Posts Tagged ‘Eurasia’

Philosophy Suggests That Advanced Homo Is From Eurasia

April 27, 2019

The spark of a correct guess is often drowned into a sea of wrong guesses. I am going to give here an example of the philosophical method, the method of the artful guesses, used in paleontology, on human origins. The official story goes this way: man originated in Africa, nothing to see, let the professionals do their work. it’s probably wrong.

But a philosopher will say this to a specialist: how do you know that man evolved in Africa? Usual answer: because that’s where the fossils are from.  My counter-objection: conservation bias. And a philosopher would add: why did man evolve so fast? Usual answer: natural selection (as if there was another… even human selection is natural, Homo being part, a meta part, but still a part of nature!) My counter-objection: how to we know there was no accelerator of evolution?

At this point our friend the official paleontologist of the old school will become suspicious: accelerator? And the philosopher will point at technology, the companion and extension of Homo. To live in the most hospitable regions of East Africa, once one has found how to limit losses due to ferocious animals, one doesn’t need technology absolutely: one can just frolic in the buff.

Not the case in Europe, which, for most of the last 2.7 million years was too cold to live without clothing, fire, shelter, etc. And europe was probably Homo occupied for at least two million years (date at which varied Homo Ergaster fossils were found in the Caucasus, a place quite cold in winter in Dmanisi, Georgia. Hominid fossils as well as stone tools were found throughout the 1990s. The fossils looked similar to those of Homo erectus. But in 2000, an unusual jaw was found; its size and shape didn’t quite match H. erectus or any other known hominid that lived about 1.8 million years ago. So the team named Homo georgicus. Since then, more bones belonging to H. georgicus have been unearthed.

Homo Georgicus Female Looking At You Boy, 2 millions years across, and Saber Tooth Tigers Don’t Faze MeMore recently, a completely new Homo species was found in the Philippines, and some Australian researchers have started to claim the human occupation is at least 120,000 years old. Obviously, the hypothesis long-favored in China that human origins are from all over, is gaining ground.

And a philosopher will say: how come that was not obvious all along? Just look at a map, and think!

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Out Of Africa? Not So Sure, Even If Anglo-Saxon Saint Darwin Proposed It:

Once an English gentleman passed by East Africa, found it quite old, and decreed that man came out of East Africa. n his 1871 book The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin suggested that the hominin group originated in Africa – an idea most anthropologists believe today, because beliefs are easier to remember. But Darwin also wrote that the group may have arisen in Europe because, at that time, fossils of large apes had already been uncovered there.

 

Now, indeed, the climate in East Africa; typical dry, high altitude, is prospitious for preserving fossils. So naturally very old hominin fossils were found there. It is a case of all the drunks finding all the keys below all the lamps.

 

Hominins are a group of primates that includes modern humans, more or less extinct humans like Neanderthals and Denisovans, our immediate ancestors, and more distant species such as the mysterious Homo Antecessor, Homo Erectus, Homo Habilis, and earlier species on extinct branches, including australopiths like the famous Lucy. It is harder to find their fossils in Europe, because the climate and soils there were harder for fossil conservation.

 

So what happens? Rare fossils are found in temperate areas, and many of them… don’t fit the “Out of Africa” story. For example one, just one, fossil found in Italy looks ancestral to some forms found in Africa. Fossils of a 7.2-million-year-old ape called Graecopithecus that once lived at Nikiti in Greece seems to have small canines, plus hominin-like “fused” roots to one of its premolars. In 2017, a team cautiously concluded that Graecopithecus might be a very early hominin.

Under this scenario, the 8 to 9-million-year-old Nikiti ape could represent a group of “proto-hominins” that gave rise to hominins in Europe, represented by Graecopithecus at 7.2 million years old. Hominins then would have migrated into Africa around 7 million years ago.

