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,
According to a study conducted by the School of Human Origins at Arizona State University and the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, Lucy's spine was shaped to support an upright posture. She had been a tree dweller but was no longer able swing from trees. The bones were small and curved on her hands. She climbed them, but could not transverse them without great difficulty. But, she did something no other living species of Ape had done….Walk upright.
The ability to walk on two legs was the missing adaption that allowed for survival. Lucy had no defense against predatory animals, but standing upright allowed her to see further than any of her ancestors, giving her a survival mechanism that would allow her to use her hands to make and use tools. Her eyes would need to be closer to a more narrow nose in order to have depth perception, a trait that subsequent species of Homo would evolve.
It has long been thought that humanoids needed to have larger brains before they could walk upright and make tools, but clearly this is not the case. Walking upright was a means of survival, and it ultimately led to many other things that allowed humans to use their hands to build, construct, and create. The additional growth of the brain seems to have just been a natural evolution of our species.
For nearly all of human history, everyone in the world had brown eyes. Then, scientists believe, between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago, the mutation that causes blue eyes arose in a single individual born somewhere near the Black Sea. Other mutations began to appear as well. Through each and every subsequent genertation, something new was developing in humankind.
Still, in the early 1900s, we may have found physical proof or our humanity, but we had not found culture or any idea of family. Proof of culture and kinship is strikingly recent, and we still haven’t a clear picture. We do see a definite family developing with Neanderthal, 40,000 years ago. Consider the transfer of knowledge needed to take down an elephant or a rhino. This required a depth of intelligence and the ability to transmit those thoughts. The ability to organize and develop a plan to hunt down prey is highly sophisticated and wouldn’t show up that far back.
But recently, scientists have examined the DNA of the Neanderthal bones found in 1856 expecting to see a direct lineage between them and us. But what happened next was truly astonishing. The landscape of our own existence has suddenly changed – instead of one common ancestor, there could have been several. The emerging picture began to show that Neanderthals were drastically different than ourselves.
The DNA in-particular was of significant value, and proved much different than our own. This implies that there are two completely separate species of Hominoids out of one completely unique evolutionary tree. When Neanderthals died out due to the rise of Homo Erectus and, we were left alone, an isolated species of hominoid.
In 1848, Captain Edmund Flint found the skull of a Neanderthal man in Forbes Quarry, Gibraltar. This was found at a time when exploration of these ancient hominoids was beginning to really take hold of Europe. The explosion of population throughout Europe and the New World only escalated the importance of these discoveries.
The Skull was overwhelming in its size. The enormous Nasal cavities and the huge eye-sockets didn’t look anything like they had seen before. At one glance you can see that in the age of Darwin, this was an exciting discovery and began to piece together human evolution. With the same energy that we wonder about the animals of the past, we have that same sense of wonder about each of us. How did we get here from there? What were the Neanderthal’s like? Were they as brutish as it seems or were they further advanced than we give them credit for?
Just how exactly this all happened is anyone’s guess. It certainly makes for a lot of assumptions regarding our role in the demise of the prototype Neanderthals. At least one forensic anthropologist believes humans butchered Neanderthals and devoured them. Other theories indicate that drastic climate change ultimately did them in. They were living generation after generation without any impetus to change. In fact, it is even theorized that the same group of Neanderthals lived in the same cave, or caves, for generation upon generation, until finally forced to migrate.
That First Moment
Neanderthals and Humans Meet For The First Time
A team of experts with the Institute for the Study of Human Origins, have even proposed a controversial theory that Neanderthals may have lived there continually for as long 8,000 years! During that time the climate in the Iberian peninsula had seen little change. There was no real impetus to move, that is, until Homo Sapiens came along. And with their arrival, a fierce competition of food, resources and ultimately reproduction with their women, the Neanderthals were no match. There are two different things we learn about Neanderthal when we examine the latest findings:
(1) Neanderthals were not able to reproduce very well. The infant mortality must have been exceedingly high in order to reduce their numbers so drastically and so quickly.
(2) Their demise was met quite quickly, and considering these hearty beings had survived two ice-ages and mass migrations, this was no easy feat. But, imagine if things had been different and there were Neanderthals living with us today. It very nearly happened. And this is the place where our collective imaginations run wild.
We want to know what our brethren looked like, sounded like and whether they were intelligent enough to cope with ever-changing conditions. Scientists recently took a good look at their vocal chords. They noticed that the opening in the throat was larger than that of their human counterparts. Knowing this, we needn’t guess about how Neanderthals sounded. It was certainly very unique.
The Physical Make-Up of Neanderthals
These people's were exceptionally tough. Any bones we find suggest that they broke just about everything. Much like rodeo performers, the abuses of large animals and the accidents that can happen just trying to hunt them are apparent for everyone to see. Built low and stocky, their bodies were meant to sustain during the sub-zero weather that would kill us today. They developed wide noses to breathe and cool off while working. Incredibly, they adapted fast, losing much of their body hair and building sweat-glands with which to relegate heat. They cooled themselves off by an incredible series of adaptations designed to build a robust and highly advanced people.
The old story about Neanderthals has begun to erode as newer discoveries are being made. One thing is in the proof - Homo Sapiens won out while the Neanderthals did not. Yet their story is indeed somehow our story. In 2015, two bodies were discovered in the forest caverns in Romania. These would be uncovered as the oldest known remains of humans - anywhere.
