|Neanderthal family (artists impression) Photograph: Nikola Solic/Reuters|
How unlike religion where the entire effort is devoted to excusing yet again that which is nothing more than evidence-free dogma, finding new and ever-more creative workarounds for the fact of no evidence, and inventing new ways to bamboozle a diminishing following into believing that, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and despite the enormous gains of science and its contribution to human welfare since the enlightenment, their Bronze-Age belief in magic is the best explanation of reality.
A couple interesting articles in this week's New Scientist illustrate how our knowledge of human evolution keeps being added to and our understanding of is revised and refined accordingly.
The first, by Andrew Coghlan, comments on a paper published in Scientific Reports last March which shows that Neanderthals living in a cave in Gibraltar had roast rock doves (Columba livia ) on their menu.
Feral Pigeons have colonised all corners of the Earth, having developed a close association with humans and their activities. The wild ancestor of the Feral Pigeon, the Rock Dove, is a species of rocky habitats, nesting typically on cliff ledges and at the entrance to large caves. This habit would have brought them into close contact with cave-dwelling humans, a relationship usually linked to the development of dwellings in the Neolithic. We show that the association between humans and Rock Doves is an ancient one with its roots in the Palaeolithic and predates the arrival of modern humans into Europe. At Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar, the Neanderthals exploited Rock Doves for food for a period of over 40 thousand years, the earliest evidence dating to at least 67 thousand years ago. We show that the exploitation was not casual or sporadic, having found repeated evidence of the practice in different, widely spaced, temporal contexts within the cave. Our results point to hitherto unappreciated capacities of the Neanderthals to exploit birds as food resources on a regular basis. More so, they were practising it long before the arrival of modern humans and had therefore invented it independently.
|Rock dove Columba livia http://www.wildlifeinsight.com|
There is absolutely no doubt that this was the Neanderthals. And they could not have learned this from modern humans because there weren't any modern humans in Europe 67,000 years ago. They must have come up with this on their own.And of course we can't rule out the possibility that they captured and domesticated rock doves - the ancestors of the domestic and feral pigeons.
Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum
The second article, by Catherine Brahic, raises the possibility that we may have the details of exactly when modern humans came out of Africa wrong. It is widely believed that we came out as a single migration about 60,000 years ago and spread quickly via the Middle East across Europe and Asia and down into Austronesia, reaching Australia about 40,000 years ago.
It was also assumed that one of our ancestors, Homo erectus, had left Africa and made it all the way to Southeast Asia and Indonesia, as did the ancestor of H. floriensis (the 'hobbit') found on the Flores Islands, which may or may not have been H. erectus.
Now we are beginning to see tentative evidence that H. sapiens may have come out of Africa much earlier and may have reached China 100,000 years ago - admittedly only tentative but enough to raise a few questions.
The first piece of evidence is two teeth from Luna cave in Guangxi Zhuang, China, discovered by Christopher Bae of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Wei Wang of the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities in Nanning, China, and colleagues. Based on the proportions of these teeth they argue that at least one of them must be from an early H. sapiens.
We present two previously unreported hominin permanent teeth [one right upper second molar (M2), one left lower second molar (m2)] from Lunadong ("dong" = "cave"), Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China. The teeth are important because: 1) they were found in situ; 2) at least one (M2) can be confidently assigned to modern Homo sapiens, while the other (m2) is likely modern H. sapiens; and 3) the teeth can be securely dated between 126.9 ± 1.5 ka and 70.2 ± 1.4 ka, based on multiple MC-ICP-MS uranium-series dates of associated flowstones in clear stratigraphic context. The Lunadong modern H. sapiens teeth contribute to growing evidence (e.g., Callao Cave, Huanglongdong, Zhirendong) that modern and/or transitional humans were likely in eastern Asia between the crucial 120–50 ka time span, a period that some researchers have suggested no hominins were present in the region.
There is solid evidence of modern humans at Tam Pa Ling [in Laos] around 50,000 or 60,000 years ago, and the Zhirendong mandible has modern features, so yes, modern humans were present in at least south-east Asia and south China by somewhere in this time range.However, it is not so clear-cut as the authors suggest that these are teeth from H. sapiens. Erik Trinkaus, Professor of Physical Anthropology at the University of Washington in St Louis, MO, USA argues that they are not diagnostic because we don't yet know how teeth evolved in H. erectus in Asia. It could be a simple case of convergent evolution.
Erik Trinkaus, Professor of Physical Anthropology, University of Washington in St Louis, MO, USA
As I said, the evidence is tentative.
The second piece of evidence is more convincing. It is a piece of jawbone with two molar teeth found also in a cave in China at Zhirendong, Guizhou. This is over 100,000 years old and has a chin suggestive of modern humans.
