Anthropological items

From: Glenn Morton (
Date: Sat Jul 06 2002 - 20:37:22 EDT

  • Next message: Jay Willingham: "Re: Anthropological items"

    It has been a while since I have posted anything on fossil man. The most
    interesting news item concerns the discovery of a very small brained hominid
    at Dmanisi, Georgia. This skull was found in association with larger brained
    H. erectus' and it dates to 1.7 million years. The first two skulls found at
    Dmanisi have brain-sizes of 800 cc, this one has a brain-size of 600
    cc--smaller than the brain size of any normal human being (the smallest was
    Daniel Lyon, an Irishman of the last century who had a brain size of 700 cc.
    There is some spculation that this new skull might very well be habilis, in
    which case it would be the only known case of habilis living with erectus
    and would have serious implications for how the habilines evolved into

    Migration of Homo erectus out of Africa

    Speaking of the first H. erectus outside of Africa (above), there is new
    evidence of when H. erectus left africal. At Erk-el-Ahmar,Jordon, Oldowan
    tools were found (Oldowan tools are the oldest form of stone tools known).
    Dating by magnetostratigraphy shows that the stone tools are between 1.8-2
    million years old. This would be consistent with the earliest known
    occurrences of H. erectus outside of Africa. He had the technology and
    intelligence to essentially inhabit the vast majority of the Old World.
    Erectus is found from Java to China, to Georgia, to Italy prior to 800,000
    years ago.

    > Early human sites
    > Longupo Cave, China 1.9 myr
    > Java 1.8 myr
    > Turkana Kenya 1.6-1.9 myr
    > Dmanisi Georgia 1.7 myr
    > Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania 1.2-1.8 myr
    > Ubeidiya, Israel 1.5 myr
    > Gongwanling, China 1.1 myr

    see Constance Holden, žVery Old Tools,Ó Science, 295(2002):795

    No other animal spread so rapidly as did H. erectus. It appears that he was
    much more capable than we often give him credit.

    Neanderthal Efficiency.

    A new study of Levallois stone tool techniques show how they maximize the
    cutting edge and minimize wastage. It seems that the Neanderthals, who
    invented this technique, were not so stupid after all. The temporal
    persistence of this tool type may not have been due to lack of inventiveness
    on the part of the Neanderthals, but simply that most experiments resulted
    in worse results. The report says:

    žRecent volumetric definitions of Levallois core technology are amenable to
    mathematical modelling. We present a simple geometric model that permits
    controlled manipulation of a few of the key parameters defining Levallois
    core morphology. The models indicate that Levallois cores are relatively
    efficient at minimizing raw material waste while at the same time maximizing
    productivity in terms of total number of tool blanks and amount of cutting
    edge produced. Deviations from an ideal Levallois geometry produce
    significant declines in both efficiency and productivity. These results
    implicate mechanical and economic constraints as factors underlying the
    broad geographic distribution and temporal persistence of Levallois core
    technologies during the Middle and Late Pleistocene.Ó P. Jeffrey
    Brantingham, Steven L. Kuhn, žConstraints on Levallois Core Technology: A
    Mathematical ModelÓ Journal of Archaeological Science,Vol. 28, No. 7, July
    1, 2001pp. 747-761

    Ornamentation may simply be due to population expansion

    A study by Mary Stiner concerning the food remains in caves in Turkey and
    Lebanon have convinced Stiner and her team that there was a population
    explosion in those regions between 40-50 kyr ago. The news account says:
        "The archaeologists have noticed a shift in diet during this time from
    slow-reproducing animals that are relatively easy to capture ("unless," says
    Kuhn "you have a really bad back"), like tortoises and shellfish, to quickly
    reproducing, hard-to-catch game like rabbits and birds. They speculate that
    a burgeoning human population forced people to broaden their diet to include
    animals that were more difficult to hunt."

        "Finds of shell beads from places like –Ńagizli Cave in Turkey and Ksar'
    Akil in Lebanon also suggest a growing population. "You use ornaments to
    identify things about yourself," says Kuhn. "The target audience for the
    beads is people who are more or less strangers, that know just enough about
    you to understand what ornaments mean. As populations grow, you deal with
    more strangers. Beads are a new form of communication, so that you know at a
    distance who the person is and how you should deal with them."--ERIC A.

    Of Mice and Men

    While we may only be 2% different in DNA from us to the chimps (99.6% if
    only genes are considered), there is only 2.5% difference between mice and
    men. This says that only small changes in the DNA are required to radically
    alter body plan.