In 2002, Portuguese archaeologist Joao Zilhoao and several cavers challenged themselves by going deeper and deeper into a cavern. The cave was a part under-water river and mud-pit. But the archaeologists began to find bones. They were cave-bears that clearly hibernated there. The temperature according to those who were there was 40-degrees Farenheit. It was humid, dank, and bog-like.
The cave bear bones were plentiful and everywhere. But after two weeks, the findings suddenly astonished Zilhoao and team, ''...And just like that, an occipital bone is right in front of me. And then a jaw bone showed up as well.'' At first it was assumed they were part of the same human, but after careful examination, they learned that the jaw bone belonged to a different individual. Both bones suggest that these two hunters were in their teenage years - perhaps they were brothers.
There were no signs that these two hunters lived in the cave, but there was no sign that they were dragged there by the cave bears either. It was clear that these two died elsewhere and were washed into the cavern by rushing waters. The jaw was in very good shape and suggest that he had a pretty good diet. At 40,000 years of age, this begins to challenge traditional thinking about malnutrition and the overall health of those who lived in this time period.
There were subtle anomolies in the skull and jaw bone. The forehead was sloped back at a steep angle compared to modern humans. Moreover, their teeth weren't exactly right either. The molars aren't in the right order. Stunned anthropologists did not know what to make of the strange new features. Had Neanderthal and Humans REALLY interbred? The evidence is very compelling. Up until now, no one had ever been able to prove that such a hybrid existed - perhaps until now.
With Neanderthals already well established in Europe, the arrival of humans must have come as a huge shock to them. The remains that were found in Romania tell a different story. They have the unexpected findings in modern humans. But you will find them in Neanderthals. In 2010, the Max Planck Institute cracked the genome of a Neanderthal. Now, with two distinctly different Human-Neanderthal bones there might be a way to see if there is to our Neanderthal brethren.
Note: I am of the theory that two different brands of primates were never meant to live together due to the intense competition for food. There is no place on the planet where two different members of the Primate family co-exist.
The click languages spoken by the San people of southern Africa and the Hadzabe of East Africa could be our last links to the original languages spoken by humans in Africa some 40,000 years ago. Given the vocal limitations of Neanderthal Man it seems like a normal progression. The ‘’clicking’’ of their language allowed them to sneak up on their prey.
Another theory contemplates Neanderthal vocal capabilities based on recent findings in Bulgaria. A small bone from the throat area was uncovered in an area where previous Neanderthal bones had been found. This was quite revolutionary in so much as we weren't sure at all if neanderthal could even speak. Even still, language and communication are another adaptation altogether and required a certain level of sophistication which Neanderthal didn't seem to have.
The vocal tracks of the Neanderthal were squashed resulting in a higher pitchedvoice. Other factors are there too. As well as the vocal tracks, neanderthals strange shape would have affected his voice. They had a huge nasal cavity, a large rib cage which gives a lot of breath to their speaking capabilities, and a very heavy skull that sits heavily on the spine. Sound has to travel through those bones and we have to hear them as well as transmit them. It's not an easy thing to comprehend, even with all of our study, and all that we actually DO know.
As we will see later, the burial of Neanderthal revealed something quite unique. The corpse had a tiny bone called the hi-loid, which has a primary function of preserving speech. These Neanderthals were getting things done with careful planning. Behavior between Neanderthals and human-beings.
With a shrill and almost squeaky voice, Neanderthals sounded so high-pitched that it seems highly unlikely they could sneak up on any animal in order to hunt. There were also other subtle skeletal differences between Neanderthals and modern humans as well. The rib-cage expanded outwards in such a way that they did not have much of a waistline and even less in endurance.
With a body that was large and barrel-chested they still had shorter legs and a heavier-than-normal gait. Hunting would have had to be a close-range and in social packs. These early proto-people were not made for endurance and they proved to be no match for their first real competition from Homo-Sapiens.
Homo Sapiens migrated out of Africa and it seems they made their way into Europe, living mainly along the coast soon out-hunting the Neanderthals. In fact, the tools that Homo Sapiens used were further advanced than Neanderthal, and if we are to believe that modern humans were fighting for the same food sources, then it stands to reason that the Neanderthals numbers would begin to dwindle.
It is long thought that Homo Sapiens came from Homo Erectus, who migrated out of Africa. This turned out to be an incorrect assumption. The Ice-Age gave up its grip on the Middle-East and 130,000 years ago humans made their way out of birth-cradle of humanity. The New discoveries are revealing man was tool-maker, tamer of fire, creator of the first human societies, and how Homo Erectus gave way to Homo Sapiens.
It was the knowledge that gave Homo Sapiens the ultimate advantage. But, what if both lines of man came from two lines of hominoid? The new discoveries are complicating our lineage and suggesting that our DNA is far different than some of the earliest of upright man.
When we think about extinction events, we tend to look at the 4.6Billion years of this planet and we wind up thinking that evolutionary paths take such a long time. But in order for a species to go extinct, the deaths have to occur very quickly. It has to happen before too much of procreation can happen. This is essential in our understanding how a planetary extinction event such as the meteor that hit the earth 65 Million years ago could ultimately wipe an entire planet of dinosaurs in 12 months.
There were many evolutionary offshoots of the tree that humanity that didn’t work out. Either they could not adapt to rapidly changing climate changes or they couldn’t compete against other predators. Whatever the reason, our tree has many branches of dead-end humanity. Two Million years ago, homo-ergaster journeyed throughout the world and became Homo-Erectus. Regionally they adapted to according the situation.
