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NEW DEVELOPMENTS

 

November 2018

An abundance of developmental anomalies and abnormalities in Pleistocene people by Erik Trinkaus,

PNAS November 20, 2018, 115 (47) 11941-11946;

http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1814989115; See also supplementary information

 

This new PNAS paper is a very important scientific development (click to view paper). The author examined partial skeletons representing a wide cross-section of the early Homo bones. These bones are clearly human but are generally considered to be precursors to our own species (Homo sapiens). The author reports that this limited sample of bones includes “75 documented anomalies or abnormalities from 66 individuals, spanning the Pleistocene but primarily from the Late Pleistocene…” The author explains that the remarkably high frequency of skeletal pathologies could not possibly be due to chance. The author suggests that these populations were almost certainly undergoing genetic degeneration due to inbreeding – as is expected in any small and isolated human population. 

 

This new paper strongly supports a primary thesis of our two books Contested Bones and Genetic Entropy. The widely presumed “pre-humans” such as Homo erectusHomo floresiensis, and Homo naledi were neither pre-human nor less-than-human. They were members of our own species who were undergoing accelerated genetic degeneration due to severe and extended inbreeding. 

 

 

January 2018

Observations Made in a Recent Article by Leading Paleo-experts

Confirm Several Major Points in Contested Bones

 

 An article was recently published in The Conversation.[1] It was written by Bernard Wood, a leading paleo-expert of George Washington University, and Wood and Michael Westaway, Senior Research Fellow, Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution. The article confirms several major themes in our new book, Contested Bones. These major points are summarized below:

 

Confirmed Observation 1: Paleoanthropology is a field in deepening crisis. With every new discovery, the ape-to-man story becomes ever more complicated, ever more convoluted, and simultaneously calls all previous claims into question. Did humans arise in East Africa, South Africa, Europe, or Asia? Leading experts just don’t know anymore. 

 

Wood and Westaway write: 

 

The question of where we humans come from is one many people ask, and the answer is getting more complicated as new evidence is emerging all the time.

 

One of the many new pieces of evidence they site that throws the story into greater turmoil is the finding of human artifacts and bones from Jebel Irhoud in Morocco.This evidence is cited in an update listed in our November 2017 update (see earlier post below). The article links to a separate article by Michelle Langley, also of the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution.[2] She explains the significance of these north African findings stating, 

 

The original story went something like this: modern humans (Homo sapiens) evolved to their current anatomical form in sub-Saharan Africa sometime after 200,000 years ago. They hung around for a bit, then groups started moving out of the homeland. … But fresh evidence has forced a rethink of this version of human history. … New analyses of human fossils have pushed back our earliest recognisable modern ancestors to around 310,000 years. And they weren’t found in eastern or southern Africa (like previous fossil finds), but from a site called Jebel Irhoud in Morocco. These findings have raised questions regarding exactly how – and where – we became “modern”.

 

Langley asks,

 

Where did we humans come from? Some 40 or so years ago, our origins seemed quite straightforward. But now we see that the human story is far more complex.

 

Confirmed Observation 2: Recent DNA analyses continue to confirm that all of the reputed Homo species proposed by taxonomic “splitters” all coexisted, intermingled, and interbred. Based on the biological species concept, this is the best possible confirmation that they are all fully human, Homo sapiens.

 

Langley writes,

 

Perhaps the most intriguing new evidence comes from the analysis of ancient DNA samples. 

 

These studies are showing that interactions between the “new” humans (Modern Humans like you and me) and the “old” humans (NeanderthalsDenisovansHomo erectusHomo florensiensis, that are all now extinct) was not just a case of simple replacement. Instead, it appears that groups of new and old humans intermingled, interbredfought, and interacted in a multitude of different ways which we are still disentangling.

 

Langley’s observation is in complete agreement with numerous other experts in the field who have described the various Homo variants (Neanderthals, Denisovans, Erectus, Hobbit, Naledi etc.) as being part of a large, interbreeding “metapopulation” (see chapter 11). Thus, all the reputed Homo species coexisted, interacted, and interbred. These findings argue against the claims made by “splitters” that these various hominins are separate species of man. These findings further confirm that there is no discernable evolutionary progression within the genus Homo (see chapter 14).