The 2007 discovery of fragmentary human remains (two molars and an anterior mandible) at Zhirendong (Zhiren Cave) in South China provides insight in the processes involved in the establishment of modern humans in eastern Eurasia. The human remains are securely dated by U-series on overlying flowstones and a rich associated faunal sample to the initial Late Pleistocene, >100 kya. As such, they are the oldest modern human fossils in East Asia and predate by >60,000 y the oldest previously known modern human remains in the region. The Zhiren 3 mandible in particular presents derived modern human anterior symphyseal morphology, with a projecting tuber symphyseos, distinct mental fossae, modest lateral tubercles, and a vertical symphysis; it is separate from any known late archaic human mandible. However, it also exhibits a lingual symphyseal morphology and corpus robustness that place it close to later Pleistocene archaic humans. The age and morphology of the Zhiren Cave human remains support a modern human emergence scenario for East Asia involving dispersal with assimilation or populational continuity with gene flow. It also places the Late Pleistocene Asian emergence of modern humans in a pre-Upper Paleolithic context and raises issues concerning the long-term Late Pleistocene coexistence of late archaic and early modern humans across Eurasia.
Wu Liu, Chang-Zhu Jin, Ying-Qi Zhang, Yan-Jun Cai, Song Xing, Xiu-Jie Wu, Hai Cheng, R. Lawrence Edwards, Wen-Shi Pan, Da-Gong Qin, Zhi-Sheng An, Erik Trinkaus, and Xin-Zhi Wu;
Human remains from Zhirendong, South China, and modern human emergence in East Asia;
PNAS 2010 107 (45) 19201-19206; published ahead of print October 25, 2010, doi:10.1073/pnas.1014386107
But again we see objections from other experts, and come up against the possibility of convergent or parallel evolution in two closely related species, as pointed out by John Hawks, Vilas-Borghesi Distinguished Achievement Professor of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.
The third piece of evidence comes from a genetic analysis bublished last April by paleoanthropologist Katerina Harvati and colleagues of the University of Tubingen, Germany.
Despite broad consensus on Africa as the main place of origin for anatomically modern humans, their dispersal pattern out of the continent continues to be intensely debated. In extant human populations, the observation of decreasing genetic and phenotypic diversity at increasing distances from sub-Saharan Africa has been interpreted as evidence for a single dispersal, accompanied by a series of founder effects. In such a scenario, modern human genetic and phenotypic variation was primarily generated through successive population bottlenecks and drift during a rapid worldwide expansion out of Africa in the Late Pleistocene. However, recent genetic studies, as well as accumulating archaeological and paleoanthropological evidence, challenge this parsimonious model. They suggest instead a "southern route" dispersal into Asia as early as the late Middle Pleistocene, followed by a separate dispersal into northern Eurasia. Here we test these competing out-of-Africa scenarios by modeling hypothetical geographical migration routes and assessing their correlation with neutral population differentiation, as measured by genetic polymorphisms and cranial shape variables of modern human populations from Africa and Asia. We show that both lines of evidence support a multiple-dispersals model in which Australo-Melanesian populations are relatively isolated descendants of an early dispersal, whereas other Asian populations are descended from, or highly admixed with, members of a subsequent migration event.
Hugo Reyes-Centeno, Silvia Ghirotto, Florent Détroit, Dominique Grimaud-Hervé, Guido Barbujani, and Katerina Harvati;
Genomic and cranial phenotype data support multiple modern human dispersals from Africa and a southern route into Asia;
PNAS 2014 111 (20) 7248-7253; published ahead of print April 21, 2014, doi:10.1073/pnas.1323666111
This suggests that the widely accepted route out of Africa via the Middle East may not have been the only route. Early modern humans may have left Africa by crossing from the Horn of Africa into the southern Arabian Peninsula and from there, by coast spread across the Strait of Hormuz into India and thence into Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Austronesia. Later on they mixed with and interbred with other humans who came out of Africa at the normally accepted time and by the normally accepted route.
So, that's the emerging picture of human evolution. If there is anyone religious, especially a creationist, who has survived to the end of this article, let's see a similar objective treatment of the emerging archaeological evidence that the Bible, especially the Old Testament, was made up; that large parts of it simply never happened but were invented around the 7th-century BCE to lend credence to a pretentious emergent political power amongst the different hill tribes of Canaan. How will you fit this discovered evidence into your notion of a book of inerrant truths upon which your entire faith rests?
Cunning Neanderthals hunted and ate wild pigeons - life - 07 August 2014 - New Scientist
Human exodus may have reached China 100,000 years ago - life - 08 August 2014 - New Scientist
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