But there was something not quite right. Thanks to modern genetics, our human story gets to be pieced together with a little more detail. It was believed that Erectus evolved separately into Homo-Sapiens. When scientists examined the genes of all these people, they were remarkably similar. How could members of the same species, separated by thousands of miles be genetically identical? There had to be one source for all of these genes where we all started.
The Mystery of the Khoisan
There are people in Southern Africa today who are tied to the original ancestors in their antiquity of human genes. This tribe is semi-nomadic and they are incredibly old. These are the Khoisan Peoples of South Africa and their story is hardly known to those outside the anthropological circles who study applied genetics. If it weren’t for modern science, its doubtful we would know them much at all.
A research team led by Professor Stephan Christoph Schuster, a geneticist from Nanyang Technological University, sequenced the genome of five living people from a tribe in Southern Africa.
They used advanced computer analysis of the Khoisan tribes-people and “420,000 genetic variants across 1,462 genomes from 48 ethnic groups,” Science Daily explained. Remarkably, there are some individuals in the Khoisan tribe whose ancestors never bred with any other ethnic groups for the last 150 thousand years. The researchers claim that until around 20,000 years ago, this ancient lineage made up the majority of all human beings. IT was seem that all of modern humanity springs forth from this one tribe of peoples.
Their genetic make-up are closely connected to an ancient gene-pool. They are skilled survivors given their geography. Our genes connect us together. Of all the people alive today, they have the most concentrated mix of ancient human genes in the world. This leads us to only one conclusion – we are all a member of one tribe. Of all the people alive today, the Khoisan have the most concentrated number of ancient human genes of any people that ever lived. This leads us to a startling conclusion.
Our European Neanderthal make-up includes 3%. But amongst the Khosian there is no Neanderthal DNA. These people are as close to the originals as you can get. As for the mystery- we are much closer in relationship than we think.
There were two major migrations out of Africa. Two-Million years ago, Homo-Eraster left Africa and migrated outward. Then an ice-age hemmed humanity into a small geography. The cold-winds of ice blew over the continent. 30,000 years ago, humans followed. Like Darwin predicted, living things will learn to adapt.
Getting back to the whole idea about geographic speciation, the shift in global movement continued to affect human movement. About 30% of the global land mass was all that was left, and all other species were disappearing rapidly. The pressures of Isolation worked in our advantage too. For we were able to develop and emerge as a unique and powerful species.
The second wave of migratory peoples came much later, 120,000 years ago. And in the rift valley in southern Egypt, we see that there are skeletons in the caves. In fact, this is the proof we needed to prove this theory. When the second wave of peoples left Africa, they made their way into Southern Europe – where suddenly, they came face-to-face with the ancestors in what HAD to be one of the most shocking moments of human history – The Neanderthals.
We still haven’t found a complete Neanderthal skeleton. But their remains have been found all over Europe, especially along the Spanish and French Riviera. But their disappearance is about as mysterious as the rise of Homo Sapiens. In fact, some anthropologists believe this is not a coincidence. Homo Sapiens began to fan out all over the Middle-East and soon displaced the Neanderthals. Still unanswered was the question regarding lineage. It was long thought that Neanderthals were simply an earlier line of Homo Sapiens on the family-tree. But that all changed with a dramatic discovery in the year 2000.
New findings in forensic anthropology began to pervade the study of ancient humans. DNA samplings were thought to be impossible in bones that were so old and fossilized. But scientists Igor Ovchinnikov, Kisten Liden and William Goodwin managed to retrieve DNA from a young female Neanderthal found in the Caucus Mountains. The findings they uncovered would stun the world.
If Neanderthal came before Homo Sapiens, the DNA structure should look almost identical. The reason is that evolution is built upon a previous state of existence. The DNA should be predictive and similar to our own. There are sequences in which DNA is ordered, and the differences between one breed of dogs to another breed of dogs is almost non-existent.
When the scientists mapped out the DNA of Homo Sapien to Neanderthal was stark and surprising. The sequences were entirely different. The implications were amazing.
‘’Lucy’’ Turkana Boy Rising Star Hominin
Australopithicus Afarensis Homo-Erectus Homo-Naledi
3.2 Million Years Ago 1.6 Million Years Ago ?
Adult Female Pre-Adolescent Male Adult Male
3 ft 8 in 5’4’’ 4’10’’
70lbs 110-125lbs 110lbs
Because DNA can decay over hundreds of thousands of years, there was an element of failure that was to be expected. However, the results were most surprising and it caught scientists completely off guard. A Chimpanzee and a human are 98.8% alike. But Neanderthals are 99.7% alike and the discovery of them indicated that we are indeed very close to Neanderthals of hit-or-miss in this testing.
How Do We Explain Genetic Heredity?
Neanderthals were completely different from Homo Sapiens and were most certainly replaced/inbred or otherwise eliminated by modern humans in the hunt for wild game and the use of modern tools.
In 2008, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology further conducted a study of people from around Europe to see how closely related we might be to our Neanderthal brethren. This was made possible by a new technology that enabled scientists to scrape a DNA Genome from the large toe bone of a Neanderthal. DNA is a molecule that has a unique genetic code for every living thing. There are four building blocks in DNA and they are as follows: Guanine, Adenine, Thymine, and Cytosine. Collectively, they are known by the letters of their names.
To understand how DNA works, imagine a spiral staircase from here to the moon with four-different colors of stairs. Each stair corresponds to each of the letters, G,A,T,C and their unique order is what separates us not only from one another, but from other species. And the similarities between humans and your average everyday garden-slug tell us just how close all life is to one another.
