Recently I’ve been researching Homo erectus which was an ancient human ancestor who lived throughout most of the Pleistocene geological epoch from about 1.9 mya to 70 kya. I came across a video (see below) featuring Paleoanthropologist Dr John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and in that video he notes three important things.
First, Homo habilis (aka: Handyman, Tool Man) which existed before Erectus didn’t have much of a browridge and secondly when the early H erectus appeared it didn’t have much of a browridge either. However, thirdly when later H. erectus appeared it had a very distinct browridge!
Now wouldn’t you think it would be the opposite? Shouldn’t H. habilis have had a distinct browridge and early H. erectus? And wouldn’t you expect later H. erectus to have little to no browridge at all? But it’s just the opposite an that makes for some interesting debate.
That led me back to Dr Susan Martinez a Paleoanthropologist and author of several books including “The Mysterious Origins of Hybrid Man.” In that book she postulates that H habilis did not evolve from anything! Nor did H. erectus! Nor did modern humans, H. sapiens! Her theory is that there were many different species of “humans” which coexisted for various lengths of time and they interbred with one another. Thus, humans became the hybrids we are today in her opinion.
So is this what happened with later H. erectus? Did later H. erectus interbreed with a more primitive hominid species and this is why we find prominent browridges in the later? Wouldn’t that be DE-evolution?
I don’t agree with everything Dr Martinez postulates BUT many of her ideas and theories seem to have some merit. If she is correct then it turns evolution upside down because it means we didn’t evolve from anything nor did H. erectus or any of the rest of the ancient human ancestors. It means that several species of AHA co-existed and interbred. Some of these interbreedings resulted in evolution (growth, advancement) but some resulted in de-evolution and that’s amazing in my estimation!
And then we come to the Neanderthals! They had bigger brains than we do today yet we’ve been made to believe they were the stereotypical “cave man.” I never have agreed with that concept and still don’t. And since we know Neanderthals were ancestors of modern humans then how do we explain their having bigger brains than modern humans?
Something is not right about the evolutionary picture! What we should see in early H. erectus is a more primitive type with thick browridges and H. habilis should have one too. But, instead, we see the reverse! We see what appears to be a de-evolution and we see that between Neanderthals and modern humans too in terms of brain size.
Just one more of the “mysteries” of our evolution BUT if Martinez is right then really it is no mystery at all.
BTW one other thing. Fossils are not plentiful contrary to popular misconception and when it comes to ancient human ancestor fossils mostly what we find is a piece of the skull or mandible but the face is missing along with all of the other soft tissue. As Dr Martinez notes, when we reconstruct them we can give them the face of an ape or the face of a philosopher! That’s very true in fact because the soft tissue is obviously degraded and missing.