Sadly sometimes when a discovery is made some very broad generalizations and assumptions are made that later turn out not to be so. What ends up happening is that the discoverer and the one(s) who made the broad assumptions end up with egg on their faces and they also end up with more people not believing anything else they claim. This seems to often be the case in paleoanthropology unfortunately. For the latest example of such fiasco we turn now to a new discovery (actually it was found in 2008) from the Manot Cave in Israel.
Manot Cave is located in the Western Galilee in Israel. The skull is almost complete it is being reported so that means the rest of the skeleton must be somewhere nearby and hopefully it will be found as excavations continue. Sadly, some bold claims have already been made based on this ONE SKULL find. It’s being claimed that this ONE SINGLE skull is the “first proof” that H. sapiens existed at the same time as the Neanderthals in the same geographic area (ie: the Levant). First proof? I’m sure there have been remains of H. sapiens and Neanderthals in Europe coexisting at the same time so I’m not sure what this bold claim is all about other than to in some way glorify the Levant which, frankly, I’m hearing more and more about lately. Is our focus now turning to the Levant with blinders on?
Another claim being made based on this ONE SINGLE skull is that it fills a time gap that has existed for a long while now. Homo sapiens emerged as a species around 200Kya as far as we know in Africa. They migrated out of Africa, some of them did, into parts of Asia, Europe, Eurasia, etc. The mainstream says the Neanderthals and other hominin species grew extinct but my contention is that they never went extinct at all but, rather, inbred as you can see clear features of these hominins today in the morphology of modern humans!
It has generally been believed H. sapiens migrated out of Africa around 100Kya going into the Levant (Middle East) and from there spreading into Europe and Eurasia. Genetic testing has previously indicated that human populations today descended from a single group that migrated out of Africa around 70Kya. Thus, there is a gap of about 30K years and there has been little to no evidence uncovered to bridge this gap. However, now the Manot Skull is being hailed as filling the gap, fantastically! The skull dates back to 55Kya and it is now being claimed this ONE SKULL fills the gap between the times H. sapiens were in the Levant and they migrated into Europe. Sorry but ONE SKULL doesn’t bridge anything in my opinion! One skull is not enough evidence to claim much of anything especially something the size of the gap (30,000 years). I think this is a rather fantastic and possibly wishful claim.
The morphology of the skull indicates that it is that of a H. sapien of African origins. It is said to bear characteristics of Early European Paleolithic populations also and, thus, suggesting that the group this skull belonged to in the Levant were the ancestors of European populations. It also reveals interbreeding between H. sapiens and Neanderthals. Is there anything this skull doesn’t bridge or do???
I’m sorry but based on ONE SKULL these claims are a bit too fantastic, astounding, amazing, and even stupendous for me! If several skulls and complete skeletons existed I might be inclined to believe such claims but the claims are being based on the finding of ONE SKULL.
But wait…..there’s even more fantastic claims being made about this skull. One is that it disproves two major theories. One is that all modern human populations are linked ot migrations out of Africa 100Kya. The other is that early European Paleolithic populations interbred with local European Neanderthals. Further it is claimed that this one single skull is proof modern humans interbred with Neanderthals in the Levant and specifically Israel. That’s just about the most astounding claim of all! We know that European H. sapiens interbred with European Neanderthals and to say that this ONE SKULL FIND refutes that previous evidence is even more astounding that the claim itself! I’m not discounting that some H. sapiens came out of Africa and encountered Neanderthals in the Levant where making love soon commenced. What I am discounting is that this modern human/Neanderthal interbreeding began in the Levant and there was no interbreeding with European Neanderthals. Suddenly, everything began in the Levant and specifically Israel? Sorry but I’m NOT buying it! This one skull find does not PROVE nor DISPROVE anything in my opinion.
It’s being now claimed that the Manot Cave People are the ancestors of all Europeans which, frankly, I find even more wishful thinking and fantastical. It’s being claimed these Manot people came out of Africa, settled in the Levant for thousands of years, interbred with Levant Neanderthals and then moved into Europe about 45Kya as climates changed and the Ice Age in Europe drew to an end. But, there were Neanderthals in Europe during that Ice Age and there were also modern humans there too and we know that.
Bottomline is this for me….I DON’T believe the fantastic claims being made based on this ONE SKULL. Show me some more skulls with the same features and show me some skeletons from these Manot Cave People and I might be a bit more agreeable to the claims being made. And what about Gibraltar? We seem to forget that was another way humans could have came out of Africa and into Europe and thus bypassing the Levant altogether!
I think this is just one more case of fantastic claims being made without much to no evidence to back up such claims, frankly. We can’t base ANYTHING on one skull find period! And I must ask is this skull even human? No DNA testing has been done so we don’t even know if it comes from an ancient human ancestor or not, which means, the skull could be from some extinct Levant ape or some ape that lost his way out of Africa!!
Again, ONE SKULL DOESN’T PROVE OR DISPROVE ANYTHING!! And that includes the Manot Cave Skull.