Genes are the map of DNA. Each pair of genes correlates to a various part of the body. For instance, the genes that map directly to the eyes are the same in every living thing. To prove this point, a study at the Max Planck Institute took a fruit fly and for the first time saw and identified the band of gene that was responsible for eyesight. By interfering with the development of that particular gene, they were able to grow legs out of the eyes and multiple sets of wings.
At the same time, the scientists were looking for any type of fly that had a mutation. It would further prove their point. They soon discovered a single white-eyed male fly, which stood out from its normal, red-eyed peers. A cross between the mutant male and a red-eyed female produced only red-eyed offspring. White-eyed mutants reappeared in the following generation — the classic pattern of a recessive trait. However, the white-eyed trait was seen exclusively in males of the second generation. They concluded that being white-eyed is a sex-linked recessive trait. Thus, the gene for eye color must be physically located on the X-chromosome.
Within weeks, they had mapped out every gene and what they were responsible for. Next, the researchers took the genes for the eyes out of a field mouse and put them into a fruit fly. In a Nobel Award winning experiment, Walter Gehring pulled it off and proved that the complexities of evolution aren't so complex at all. We ALL have the same ingredients but each is arranged slightly differently.
ment of failure that was to be expected. However, the results were most surprising and it caught scientists completely off guard. A Chimpanzee and a human are 98.8% alike. But Neanderthals are 99.7% alike and the discovery of them indicated that we are indeed very close to Neanderthals.
The implications beyond the initial discovery were interesting. Humans had long been blamed for the demise of the Neanderthals. We weren’t bigger than they were. But aside from that one trait, we held all the cards over them. Humans were smarter and able to communicate better via language. Recently they found a jawbone of the Neanderthal that shows they were butchered – but we don’t know by who, and we don’t know why.
One distinct advantage we might have had was in our endurance. Our bodies were designed for endurance, balanced and lean. Comparatively, Neanderthals were built for high-impact at short distances. Humans could sustain a chase for prey over longer distances than the top-heavy Neanderthals did. But instead of killing the Neanderthals, perhaps we interbred with them. You would think there would be more commonalities in the DNA, but that is all subjected to time.
Advancements in the study of DNA are improving each year, and it is also becoming less expensive to provide DNA research. The great opportunity is ahead of us, where we can not only look at our DNA past, but predict the DNA future. It’s almost inconceivable to imagine, but by analyzing the amount of time and generations for adaptive traits to become a part of who we are, we can perhaps prevent diseases and treat and cure the ones in our DNA make-up throughout.
Almost every European alive today has around 3% Neanderthal DNA within. Although it is a scant amount, the very presence of Neanderthal DNA in our own makeup is is really quite impressive. Our ancestors were US. Now the challenge of our current time is to examine the DNA of perhaps our other ancestors in the ongoing chain of humanity.
The Neanderthals weren’t the only proto-man to walk on this planet. Donald Johanssen, from the Institute of Human Origins, discovered a finding in the Afar in Ethiopia. His partner was at it for eight long years, Zarai found an almost complete skeleton. Once they freed the skull from the limestone, there was almost a complete spine, shoulders, arms and hands. Never before had a child skeleton so ancient and so well preserved.
The finding suggested that this skeleton was from a familiar ancestor of ours – Australopithecus Afarensis and it was 3-4Million years old. It was the first to walk on two legs. To remove the limestone and sandstone took nearly a decade. Although her bones could fit into a shoebox, they told us volumes about who we are. He wouldn’t win a beauty pageants, but then again, what would he think of us??? They named her ‘’Salaam’’ which means ‘Peace.’’ By examining the teeth, we learned that Salaam was just three years old when she died. But her hip-bones were indicative of a being that walked upright.
Yet her shoulder blades were designed for swinging and climbing. She was covered with hair and the fifth and final toe was elongated to the point of giving her balance when she walked. The way that I have come to understand this is that essentially Salaam was just like us from the waist down, but from the waist up, she was all ape. This is the first glimpse of us being home in two different worlds.
Australopithecus was the only human of its kind to be at home in two worlds. They lived in trees and they walked upright. How does climate change affect living organisms? Clearly, the earth has gone through a series of climate change. Even in the last one hundred years we have seen some parts of the earth warm and other parts actually become cooler. The Sahara Desert was once a thriving forest. Humans had to move with the animals, and the energy required to make these migrations work.
Monkeys would have had to expend a lot more energy than a Human. Even today, a chimpanzee cannot compete with a human in terms of energy conservation. Walking on all four limbs, a chimp will expend an enormously greater amount of energy. So despite the fact that we are close to Chimpanzees, our DNA shows changes in the grand design. Genetics are opening doors we never thought possible, measuring time in genetic cycles. The Molecular Clock allows us to compare DNA from a related species to see how long ago they split from one another. Consider the implications regarding DNA. It changes itself at a surprisingly predictable rate. And, because we know the rate at which change occurs, we can scale backward with the Molecular Clock.* The results were stunning. Humans diverged from the apes much earlier – 5-7 Million years earlier. So, that opened up another great question. Where did we actually derive from?
A Piece of Time
The Molecular Clock and Estimating Species Divergence
By: Simon Ho, Ph.D. (Australia National University) 2008
Since its proposal in the 1960s, the molecular clock has become an essential tool in many areas of evolutionary biology, including systematics, molecular ecology, and conservation genetics. The molecular clock hypothesis states that DNA and protein sequences evolve at a rate that is relatively constant over time and among different organisms. A direct consequence of this constancy is that the genetic difference between any two species is proportional to the time since these species last shared a common ancestor. Therefore, if the molecular clock hypothesis holds true, this hypothesis serves as an extremely useful method for estimating evolutionary timescales. This is of particular value when studying organisms that have left few traces of their biological history in the fossil record, such as flatworms and viruses.
