The Mystery of the Khosian
2019, November 9: In just two years, we have changed the earliest date for species homo from 3.8Million years to 5.2M years, and with the discovery of the oldest primate skeleton in Germany just this last week, we can begin to see that any thought of a linear evolutionary path has gone out the window. It has to be hard for us to imagine that multiple species of people very much like us existed at the same time.
More than 11 million years ago, an oddball ape equipped with human-like legs and robust ape-like arms clambered across tree limbs, possibly escaping feline predators. That's the picture that scientists have gleaned about a new species of fossil ape discovered in Bavaria.
The ape creature may have also used a weird locomotion never seen until now, shedding light on how the ancestors of humans may have evolved to walk on two legs, a new study finds.
These findings may also yield insights on how the ancestors of modern great apes evolved to favor their arms for movement, the researchers added.
A key trait distinguishing humans from our closest living relatives — modern great apes, including chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans — is how we stand upright and walk on our feet. This bipedal posture ultimately helped free our hands for tool use, helping humanity spread across the planet.
In contrast, modern great apes possess elongated arms they use during movement. For example, chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas practice knuckle-walking, whereas orangutans walk using their fists on the ground, and all modern great apes have anatomical traits that let them swing from branch to branch using only their arms — a locomotion method called brachiation.
Much remains uncertain about the origin of locomotion in hominins — the group of species that includes humans and their relatives after their split from the chimpanzee lineage — because scientists have lacked the appropriate fossil evidence. Previous research has suggested that humans evolved from a four-legged animal that either placed the palms of their hands and soles of their feet on the ground as they walked, similar to living monkeys, or favored suspending their bodies from trees as they moved, similar to modern chimpanzees.
Since the 1970s, paleontologists have unearthed many fossils of ape species from Europe and Africa, from the middle to late Miocene epoch about 13 million to 5.3 million years ago, when they think the ape and human lineages diverged. However, none of these fossils preserved completely intact limb bones, limiting how much insight researchers could glean regarding how these ancient species moved.
Now, scientists have unearthed a new fossil great ape with complete limb bones that lived during the Miocene about 11.62 million years ago in what is now Bavaria in Germany.
Madelaine Böhme, a paleontologist at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen in Germany, told Live Science.
The researchers estimated Danuvius weighed between 37 and 68 lbs. (17 and 31 kilograms). The males would have been larger than the females, suggesting Danuvius favored polygyny, where males had multiple female mates, Böhme said.
When Danuvius was alive, the area where it was found was a hot, flat landscape with forests alongside meandering rivers not far from the edges of the Alps, Böhme said. Its teeth revealed that it belonged to a group of fossil ape species called dryopithecines that some previous research suggested might be the ancestors of modern African apes. The thick enamel on its teeth suggests that Danuvius ate hard items, she noted.
The slightly elongated arms of the four or more specimens of Danuvius that the scientists unearthed suggested that it could hang from trees just like modern great apes. Still, its finger bones were not as robust as one would expect of knuckle-walkers.
Writers Note: It was a stunning find in an unexpected place. Three-hundred-thousand years old, 100,000 years older than anything previously discovered, they stretched the timeline of Homo sapiens, our distant ancestors, further into the past. It left humanity with a new first chapter, blank and waiting to be written. But it was where the fossils were found that was more intriguing still. Ethiopia was previously the site of the oldest Homo sapiens fossils, and East Africa has long been considered the "cradle of life." However, these new finds came from Jebel Irhoud in Morocco.
A long-held anthropological narrative became more complex. What were these hominids doing on the other side of the continent? Had they evolved in isolation to sapiens in East Africa? What happened during these extra 100,000 years, and could we determine a new starting point for humanity?
Excavated from what was once a barite mine 250 miles from the capital Rabat, the fossils were sent for study to the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. It was here in the thermoluminescence laboratory that advanced dating technology was used to determine the fossils' age.