 

Confirmed Observation 3: Homo habilis is now largely rejected by paleo-community as a credible human ancestor. There is growing suspicions that Habilis should never have been included in the genus Homo to begin with. The overall body plan of Habilis most closely resembles the apish australopithecines. Wood has acknowledged in Nature (2014) [3] that Habilis is too unlike H. erectus to be considered an evolutionary precursor to man (see chapter 8). Wood and Westaway reaffirms this observation in their latest article (cited above) stating:

 

… some researchers think that Homo habilis and Homo rudolfensis are not different enough from the australopiths that preceded them to justify being included in the genus Homo.

 

There is a developing consensus that the relaxation of the criteria more than 50 years ago that saw the inclusion of Homo habilis into the genus Homo needs to be reconsidered.

 

Excluding the human bones that have been mistakenly included in the hypodigm of the reputed taxon, Homo habilis (see chapter 11)—the overall anatomy of the bones called Habilis is clearly ape (see chapter 8). This supports Wood’s recent observation that the origin of the genus Homo remains “elusive”. The paleo-community cannot honestly say that the fossil evidence supports the evolution of man.

 

Confirmed Observation 4: Do smaller brains necessarily mean less intelligent and therefore “more primitive” in origin? Paleo-experts are increasingly baffled by many new findings that continue to confirm a major observation that is at odds with traditional evolutionary thinking. It turns out, smaller brains do not mean “primitive” or “less-evolved”. The tiny small-bodied modern human, Homo floresiensis (nicknamed “Hobbit”) appears to have had an impressive cultural inventory (see chapter 5). Even Homo erectus, which has always been thought to be an intellectually unimpressive species, now shows signs of modern human cognition. For instance, Langley describes what are thought to be “geometric motifs”, aka, “Paleolithic art” engraved in shells from Java, Indonesia: 

 

Looking back at material excavated from the first known locality of Homo erectus fossils – Trinil on Java, originally discovered by Eugène Dubois in 1891 – scientists stumbled upon a shell exhibiting a zig-zag pattern. This shape had been carefully inscribed using a stone tool more than 400,000 years ago (and perhaps as much as 500,000!). 

 

These findings lend additional support for the fully human status of the various reputed Homo species. This is consistent with the observation made by paleo-experts known as “lumpers” who regard Hobbit, Erectus, Naledi, Neanderthals, Denisovans, etc. as variants of a single species, Homo sapiens. We came to the same conclusion in Contested Bones (see Section I and chapters 11 and 14). 

 

[1] https://theconversation.com/the-origin-of-us-what-we-know-so-far-about-where-we-humans-come-from-54385

[2] https://theconversation.com/worlds-scientists-turn-to-asia-and-australia-to-rewrite-human-history-88697

[3] http://www.nature.com/news/human-evolution-fifty-years-after-homo-habilis-1.14957

 

 

January 2018

More Evidence that Homo naledi from the Dinaledi Chamber is Fully Human

 

Virtually all paleoanthropologists now recognize Homo naledi as being unquestionably human (Homo), not ape (australopith). This is based upon many lines of anatomical evidence, including the human jaw and teeth (Figure 1), the vertical face (with distinct cranial dome), the general body proportions (short arms, long legs), distinctly human hands and feet, and a distinctly human spine. The hands and feet in particular are unmistakably human, and not at all like the hands or feet of australopithecines. Some may question this by pointing out the striking similarity of H. naledi’s hands when compared to the hands of Australopithecus sediba. Yet, in chapter 9, we discuss why we agree with paleo-experts who insist Au. sediba is a chimeric skeleton (a mixture of human and australopith bones). Thus, the hands of Au. sediba are actually human, so it makes sense Naledi’s hands would look essentially the same. There is no question that in a side-by-side comparison with modern humans, Naledi’s hands and feet are anatomically human.