Each year, fossil hunters have combed through the Great Rift Valley in Ethiopia. It was now the time for someone to challenge the Western frontier of Africa. The barrier of the Sahara Desert stood in the way. Just 10,000 years ago, sudden natural changes in the earth turned a thriving ocean teaming with animals as diverse as Lobsters all the way up to whales.
In 1997, a French Anthologist named Michele Brunet made an important discovery. He thought that perhaps the bones found in the Rift Valley were already from migrating hominoids. . Despite being a fertile area, Brunet knew that mankind was on the move. What he did not know is from where. Brunet insisted on scouring the desert sands and in 2003 – he hit pay-dirt.
Staring at him like he was a long-lost friend was a skull, belonging to Sahelanthropus Tchadensis. The skull he found was an astounding 6-7 MILLION years old – over 2 million years than Lucy and Salaam. Although the skull was deformed, Brunet could make a cast of it in order to determine whether it was an upright bi-pedal.
Apes are very social animals that are almost fully formed by the age of three. However, humans take considerably more time. And we can surmise that this happened because we were becoming larger and more culturally specializing. Women didn’t need to hunt, they could gather. Brunet speculated that these six-million year old upright walkers were not unlike many of the others we identified.
More Anthropological finds were occurring. In the African Savannah. when ribs were found, the excitement grew. ‘Maybe more bones would be found.’’ Thought Johannsen. Then he discovered the spine was bent and compressed. This individual showed he suffered from Scoliosis. Scientists knew that humans didn’t suffer 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 he spread out of Africa, and migrated 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.
It appeared like the discovery of Homo-Erectus was the end of a mystery. But soon doubts began to arise. What about speech? How did Erectus sound? 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. Homo-Erectus was close, but not quite there yet.
The skeleton of the boy indicated that it could not speak. It was without the ability to communicate with one another. It would have looked like us from a distance, but it wasn’t us. The overall size was important too. Because relative to their size their brain was tiny. A chilling new picture was emerging ---- Homo-Erectus was the size of a large human with the brain of an infant.
When it comes to brain size, a five year old Neanderthal will have a brain the size of a modern adult human. A jumbo brain is a jumbo drain on the body. It's hard to fuel such a large brain. In Homo-Sapiens the brain accounts for 2-3% of the human body weight, but it consumes as much as 30% of the body's energy when it is at rest. By comparison, the brains of the other great apes require only 8-10% of rest-time energy.
The larger brains were not efficient for Neanderthals. They had to constantly feed it and their muscles often atrophied, As we evolved, we traded muscles for brain neurons. For survival on the Savannah a chimpanzee or even a gorilla can't out-think a human, but the can tear the limbs off of a human with relative ease.
The invention and use of fire helped brains in many ways too. A significant step on our way to the top was in how we used fire. Some humans may have had fire as far back as 800,000 years. With fire, humans now had a dependable source of light and warmth and also a means from protection against predatory animals. It's entirely possible that Neanderthals used fire deliberately, setting fire to huge swaths of terrain and harvesting the charcoaled animals left behind.
But the best use of fire was for cooking. Foods that humans cannot digest in their natural forms- such as wheat and rice and potatoes, became important parts of our diets thanks to cooking. Fire changed the chemistry of food and killed parasites and germs that were such a critical part of our mortality. It made for an easier time in chewing food, digesting proteins and preserving food for longer periods of time, which requires less calories and less in the way of hunting.
Consider a chimpanzee. It will spend up to five house a day chewing leaves and many other substances whereas a human can get away with less than an hour of total chewing for a 18 hours day. You can begin to see where Neanderthals started to lose out to Homo-Sapiens in the area of evolution. Cooking required less digestion; less digestion required less in the way of intestines, the second largest waster of energy.
Turkana Boy was also suffering from Sepsis. He had a terrible blood infection. Indications are that he had a kind of ‘’super-bug’’ not seen any more today. This super-bug would be devastating for us, but surprisingly the immune systems of these people seemed to be to handle most everything thrown its way. At some point, the boy just collapsed at the bank of the river. Was he afraid? Was he in insurmountable pain? Did he even know what was happening to him? We may never know. His body followed the current of the river. His teeth bore witness to the disease and he was in agony when he died.
Around 125,000 years ago, Homo-Sapiens searched for a new world out of Africa. An Ice-Age had enveloped the land. But nothing could prepare them for an astonishing discovery. They thought they were the only ones on the planet. But they were wrong. The Neanderthals were hauntingly different and yet fellow travelers on the journey out of Africa. What a moment that must have been.
It happened in the Middle East. This was site of the first contact between Homo-Sapiens and Neanderthals. In 1932, in Palestine, Dorothy Garrett discovered an ancient cemetery with the remains of ten skeletons. It was called Skoel and located in the caves. The tools and bones were very old, close to 100,000 years old. The raised brows reflected a slight difference between us. But then something bizarre happened. Not far from the findings of the Skoel people another cave happened to give up its dead. Tabun cave revealed quite a different look, dating to the same period. And these bones were shockingly different.
Not everything here is what it seems. The trail disappears after these families died out completely about 90,000 years ago, leaving no trail for the living once the ice-age ended with great expediency. This dead-end shows just how fragile humanity is and how climate change could have had a drastic effect. The very same climate change that turned the Sahara into desert also dropped the sea levels, allowing the first pioneers a way out through the Arabian peninsula.
