside from simply leaving their dead on the open savanna is unthinkable to them. It is as the animals around them, living and dying in the open. For all their success in overcoming their physical environment, they are still incarcerated to the cold and restless cruelty of a world without imagination.
If you had come across Turkana Boy from a distance, you would have thought it was similar to ourselves. This would be the case until you got closer and you would see the chin is recessed and forehead was sloped back at a strong angle. It would have looked like us from a distance, but it wasn’t us. The overall size was important too. Upon inspection it is clear to see that relative to their size their brain was tiny.
It was an amazing time in Physical Anthropology and Archaeology as new discoveries were happening at a heart-stomping pace. And now --- a chilling new picture was emerging. Homo-Erectus was the size of a large human with the brain of an infant. It seemed like that with many of the answers brought forth infinitely more questions. Like a good novel ---the mystery was deepening.
After close examination, we learned that there is no fusing to the bones in his growth-plates. At first, this was somewhat overlooked due to the size of the skeleton. But, the lack of fusion tells us something else too. He was still growing. And this knowledge implies that he was perhaps even younger than his projected 15 years old. We just didn’t know, nor could we have guessed just how young he was. So when dental specialists studied his teeth, something fascinating was uncovered.
In every human tooth, there are microscopic rods in the enamel that look like tiny beads and they represent one-days growth according to the Circadian Clock. Like rings of a tree, we can see exactly how many sun-rises and sun-sets this young man of Homo-Erectus lived through. What we uncovered was quite shocking.
Turkana Boy wasn’t fifteen years old --- in fact, he was no more than eight years of age.
Take a good look at the teeth of Turkana Boy. Note the decay. This is an unusual trait because tooth devay didn’t traditionaly show up until farmers began to cultivate sugars, 10,000 years ago. This fella is 1.5 Million Years old, well before complex sugars would have caused this.
What happened? The baby tooth held on too long, becoming loose. Inside the crevasse between tooth and gum were food particles and thus, when it finally fell out due to an adult tooth erupting, it was already horribly infected.
One other clue emerged in the tooth. A close study revealed that the tooth had a major abscess on it. Instead, his jaw bone show that he had a diseased gum where a deciduous molar, one of his baby teeth- had been shed. Since his skeleton was found almost intact, it didn’t look like a predator had gotten a hold of it.
More Anthropological finds were occurring by following the ‘’crime scene’’ down stream in the dry riverbed. When ribs were found, the excitement grew. The skeleton began to tell even more of this boy’s story. His molars were smaller than our own and chewing would have been very hard. Because of this limitation, it was quite likely that Turkana’s family prepared the food they ate, and this would have required tools.
When paleo-dentists looked closely at the lower jaw, they say something very telling….the molar was very diseased. He had a terrible blood infection. One of his teeth had erupted and was opened with a cavity. What was Homo-Erectus like? His body followed the current of the river and some of his bones were crushed by large animals. His teeth bore witness to the disease and he was in agony when he died.
Forensic anthropologists were sure they had the cause of death for Turkana Boy. He had Sepsis, a blood infection. His last day on earth was a terrible day, for sure. He could not have understood why he felt feverish or why he was in so much pain. A dull throb would have been a constant companion for the last three weeks of his life. With each pulse of his heart, the nerves in the jaw would have been strummed like a guitar.
For reasons we still do not understand, he was alone. Either he went on his own or due to his apparent weakness and inability to eat, he was cast out of the group. It seems unlikely he would have suffered this set-back because we see other instances where the sick and wounded were cared for by others. But we cannot escape the fact that he was not buried by anyone else, and he clearly died in isolation.
On this particular morning he awoke to a high-fever. He was bleeding from inside his mouth and nothing could stem the pain or the blood. The air was dry and the climate was warm, and yet he was certainly hungry. Since we find no evidence of vegetable proteins in his diet, we can safely assume that Turkana Boy would not have eaten anything but meat. With no adaptation to eat vegetables, herbs, or legumes, Turkana Boy was probably weak from starvation by this time.
He walked until he found the coolness of a river where he could drink the water. While bending down, he drank. But when he stood up, the pain was too much, and Turkana Boy collapsed face down in the water. He probably drowned, but most certainly was dying anyway. And that's the best guess we can have, even now.
1.5 Million Years ago, we had all the right characteristics together. Like Homo-Erectus, we could walk upright. But for all intents and purposes, Homo-Erectus was an animal. For the first time, humans had developed a true white around their eyes. This gave an added dimension of emotions to our existence. The boy was an evolutionary marvel, part human and part pre-human, but most of all, our direct ancestor. And putting together his death was essential to understanding his life,