Alongside sapiens remains at Jebel Irhoud, archaeologists found stone tools that had been burnt with fire. Using thermoluminescence detectors, scientists could establish when an artifact was heated.
"If you have a strong light emission, you have an old artifact. If you only have a very low light emission, you have a very young artifact," explains Tobias Lauer, a post-doctoral researcher at the institute.
"Normally you have an error range of about 10%. If you get an age of around 300,000 years, it means that you have plus (or) minus 30,000 ... it's extremely helpful for us."
CT scans were also used to create hundreds of two-dimensional X-rays of the fossils, compiled to create three-dimensional avatars (see below, courtesy MPI). These computer models are an invaluable way to rebuild fossils that may have broken or missing pieces.
With the pieces assembled as best they could be, a team has been charged with filling in the blanks on the life of these ancient sapiens. "It's like a puzzle," says Jean-Jacques Hublin, director of the department of human evolution. "We have to put together, to reconstruct, not just the anatomy of these humans but also their lifestyle, their activities.
"The face of these people is a face like my face; it's a face (like) somebody you could cross in the street today," he adds. But there are still significant differences.
"(Through) the course of 300,000 years many things happen, and in particular their brain case and the brain inside is big, but is different in morphology to what we have today -- we suspect not just in morphology but also in the kind of wiring of the brain."
The bridge between the Moroccan fossils and us is "mostly a story of brain evolution," says Hublin.
"Recent discoveries in paleogenetics and genetics show that in this time period, there were a series of mutations affecting brain functioning, brain connectivity, brain development that occurred within our lineage.
"It seems to be something specific to our species that we don't find in other groups of the same period, like Neanderthals or Denisovans or others."
But while there's a strong record of the evolution of many other hominids, "the origin of our own species is much more mysterious," says Hublin.
Until recently it was considered a sort of "enigmatic emergence" of Homo sapiens occurred, originating from sub-Saharan Africa, most likely East Africa, from a "restricted area" and occurring quickly. The find at Jebel Irhoud has caused this narrative to be "completely revised," says the study leader. This doesn't mean Morocco is the new cradle of life; instead, that our ancestors were much more dispersed, and much earlier, than previously thought. (It's worth noting that at the time the Sahara was not a desert, but in fact a lush green grassland, rich in flora and fauna.)
"The notion that somehow just a corner of Africa is involved in the origin of our species -- I think we can forget it," says Hublin. "If there is a Garden of Eden in Africa, this Garden of Eden is the size of the continent." s announced earlier this year, the institute, a pioneer in the field of fossil DNA extraction and genome mapping, was unable to recover DNA samples from the current Jebel Irhoud find. But this month archaeologists returned to the excavation site to source more artifacts for testing.They're working with a firmer platform and greater understanding of our origins than before.
"Science is a sort of perpetual reworking of knowledge," muses the project leader. "The tree of hominids is a tree with a picture that is a bit fuzzy. There are many parts that are visible, and so what we're doing is we're completing this picture ... or having a picture that is more in focus."I think with Jebel Irhoud, we touched an essential branch of this tree. Because it's our branch.''
The Mystery of the Khosian
The Khosian Peoples, perhaps the purist Homo-Sapiens on the Planet
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, it's doubtful we would know of them.
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. The desert plains of Botswana, Angola and the horn of Africa are without borders to these people. They have been living here for at least 50,000 years. They follow the animals and live in subsistence existence. And they might just be among the purist human species alive today.
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.
How Do We Explain Genetic Heredity?
Lucy Turkana Boy Homo-Naledi
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. But that's only one theory. Something killed off the Neanderthals - we just aren't sure what that is yet.
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.
These 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 seems to have happened in the Middle East. This was site of the first contact between Homo-Sapiens and Neanderthals. In 1932, in the territory of what is now Israel, 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. They were just developing sweat glands and their knees pointed slightly outward.
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.
Homo-Sapiens and Neanderthals - What Do You Think Happened?