 

This anatomical evidence is complemented by cultural evidence of deliberate burial requiring great ingenuity and controlled use of fire. Most recently it has been shown that the H. naledi bones are much younger than any australopith (assuming for the sake of argument the reliability of conventional dating methods), and are contemporary with modern man (see chapter 10 in Contested Bones).  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1. Homo naledi jaw and teeth (left) are indistinguishable from the jaw and teeth of modern humans. It is markedly different than the jaws of the australopithecines (right), which look more similar to a female bonobo.[1],[2]

 

Nevertheless, some arguments might be used to suggest that H. naledi is not human. For example, it might be claimed that curvature of some bones in the hands and feet, flaring hips, and small brain volume suggest H. naledi is less than human. However, these secondary anatomical features of H. naledi are not unique—they are also seen in humans. Modern humans can develop curved finger bones due to heavy use in climbing (even spelunking), or from habitual tool use. Modern humans with pathologies can have flaring hips (as is also seen in the pathologic modern human, Homo floresiensis and also in some examples of Homo erectus and Neanderthal). Lastly, humans, can have body size and brain volume comparable to H. naledi (see chapter 4, 5, and 10 in Contested Bones).  

 

Regarding H. naledi’s brain, it is important to realize that its actual brain volume is still unknown (no skull was found complete, so various skull parts from various individuals of diverse ages were cobbled together to make a very crude estimate of average brain size). Furthermore, the crania had to be reconstructed digitally. Digital reconstructions involve “a load of assumptions” (as paleo-expert John Hawks notes) and introduces a much greater degree of uncertainty than do physical reconstructions. Moreover, large “holes” of missing portions of the skull needed to be digitally “filled in” to complete the two composite cranial reconstructions. Consequently, we feel it is unwise to make taxonomic assignments based largely on the questionable reconstruction of the fragmentary cranial material. A more confident assessment can be made based on the nearly complete bones of the hands, feet, and lower jawbone.

 

Lastly, H. naledi’s brain size may have been greatly reduced by the well-recognized phenomena of reductive evolution (more specifically, island dwarfism). Under starvation conditions over many generations, natural selection can favor reduced brain size, because the brain is the most energy-consuming organ of the body. The same phenomenon has been observed in mammals living in isolation and has also been suspected of the pathologic modern human, Homo floresiensis and the small-brained H. sapiens fossil collection from the Andaman Islands, Palau (see chapter 5 and chapter 10).

 

Perhaps the most compelling evidence that H. naledi is fully human comes the new publication involving very recent endocast scans of H. naledi’s brain case, as described below.

 

Endocast Scans Show Homo naledi had a Human Brain

 

A team headed by paleo-experts Shawn Hurst and Ralph Holloway performed a more recent endocast scan of the partial H. naledi skulls. They presented their findings at the Annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in New Orleans. Consistent with preliminary assessments of earlier endocast scans (see chapter 10), these researchers concluded that H. naledi does indeed appear to have had a brain configuration unique to modern humans. They were able to identify two grooves indicating the presence of Brodmann area 45 (part of Broca’s area), which is involved in speech production—a brain organizational pattern that is not present in apes.

 

The findings of these paleo-experts were reported in New Scientist in April of 2017.[3] The title of the article states: “Mystery human species Homo naledi had tiny but advanced brain.” The article continues,

 

It’s not the size of your brain, it’s how you organise [sic] it. The most recently discovered species of early human had a skull only slightly larger than a chimpanzee’s, but its brain looked surprisingly like our own—particularly in an area of the frontal lobe with links to language. 

 

Paleo-expert John Hawks, a lead member of the discovery team, said it best: “You look at the naledi cast and you think—holy crap this is just a tiny human.”[4] His description is precisely the conclusion we came to in our analysis in Contested Bones (see chapter 10). H. naledi were tiny humans, but that does not mean that they were less-than human, as Berger has claimed. Hurst notes, as reported in Science News, that the scans appear to reveal that H. naledi was capable of “social emotions and advanced communication of some type.”[5]

 

As is typical in the field, other researchers contested these claims. Paleoneurologist Dean Falk (who was not involved with this study) remained skeptical of the presence of the human speech area. However, Holloway presented additional evidence at the New Orleans meeting that supported a human organizational pattern. Looking at the scans showing the rear of the H. naledi braincase, Holloway observed the presence of two lobes that he understood to be “very important for complex social behaviour.”[6]

 

The latest H. naledi endocast scans are consistent with many other observations that we have cited in chapter 10 (including preliminary assessments of earlier endocast scans). The bottom line is that if H. naledi was fully human, it makes perfect sense that their brains would be organized like modern human’s, and different from those of apes. The human-looking brain pattern seen in the endocast scans is also consistent with claims made by Berger and colleagues, who have insisted that H. naledi deliberately disposed of their dead in the a nearly inaccessible region of the cave that would require firelight by torch to traverse. The new endocast data affirms all the other anatomical and cultural evidences—Homo naledi was an isolated population of very tiny, genetically compromised human beings.

