Heidelberg Man (Homo heidelbergensis) recreation at Atapuerca
Homo heidelbergensis (aka: Heidelberg Man) was just an archaic Neanderthal and was NOT a common ancient ancestor for H. sapiens and Neanderthals even though some people still seem to think so.
The OOA (Out of Africa) theory holds the view that Heidelberg Man is an ancestor of modern humans and Neanderthals, however. That theory claims this hominin species was present in Africa, Europe, and Asia 600-200 kya. Their skulls have features of both Homo erectus and Homo sapiens and their brain size is almost as large as H. sapiens. Yet, keep in mind that Neanderthals had slightly larger brains than modern humans do. This species was first discovered in 1907 near Heidelberg, Germany.
Further, mainstream theory (OOA) says that Neanderthals, Denisovans, and H. sapiens all descended from Heidelberg Man who appeared in Africa around 700 kya where it is known as Homo rhodesiensis. Fossils have been found in Ethiopia, Namibia, and South Africa and the theory holds that somewhere between 400-300 kya a group of this species migrated into Europe and western Asia by unknown routes and that they evolved into the Neanderthals in Europe. Another group migrated out of Africa and into Asia and they evolved into the mysterious Denisovans. Those who remained in Africa (H. rhodesiensis) evolved into anatomically modern humans sometime between 300-200 kya according to conventional OOA theory. They then migrated in a second wave into Europe and Asia between 125-60 kya. And so that is basically what the OOA says but is it so?
Artistic depiction of Homo erectus
Some paleoanthropologists and others believe H. heidelbergensis is nothing more than a variant of H. erectus! Others hold the view that it was an archaic Neanderthal but not a common ancestor of Neanderthals and archaic modern humans, H. sapiens. So, again, the waters are muddied and everything is uncertain and foggy!! That is, unless you consider the following FACTS! Continue Reading
Homo erectus is perhaps the most intriguing ancient human ancestor in my mind because there were so many “firsts” with this species. For instance, H. erectus likely was the first AHA to harness fire, to cook their food, and possibly to wear some sort of clothing or skins. Erectus was also the first AHA to have body proportions similar to modern humans. It’s thought that this AHA arose in Africa 1.8 million years ago according to the Out of Africa theory. We find remains of H. erectus not only in Africa but also in Eurasia, the Far East, Australia, Java, and the Levant. And some theorists believe H. erectus remains can also be found in the Americas which, frankly, would not surprise me at all.
Up until the dawn of Erectus AHA used ancient stone tools known as “Oldowan Stone Tools.” Basically, these were chipped stones and not very sophisticated that included things like Oldowan choppers and Oldowan scrapers. They were the “basic” stone tool kit. At first Erectus used these as well but he soon developed a much more sophisticated set of stone tools which came to be known today as Acheulean Stone Tools. These stone tools were a big improvement to the primitive Oldowan tools and had a wider variety.
Development of these new stone tools shows that Erectus had higher thinking than previous AHA such as H. habilis (aka: “Tool Man”). Erectus appears to have had the mental capacity to envision something and then to make it and that is a significant step in our evolution.
Erectus was nothing short of an adventurer. In fact, he was the first human adventurer because we find their skeletal remains just about everywhere. Erectus wasn’t content to sit on the Savannah because he wanted to know what laid beyond. Erectus was a hunter-gatherer and possibly even the first seafarers! He may have also constructed crude pit houses consisting of nothing more than a small pit dug into soft dirt and covered over by vegetation and, if so, that would make him the first human to construct dwellings. Most importantly Erectus was the first AHA to walk upright such as we do instead of bent over like an ape! Continue Reading
Recently I had a DNA analysis done and most of the ethnic results I expected except for one. I was surprised to learn that 5% of my ethnic DNA comes from the Caucasus region located between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Traditionally, the Caucasus Mountains are the dividing line between Asia and Europe. This is a today a very diverse region in terms of religion, linguistics, culture, and ecologically and looking at some of the history of this region it has apparently always been such. Today it is home to over 50 ethnic groups and is one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots, that is, this region is home to a large number of diverse plants and animals which are threatened by human encroachment. The region also has a lot of history ranging from the Mongols to the Huns to Cyrus the Great and a host of other notable historical people and cultures.