Looking at the Red Sea at the ‘’Gate of Grief’’ is one of the few places where even a few families could have made it through. Genetists have been able to determine how many people made it out of Africa at just a few hundred people. It was an incredibly small sampling of a peoples whose appearance you owe your own survival to. Modern genome projects have determined that all humans can trace their lineage back to these small groups of wandering families out of Africa.
The Tabun woman had a double-bridged row and receding chin, and was very different than the bones buried just a few hundred yards away. Who were these strangers and where did they come from?
At first glance, it looks like homo-Sapiens wouldn't stand a chance against an adversary that was better adapted for the cold weather and much more muscular.
In northern Spain, there were 800,000 years of development. Teeth found there indicate thy were a meat eaters, descendants of Ergaster. These cave dwelling people lived for close to half-a million years and were called Homo-Hiedelbegensis. Found in a deep shaft were 2500 skeletons in a small pit and has been excavated to this day only partially. We uncovered many causes for deaths amongst these people. Some of the people died of disease, others were murdered, still more starved to death. They are the direct ancestors to the Neanderthals.
Survival in a land gripped by a bleak ice-age called for knowledge of how to live in an icy world. Neanderthals were far from the brooding idiots that we initially thought to be the case. They were seen as Evolutionary failures.
Standing side-by-side with a Neanderthal would be a daunting experience. Their skulls were nearly one-and-a-half times the size of our own. Their brows were strikingly different.
Their facial construction was adapted for the colder climate. The proportions of the middle part of the face are massive. There is no forehead to speak of and their powerful jaws and exceptionally large front teeth used for shredding and tearing. The thickness of their bones tell us they were capable of lifting great weight, capable of tearing a homo-sapiens apart. Large noses and nasal cavities helped to warm air that was inherently freezing. They used stone tools, used fire, and gathered food. But they were not tall, conserving heat through their build. It is adaptation that is key to survival, exactly as Darwin said it would be.
That First Meeting
Michael French Smith journeyed to Papua-New Guinea in 1973 and found himself staring into the eyes of the Toulambi Tribesmen. They had never seen anyone from the modern world and their reaction is one of fear, wonder, and finally acceptance.
The tribe believed him to be a ghost at first and even readied their arrows believing they would simply go through Smith. But he continued to speak to them, holding his hands out and making it obvious that he was nothing more than a real man. Untouched by modern civilization, there are tribes who simply have no idea a real world exists beyond their lands.
One wonders – was this what the first meeting between modern-humans and Neanderthals was like? Forensics of existing bones do not indicate that modern humans went on a murderous rampage as Raymond Dart had suggested in the early 1900s. Neanderthals lived alongside modern humans without apparent incident. Was it peaceful? Was the technology gap too great for Neanderthals to compete? We just do not know. But what a moment frozen in time that first contact must have been like. Modern human meets his own ancestor, and doesn’t have a clue as to what to make of it.
So the questions remains --- What did humans bring to the first meeting with Neanderthals?
The answer may be found in Kabara Cave on the Southern slopes of Mt. Carmel in Israel. This finding gave up an almost complete skeleton of a Neanderthal burial. And there is every indication that this was intentional. Carefully buried, this middle-aged man was laid with his hands folded upon his chest. The burial shows that Neanderthals thought of the afterlife. The skull is missing, indicating that it might have been used for a ceremonial purpose. The Neanderthals dug the hole, carefully laid the body, and extracted the skull – all by design.
In 1992, a Neanderthal child with clear designs of a burial by design. It was an exciting discovery. Once the mandible was exposed and it was clear that no chin was in existence with the child. The bones were laid out with the bones by her side, ostrich shells and other items were buried with her. Neanderthals and Humans lived side-by-side in the Middle East, parallel and similar – and yet they were not like us at all.
Humans and Neanderthals were vastly different for all of the things that made us seem alike. Verification of this fundamental difference comes from Germany. There are four times the genetic differences between humans and Neanderthals. A small sample of genetic material was taken from the bones of Neanderthals and they show something different entirely. It shows that Neanderthals evolved in Europe through Heidelbergensis, while early-humans emerged from Africa through Homo-Sapiens a mere 130,000 years ago.
Some 40,000 years ago, modern humans made their way into Europe and this proved to be a disaster for Neanderthals. Within 15,000 years, the original inhabitants would be extinct. The caves provided shelter for both. But humans had to move with the animals and their shelter was temporary, wherever they went. They survived and stayed close to the passing food, such as salmon and reindeer.
It was a mobile existence that had a paramount importance. They were able to provide a constant food supply and generations began to expand. Grandparents were now able to watch the children and the population began to grow, even as they constantly migrated and adapted.
The early humans created new tools for the different animals they hunted. They mastered their tools with greater finesse and were made for changing conditions. Constant change encouraged innovation and flexibility. New and sophisticated hunting tools were being made so that humans could begin hunting from longer and longer distances. Using resin, sinew, and fiber, they added hunting points and maintained a constant food supply. Neanderthals simply had not figured any of this out.
Their numbers were growing steadily and nomadic life opened their view of the world. They learned about each new landscape and climates as they transversed the hills and valleys and mountains and plains. They adapted wherever they went. Evidence of their innovation are seen in caves further and further away from their native homeland in Africa. As they went further north, they adapted even more.