1) Sapiens simply out-manuever, out-hunt, and war against Neanderthals
2) Sapiens bring new diseases which Neanderthals were unprepared for
3) Sapiens interbreed with Neanderthals and come in such great numbers that the Neanderthal gene-pool was quickly diluted
4) Sapiens did NOT war against Neanderthals, and did NOT inter-breed with them, but simply out-numbered them and re-produced at a faster rate.
5) Sapiens had little-to-no effect on Neanderthals. Instead, they simply had an infant mortality rate that was higher than their reproduction rate. For every infant born, 1.5 adults died. At this rate, even a modest population of 30,000 would be eliminated in just seventy-five to a hundred years.
6) Sudden climate change caused Neanderthals challenges they were poorly equipped to handle. Changes in diet and inability to digest new foods caused starvation. There is considerable evidence of this being a supporting cause.
7) Sudden climate changes caused a new need for different technology. For over 200,000 years the Neanderthals rarely came up with anything new in the manner of technology.
8) Perhaps it's ALL of these or SOME of these, and perhaps it's something we haven't even uncovered yet!
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 People That Time Forgot
National Geographic's Account of the Discovery 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.
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.
The Counter Argument- the Other Side of The Story:
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.
First to Flores
Special Update, April 22, 2017
By Alice Klein From New Scientist
The identity of the mysterious Homo floresiensis, aka the hobbit, has once again been turned on its head. New research suggests the tiny hominin evolved from an unknown ancestor that was the first to ever venture out of Africa.
Remains of the extinct species were first discovered on the island of Flores in Indonesia just over a decade ago, but there is still fierce debate about where they came from.
The dominant idea has been that H. floresiensis was descended from the larger Homo erectus, an extinct human species that once occupied Asia. Proponents believe ancestors of H. erectus were the first humans to stray out of Africa about 1.8 million years ago.
The theory is that after members of the big-bodied group reached Flores, they gradually shrunk to just 1 metre tall because of the scarce island resources.
Another possibility is that the hobbits were simply short members of our own species – Homo sapiens. The miniature size of the one skull that has been uncovered could be the result of Down syndrome.
Now, the most comprehensive analysis yet suggests the hobbits were, in fact, descended from a mystery ancestor that lived in Africa over 2 million years ago. Some members of this ancestral group remained in Africa and evolved into Homo habilis – the first makers of stone tools. The others moved out of Africa about 2 million years ago – before H. erectus did – and arrived in Flores at least 700,000 years ago.
“As this ancestor spread through south and south-east Asia and then finally onto Flores, it would have gradually changed, finally becoming H. floresiensis,” says Colin Groves at the Australian National University, who co-authored the study.
His team constructed the hobbit’s family tree by carefully comparing skull, jaw, teeth, arm, leg and shoulder fossils with other Homo species and more primitive ancestors. Previous research had only focused on skull and jaw characteristics.
They found that H. floresiensis was far more closely related to H. habilis than to H. erectus or H. sapiens, suggesting it came from an ancient lineage and shared a common ancestor with H. habilis. This is reinforced by its more primitive, diminutive body type.
The hobbit’s ancestors probably died out across Asia when bigger, more complex human species like H. erectus and H. sapiens later emerged from Africa, Groves says. H. floresiensis was probably only able to cling on in Flores for as long as it did because of its isolation, he says. There’s no fossil evidence to indicate that H. erectus ever it made it to the island.
So what happened to H. floresiensis in the end? The species appears to have died out soon after H. sapiens left Africa 60,000 years ago and pushed into Asia. It’s possible that a clash between the two species spelled the end of the mysterious Indonesian hobbits.
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 end 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. This complex reality which binds us all together as one then leaves us with one daunting question.......What keeps humanity balanced on that fine line?
Only tomorrow knows. ***
Below: Me with a Second Edition of Darwin's ''Origin of Species''
Purchased at an Estate Sale for $25
Bottom: This is my collection of Neanderthal and early Homo-Sapien artifacts and tools
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