Location of Dmanisi site in Georgia Republic
The Caucasus region is also home to the wonderful Dmanisi skulls and that is what fascinates me and, now, my personal connection to this area!! Around 45,000 years ago modern humans (Homo sapiens) entered into the Caucasus region and the surrounding area from somewhere in the Middle East. Farming was introduced and it spread throughout the region during the Neolithic Period. Evidence suggests that around 800 years ago the Mongols invaded the region and left behind descendants such as the Nogay people. Ironically, the Caucasus region seems to have rarely been the source of migrations out of the area. In other words, human populations came to the region and stayed. Continue Reading
The link below is to an excellent article well worth the read about the growing “mystery” concerning archaic humans with modern human features. It calls for the revamping of the Out of Africa theory and I wholeheartedly agree!
The norm has always been that more than one human species have coexisted at the same time and sometimes in the same place. Our nice little concept of an archaic human species giving way to a more modern human species now lies in tatters thanks to recent discoveries. That little Utopian idea no longer flies as the evidence says that there was MUCH interbreeding between human species and that HYBRIDS were produced and survived. In fact, they dominated and they (we) still dominate today!
In South Africa we have Homo naledi showing a mix of archaic and modern morphology. We have the same in Morocco. These finds are changing what we think in terms of human evolution because these specimens are NOT from archaic times but from MODERN TIMES! When I say modern times mean around 300 kya NOT millions of years ago. The “mystery” is really no mystery at all if we think in terms of hybrid offspring. What is being found in Morocco and South Africa and elsewhere is CLEAR EVIDENCE of hybridization! And not only that but we now know that there were many migrations out of Africa AND many migrations INTO Africa! So much for the OOA theory!! Continue Reading
Is it possible that modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) or our forerunners archaic modern humans (Homo sapiens, Cro-magnons, et al) were living close to 1 mya? Generally, we’ve believed that modern humans came onto the scene about 100 kya then with new discoveries that was extended back to 200 kya and recently with new finds in Morocco the timeline for modern humans has been extended back to 300 kya.
Back in December of 1997 Discover Magazine ran an article about a controversial discovery. That discovery was made in Spain in 1995 in a cave called Gran Dolina in the Atapuerca region of Spain. This fossil suggested that modern humans were much older than believed, by far, in fact. The fossil was from an 11 year old boy who looked like a modern human yet it was dated at 800 kyr (hundred thousand years old). How is this possible if modern humankind is only 200-300 kyr?
This discovery, however, is not alone because in 1932 the famous Dr Louis Leakey made an astonishing find of his own! This discovery was made around Lake Victoria in Kenya, Africa. Leakey found numerous fossils belonging to the Middle Pleistocene that were really no different from modern man. Problem was that the Mid Pleistocene was about one million years ago!! (actually from about 781 to 126 thousand years ago). His discoveries were dismissed (as expected) but Leakey always maintained that the dating was CORRECT!
Returning to the 1995 discovery made in Spain, the find was so shocking that even the discoverers were shocked by it! Never in a million years did they expect to find any ancient human ancestor remains that looked like modern humans! The team was led by Dr Juan Luis Arsuaga Ferraras who said that he and his team expected something big and primitive but never modern looking. “What we found was a totally modern face,” he told the Discover magazine writers. “The most spectacular thing is finding something you thought belonged to the present, in the past….we were very surprised when we saw it.” Continue Reading
The “Neo” specimen skull (Homo naledi)
Rising Star Cave is the site in South Africa excavated by Dr Lee Berger and his team. It was here that they found a new species of ancient human called Homo naledi. Now another chamber in the cave has been unearthed and yielded even more fossil bone evidence and this newest discovery has yielded a skull “wonderfully complete.”