Their imagination brought forth a new and exciting technical mastery of the materials needed to improvise their hunting arsenals. In addition, modern humans traded with other migrating modern humans as well. They exchanged ideas and shared knowledge of areas that each had traveled. We humans organized our movements with strategy, cunning, and skill. Trading allowed us to form alliances and to grow peacefully while mixing the gene pools for greater strength.
In stark contrast, the Neanderthals were not nearly as adaptive. They preferred to stay in one place as they lost their critical edge. They were driven by routine and predictability with permanent landscapes and their tools barely changed over 150,000 years and the raw materials they used were rarely garnered too far from their homes. Their diets strayed little.
Communication may have been difficult as the lower jaw and chin was not fully developed in Neanderthals. These are important muscles which allow for annunciation. A much greater portion of human communication is done through vocalizations. Humans have uniquely complex vocal chords, allowing us a great range of sounds, but preventing us from drinking and breathing simultaneously like chimpanzees can. Moreover, we have very muscular tongues and lips, allowing us accurate manipulations of our voices.
We find that early humans were fond of making art. They sculpted things from fertility symbols to children’s toys. They sculpted symbols that were found over a far and wide area of Europe. This reveals a network and commonality of purpose that Neanderthals simply never developed and never had. Common artwork indicates a common language as well. Whether it was the ‘click’ languages heard in ancient tribes of Africa today or something different altogether, there was clearly commonality between cultures and tools.
Neanderthals did not vary their hand-tools for hundreds of thousands of years. What they had worked well for what they did, to be sure, but it didn’t allow them to adapt. Humans had fishing hooks and small barbs that were added to spear-points. Neanderthal tools were quality and sharp, but it hardly allowed them to adapt to changing conditions. It is one of the most baffling mysteries of all time – why didn’t the Neanderthals innovate?
One possible answer is that perhaps they did not HAVE to innovate. With short life-spans and almost everything decided by the external forces of the environment, innovation wasn't the first thing necessary for their survival. We see that early migratory humans in southeast Asia didn't even have much in the way of tools. They used the plentiful bamboo for just about everything they needed to survive. Again, the answers of supply are often found in the demand.
Neanderthals linked two worlds; their other world was also present in this one. They seldom varied from their experience. The problem in human history is that experience teaches fear of change. Experience kills imagination. Experience has a tendency to make humanity conservative. Where are we evolving to and how will it affect us. What we are facing in terms of our own survival requires us to truly learn from the hominoids before us. Larger brains can only assess what are capabilities are today; they tell us little about tomorrow, and tomorrow requires the force of imagination, not wisdom from yesterday.
They hunted a now-extinct version of huge wild cattle called an Aurochs that appeared to fight them back. Evidence of bone fractures are commonplace. Their foraging never strayed too far and as a result, their diet never varied beyond their local ground clutter and occasional nuts. They most certainly developed food allergies due to the lack of variety, causing mass and rapid death in the event of famine or drought. Socially, they never showed signs of a trading network or a steady increase in population.
And then it happened. The roving bands of Homo-Sapiens met Neanderthals for the first time. We don’t know if there was a violent territorial conflict. But with fewer than 15,000 total in Europe this seems highly doubtful. More than likely, this first meeting, this first contact, was a peaceful one. It is likely here that we see a sudden change in Neanderthal weaponry, perhaps due to a harmonious exchange of information. Side-by-side, in a cave in the Middle-East, Neanderthals and Humans would have enjoyed their first meal together. Interbreeding was indeed a probability.
In Portugal, the careful burial of a four year old child shows a first-hand generational offspring with characteristics of both species. For a short while, Neanderthals suddenly flourished, indicating that the coexistence between the two species was peaceful and beneficial. But in order to really see if there was interbreeding, we would need to take a current sampling of a gene-pool and see if Neanderthal genes exist amongst our own.
The new analysis focuses on a jawbone from Oase 1, an early modern human found in Peștera cu Oase* ("Cave with Bones") in southwestern Romania in 2002. Anatomically modern humans populated Europe between 45,000 and 35,000 years ago. Oase 1 lived sometime between 42,000 and 37,000 years ago, making him one of Europe's earliest modern humans. Another jaw-bone found in the same area also has human-Neanderthal traits.
What Do We Make Of the ‘’Hobbit’’ People?
The Strange Story of Homo- Floresiensis
In 2003, a chance discovery was made of nine partial skeletons of ancient man was made on the island of Flores in the South Pacific, near Indonesia. It was barely over three feet tall and research has not been completed yet to determine if they represent a separate line of humans. They were at least intelligent enough to collaborate in hunting efforts. They were alive until just 12,000 years ago, making them the longest living non-human hominoid.
Many species confined to small islands become smaller themselves. Lack of resources has created an inability for species to grow large, which is why we have pygmy elephants and pygmy rhinoceros throughout these islands. This is called ‘’Insular Dwarfism’’ and is responsible for the malnutrition that occurs in tropical rainforests.
The People That Time Forgot
National Geographic's Account of the Discovery of The Hobbit People
We knew we had made a stunning discovery, but we didn't dare remove the bones for a closer look. The waterlogged skeleton was as fragile as wet blotting paper, so we left it in place for three days to dry, applied a hardener, then excavated the remains in whole blocks of deposit.
Cradled in our laps, the skeleton accompanied us on the flight back to Jakarta, Indonesia's capital. There Peter Brown, a paleoanthropologist from the University of New England in Australia, supervised cleaning, conservation, and analysis. The pelvic structure told him Hobbit was a female, and her tooth wear confirmed that she was an adult. Her sloping forehead, arched browridges, and nutcracker jaw resembled those of Homo erectus, but her size was unique.