 

[1]. See page 110 in Lucy’s Child by Don Johanson and James Shreeve, for a comparison of the jaws of a chimpanzee, Au. afarensis, and modern humans. The jawbone in figure 1 above on the right is attributed to Au. anamensis.

[2]. Image courtesy: https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=128106

[3]. Barras C., Mystery human species Homo naledi had tiny but advanced brain, New Scientist, 24 April 2017. Accessed 11/28/17; https://www.newscientist.com/article/2128583-mystery-human-species-homo-naledi-had-tiny-but-advanced-brain/

[4]. Barras C., Mystery human species Homo naledi had tiny but advanced brain, New Scientist, 24 April 2017. Accessed 11/28/17; https://www.newscientist.com/article/2128583-mystery-human-species-homo-naledi-had-tiny-but-advanced-brain/

[5]. Bower B., Homo naledi’s brain shows humanlike features, Science News, 25 April 2017. Accessed 11/28/17; https://www.sciencenews.org/article/homo-naledis-brain-shows-humanlike-features

[6]. Barras C., Mystery human species Homo naledi had tiny but advanced brain, New Scientist, 24 April 2017. Accessed 11/28/17; https://www.newscientist.com/article/2128583-mystery-human-species-homo-naledi-had-tiny-but-advanced-brain/

 

 

 

November 2017

Findings from Crete, Morocco, California, and the Latest Naledi Age Estimates

 

A series of milestone papers were published in late 2017 as this book was going to press. The findings summarized below have profound implications for the ape-to-man story and call into question many major claims that have been made in the field since the 70s. These findings confirm that the ape-to-man story is a theory in deepening crisis, and simultaneously confirms theses outlined in multiple chapters in this book. 


1) Anatomically modern human-looking footprints have been found in Crete that date to approximately 5.7 million years old. This finding suggests humans significantly predate our reputed australopithecine ancestors. Thus Lucy, Ardi, Sediba, Habilis, or any other Pliocene hominin species, cannot reasonably be our ancestor. Greece’s island of Crete is well outside of Africa (the assumed pre-Pliocene hominin range), and so directly conflicts with the ape-to-man story. Yet, these findings are remarkably consistent with our alternative model (discussed in chapter 14).

 

2) Homo sapiens fossils from Morocco were assigned a revised age of 315,000 years old. The H. sapiens collection from Morocco predates what was previously seen as the oldest known occurrence of H. sapiens (skullcaps from Omo Kibish), dated about 195,000 years old. This greatly extends the coexistence of H. sapiens with their reputed archaic forbearers/contemporaries including Neanderthals, Denisovans, Erectus, Naledi, and Hobbit (discussed in chapter 11). This greatly confounds any claims of an evolutionary progression within the genus Homo.

 

3) A date has finally been assigned to H. naledi.  Normally the age of hominin bones are reported at the same time as the publication of the announcement paper. But because the various dating methods did not agree, it took two years of trial and error before multiple estimates were reported. In 2017 the H. naledi fossils were dated as being 236,000–335,000 years old (how the dates were chosen is discussed further in chapter 12). This is a game-changer. Naledi had to be around 2–3 million years old in order to serve as a transitional “bridge” species linking the australopiths to the genus Homo. This new date falsifies the “almost human” status of H. naledi claimed by Berger, because H. naledi would have lived long after the Homo species it is claimed to have given rise to (such as Erectus and Neanderthal). 

 

4) A new paper in Nature (2017) announced finding hammerstones and anvils in Southern California associated with processed mastodon remains. These tools were assigned an age of approximately 130,000 years old, which presents a serious problem for the Out of Africa theory. This is long before the reputed migration of early H. sapiens out of Africa 50,000–100,000 yeas ago. Previous to these findings, the earliest evidence of humans in the Americas dates from roughly 12,000–14,000 years ago.

 

All the major paleoanthropological claims from the last 50 years are now in doubt. The modern theory is clearly in a state of disarray and confusion. Paleo-experts can no longer be certain that the genus Homo evolved from the australopiths. They can no longer say when and where the first Homo sapiens appeared.