It is believed H. naledi shared the landscape with early modern humans and probably other hominin species as well between 226-335 thousand years ago. Dr John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of the research leaders and he says this newest discovery adds more evidence that the cave system was being used by H. naledi to cache their dead. The new chamber has been named the Lesedi Chamber. So far 130 bone pieces have been found in the new chamber. One skeleton is said to be remarkably complete and is being named “Neo.” Continue Reading
Cerutti Mastodon Site in San Diego, California discoveries indicate that early humans were in North America at least 130 kya.
Calico Hills Early Man Site in California indicate humans were in North America 100-200 kya.
Bluefish Cave Site, Canada indicates humans were in North America 24 kya.
Puebla, Mexico Site indicates humans were in Mexico 200-250 kya
Pedra Furada Site in Brazil indicate humans were in South America 48-60 kya.
And there are more…………….
When we take a look at these sites and the dates they have yielded we find that it appears humans have been in the Americas since 250-200 kya. But this is far from being the generally accepted timeframe for when humans migrated into the Americas! That timeline says we migrated across the Bering Landbridge around 15 kya! However, the more archaeologists discover, the more it appears that “someone” was in the Americas before 15 kya and that “mystery population” is affectionately known as “POPULATION Y.” Additionally, the more we learn about Paleoindians the more apparent it becomes that they did NOT look like modern Native Americans and, in fact, were quite different. At the tip of South America we have a people known as the Fuegians who ironically have many features sen in Homo erectus and we find the same features in a people known as the Pericues who lived at the tip of Baja California. But, according to mainstream thinking H. erectus was long extinct before these timeframes. I suggest that hypothesis is WRONG and note that some researchers believe H. erectus could have existed up until 20-30 kya!! Continue Reading
Artistic depiction of the 5 Dmanisi skulls
The majority consensus is that our ancient human ancestors came out of Africa and populated the world. And the consensus is also that human evolution took place in Africa as these newly evolved humans migrated out of Africa they replaced more archaic species along the way. This is the OOA/Replacement Theory. More recently there has been evidence found that, in fact, there were not only migrations out of Africa but also back into Africa. However, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting all of this is NOT the case at all and part of that growing evidence are the finds at the Dmanisi site in Georgia (Russia).
The finds at the Dmanisi site clearly challenge the conventional opinion and the more we find the more it is beginning to appear that Africa was NOT the sole “cradle of humankind.” For, what is being found at the Dmanisi site suggests STRONGLY that there was a “Eurasian chapter in the long evolutionary story of man.”
Location of Dmanisi site in Georgia Republic
The Dmanisi discoveries upset the conventional view that ancient human ancestors migrated out of Africa not so long ago in evolutionary terms. In fact, these discoveries strongly point to ancient human ancestors migrating out of Africa FAR earlier than the conventional view holds. Of course, some of this is being demeaned by the suggestion (speculation) that there was simply a long evolutionary interlude in Eurasia before moving back into Africa to complete our evolution. Frankly, I think that is an absolute CROCK! I think what was going on at Dmanisi was far MORE than simply an “evolutionary interlude.”
The Dmanisi fossilized bones have been dated at around 1.8 myr and they are the oldest remains discovered outside of Africa to date. The Dmanisi remains are far more primitive appearing than Homo erectus which is believed to have been the first hominid species to migrate out of Africa about 1 mya. How is this possible that we have a hominid species outside of Africa long before H. erectus migrated out of Africa and began their conquest of the world?
When we compare the Dmanisi remains to H. erectus remains we come up with some very interesting comparisons. The Dmanisi had brains about 40% SMALLER than the average H. erectus brain! We also find that the Dmanisi were significantly shorter than the average H. erectus. Further, the conventional view has been that when H. erectus came out of Africa they had sophisticated stone tools (Acheulean) and that their physical anatomy was “advanced” in terms of brain size and limb proportions. BUT what is found at Dmanisi is very DIFFERENT from this! Continue Reading