It wasn't just her small stature and estimated weight—about 55 pounds (25 kilograms)—but a startlingly small brain as well. Brown calculated its volume at less than a third of a modern human's. Hobbit had by far the smallest brain of any member of the genus Homo. It was small even for a chimpanzee.
Why were the Flores humans so small? Biogeographer Mark Lomolino, who studies the phenomenon called island dwarfism, says, "We know that when evolutionary pressures change, some species respond by shrinking." Stegodonts—extinct elephant ancestors—were especially prone to dwarfing, because they often colonized islands. "Elephants are strong swimmers," he says. Once there, with limited food and fewer predators, they shrank. On Sicily, Crete, and Malta, scientists have unearthed bones from primitive elephants as little as a twentieth the size of mainland forms.
But other species, such as rats, tend to grow larger in a place without competitors. Flores yielded remains of giant rats and lizards, as well as cow-size dwarf stegodonts and diminutive human bones (shown above with stone tools and stegodont teeth). Peter Brown says the tiny Homo floresiensis may have evolved from a population of Homo erectus that reached Flores some 800,000 years ago. "The problem is we haven't found Homo erectus bones," says Brown. "All we have is these small-bodied people."
The last Neanderthal bones we have found are so close to our own, just 27,000 years ago. They shared the world with us, but their time was at hand. The enduring mystery however, is why.
In July of 2006, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany did a study with a large sampling of Europeans. The project took four years and detailed an initial draft of the Neanderthal genome based on the analysis of four billion base pairs of Neanderthal DNA. According to the findings, close to 99.7% of our genomes are identical. Humans and chimpanzees, thought to be close in such kinship, actually showed much less, at 93%.
The Genome Project offered tantalizing evidence of interbreeding. The landmark study answered the long-standing question of whether Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis interbred before humanity's closest relatives went extinct about 35,000 years ago. It showed that interbreeding was possible, with Neanderthals contributing roughly 1 to 4 percent of the genomes of all humans living today outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
That said, the obvious different appearances would not have likely made early humans attractive to Neanderthals and certainly the reverse is true. It leaves open the possibility of Neanderthal rape of humans as being the only likely source of a genetic mixing of the two peoples.
You might expect to see multiple branches of the family tree throughout the world. The genetic experiment did reveal a remarkable and stunning conclusion. The survivors on this planet today come from one distinct handful of people who adventured out of Africa. The genetics may be convincing but the geography is a huge problem. For these small groups, the deserts and water would have been possible but exceedingly difficult.
It could have been over the Straits of Gibraltar. It could have been a migration over the Red Sea and Golan heights. 125,000 years ago there was a change in the climate that made Africa much greener. The world’s most impassable desert suddenly blossomed for just a few thousand years. At least one band of pioneers made it through the Sahara and into the rest of the known world.
But there are several important things to consider:
We are a young species. Consider the fact that we are around 200,000 years old and some of the hominoids covered in this chapter are five million years old and perhaps even older.
Neanderthals and Humans are drastic in their differences. Without a doubt, it is easy to tell the two apart.
Modern humans have such a huge intellectual edge over Neanderthals that it hardly seems possible that the two could have even communicated let-alone mated. We quickly surpassed Neanderthals in sheer numbers, biodiversity, limb-morphology, and even an increased brain size.
Given our young age, there is an unfortunate limit to the genome sampling we can do with regards to Neanderthals as a single comparison. They have a 700,000 year age advantage on modern humans and thus our sampling is a mere fraction of theirs.
There are so many questions yet to be answered with regards to our own humanity. We also have to address where we might be evolving to as well. Both physically and culturally, we have to look harder at the things that have prevented us from overcoming the surroundings.
Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. For those who dismiss evolution in the sake of their spirituality and belief in God, I would submit that the two are mutually compatible. Science is not only compatible with our spirituality, but it is a profound source of our spirituality. It has been an epic adventure of discovery of how the first hominoids became us. Looking at the history of Mankind from a historical point of view, we are faced with more and more evidence that demands a verdict.
It is often said that once we begin to get answers to the questions involving our existence that we lose our romance. Is it our passion to figure out answers to questions and not our intention to deprive the world of its beauty and mystery. It is the deep internal stirring to figure out where we came from and how the world actually works. When you hear the music made by tribes in Africa or climb the Mayan pyramids in Central America or walk the inside granite and glass cathedrals of Medieval Europe, you cannot help but be amazed by our achievements.
Human history can be viewed as a slowly dawning awareness that we are members of a larger group with only one common root. In so many ways we have evolved wonderfully, adapting to space and time with fantastic results. But now we are faced with having evolved to the point of our own mutual destruction. Have we evolved too far and past the point of no return?
We can save many lives with the science and technology we have discovered, but we can also kill many lives with the science and technology we have discovered. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of peoples conquered? The earth is the only place known to hold life. It is where we made our first stand and it is where we will likely make our last stand. What keeps humanity balanced on that fine line?
Only tomorrow knows. ***
Dart, Raymond A. (1925), "Australopithecus africanus: The Man-Ape of South Africa", Nature115: 195–99, doi:10.1038/115195a0.
Conroy, G. C.; Falk, D.; Guyer, J.; Weber, G.W.; Seidler, H.; Recheis, W. (2000), "Endocranial capacity in Sts 71 (Australopithecus africanus) by three-dimensional computed tomography", Anat. Rec. 258: 391–396
* Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Deutscher Platz 604103 Leipzig
* Roach, John, National Geographic, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/04/0414_030314_strangeape.html
Hillary Mayell, National Geographic News