    Neanderthal plant use

    Neanderthals were not so different from us. They used plants in much the
    same way was modern, technologically primitive humans do. The report says:

    "The Amud Neanderthals emphasized both wood and grass exploitation. Ligneous
    parts of trees and shrubs were used mainly for fuel. Herbaceous plants were
    used for bedding, possibly fuel, and for food. There is clear and repetitive
    evidence for the exploitation of mature grass panicles, inferred to have
    been collected for their seeds. These findings suggest that, as with the
    pattern recently discerned for faunal resources, a broad spectrum of plants
    has been exploited from at least the end of the Middle Palaeolithic.
    Phytolith analysis now provides a tool for testing models explaining
    subsistence and mobility patterns during the Levantine Middle Palaeolithic
    and for better understanding the role of vegetal resources in shaping these
    patterns." Marco Madella et al, "The Exploitation of Plant Resources by
    Neanderthals in Amud Cave (Israel): The Evidence from Phytolith Studies",
    Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 29, No. 7, July 1, 2002, pp. 703-719

    Evidence for active hunting 1.5 myr ago.

    There has been a long running controversy in anthropology about when active
    hunting began. By this it is meant active hunting as opposed to scavenging
    the kills of lions and hyaenas. A recent abstract adds evidence in favor of
    hunting. It says:

    žAn assemblage of 1Ö5Ma Oldowan sites situated on a paleosol of Maritanane,
    Peninj (Tanzania) presents a new type of archaeological record characterized
    by abundant faunal remains associated to a small amount of stone tools over
    an extensive area. The widespread nature of the archaeological materials,
    together with different weathering stages of the fauna and articulated
    clusters of bones suggests that hominids redundantly visited the area to
    obtain and process animal carcasses. Bone surface analyses indicate that
    hominids had primary access to fully fleshed carcasses, and that carnivore
    activity was restricted to post-depositional ravaging. Given that a high
    degree of competition among carnivores seems to have existed in the
    paleohabitats near the location where the ST Site Complex was formed, as
    inferred by a landscape taphonomy study, passive scavenging does not seem to
    have been a feasible option available to hominids. Cut mark patterns suggest
    that hominids were actively involved in obtaining animal resources rather
    than visiting other carnivores' kills. The data presented would initially
    support behavioural interpretations such as those proposed by O'Connell
    (1997) suggesting that the ST site complex might have been the result of
    "near-kill locations" redundantly visited by hominids.Ó Manuel
    DomŐnguez-Rodrigo, , Ignacio de La Torre1, Luis de Luque, Luis Alcal∑,
    Rafael Mora, Jordi Serrallonga, Victoria Medina, žThe ST Site Complex at
    Peninj, West Lake Natron, Tanzania: Implications for Early Hominid
    Behavioural ModelsÓ Journal of Archaeological Science
    Vol. 29, No. 6, June 1, 2002,pp. 639-665

    Horse or man?

    An extremely controversial Spanish site, is still battling for recognition.
    The site is 1.6 myr old and is claimed to contain human fossil FRAGMENTS.
    Many people have doubted that conclusion and claim the fossils are horse.
    The argument started before Dmanisi was found proving that H. erectus was
    indeed out of Africa that long ago. However, the argument has continued
    until today. The two fossils in question are VM-1960 and VM 3691 and even
    the shape of the bone sutures have been the occasion of argumentation. Thus
    these researchers looked for chemical evidence of what species the bones
    belong to. The abstract says:

    "Fossil extracts were tested with antibodies against human IgG and against
    horse IgG with two independent immunological methods: dot-blotting (DB) and
    a modification of this latter method: quantitative dot-blotting (QDB). IgG
    was detected by DB and was quantifiable by QDB in some of the fossils
    tested. Equid fossils from Atapuerca and Venta Micena gave stronger
    reactions with the antibodies against horse IgG than with the antibodies
    against human IgG. Fossils VM3691 and VM1960 reacted more strongly with the
    antibodies against human IgG than with antibodies against horse IgG, whereas
    no IgG was detected in fossils CV1 and CV2. These findings show that
    species-specific IgG can be detected in fossils as old as 1Ö6Myr. The
    immunological analysis of fossil proteins may help to solve palaeontological
    controversies. ž Jesôs M. Torres, ConcepciŘn Borja, Enrique G. Olivares,
    žImmunoglobulin G in 1Ö6 Million-year-old Fossil Bones from Venta Micena
    (Granada, Spain)Ó Journal of Archaeological Science Vol. 29, No. 2,
    February 1, 2002,pp. 167-175

    This supports the human hypothesis rather than the horse hypothesis.


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