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Conservation Bias Beware:

Conservation of things can introduce a “conservation bias”. An example: the Egyptian desert climate preserves old paint very well. However, Egyptians were not the only ones using paint in the past. The “Picts” of Scotland who confronted the Romans were called that way, the “Painted” (Picti) because they were covered with colors. Due to damp Scotland, those colors didn’t get preserved (although they beat the Romans)… Nor was the Picts’ writing. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t write… they wrote.

In general fossil are not conserved well in a wet, biologically active climate.

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Impenetrable Africa:

Subtropical areas are one thing:  they typically have a wet season, are endowed with savannah park, and are easy to penetrate. Full tropical areas, though, are much less welcoming of human travel. A further problem is that most of the savannah park is crisscrossed by forest galleries, forests built around water ways. A simple forest gallery in Africa is more than a wall. It’s a chain of obstacles with obscurity, exuberant vegetation, tse tse flies, dangerous animals, snakes, spiders, crocs, ambushes… A forest gallery, with its profusion of trees and lianas, not to say leopards and giant carnivorous rats, can make hundreds of meters, and sometimes kilometers of nearly impassable jungle.

Forest galleries partition a lot of the tropics into small pockets which don’t communicate with each other.Hence the profusions of extremely varied languages in Africa. (In my quasi-native Senegal, six languages ruled, some tonal, others not; they are mixed, with pockets all over!)

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Gigantic Eurasia, Garden of the Gods, Easy Travel:

But then look at a map: the regions of East Africa susceptible of maximum accelerated human evolution (temperate, high altitude reasonably wet) are a small fraction, no more than 5% of what Eurasia offered… Once enough technology to resist the cold had been invented. Then wet, temperate Eurasia, presented an enormous area in which human groups could evolve, trade, compete, exchange ideas. Moreover, as I said, to just subsist in Eurasia one was technologically spurred more than elsewhere… namely in the tropical areas.

Most of the world temperate area is located in Eurasia, and particularly in Europe. Very little is found in Africa.

Eurasia, instead is easy to travel across… if one is a Mongol, some would object. Indeed, there is a giant steppe from Hungary to Korea, and the Huns and Mongols used it, a lot. But they were not the first to do so. The Indo-Europeans did this, much earlier. From West of Mongolia, in the Altai, they could go west to Europe, south to India, and east to China. And they did. Not coincidentally, the first Denisovan was found at Denis’ cave, in the Altai.

It is known that many advances of Chinese civilization were launched by European types originating from the Altai, 5,000 years ago. I suggest the same mechanism of dissemination of people and ideas was at work already two million years ago. A hint is that Chinese scientists claim to have discovered human usage of fire, in China, 1.3 million years ago.

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Conclusion: If one visited from another star system, one would find likely that humanity emerged in the largest continent, Eurasia. All the more as it was more challenging technologically, and the easiest to trade people, goods and ideas. Call that the anti-Tasmanian Effect. The Tasmanian effect is that an isolated society which has it all too easy, will devolve (Tasmania is temperate and got isolated after the last glaciation):

https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/tasmanian-effect/

The anti-Tasmanian effect is that a maximally exposed mental maelstrom of a society will be most creative. But that carries over, with roughly the same mathematics to phenotypes: a maximally exposed phenotype maelstrom of an hominin population will be phenotypically most varied, enabling the evolution of most successful types, and thus becoming the main engine of evolutionary progress..  

Thus Neanderthals invented the burning of fossil fuels, 80,000 years ago in Europe (an interest of living in an extremely old continent rather than much younger continents or islands full of volcanoes). Europe was the best place to have a big debate on what were the best technologies, for two million years. Now, of course, citizens of nearly all countries can run air conditioning, talk and even see at a distance. But this is now. The most natural place for Homo species to evolve more was Eurasia. This is what philosophy says…

Science will follow and figure out the details, to be certain.

Darwin RIP…

Patrice Ayme

 

Humans: Neanderthals, Other Ancestors, Colonized & Migrated, Back & Forth. Therein Our Smarts

January 26, 2018

What does it mean to be human? It used to mean a race, then “Homo Sapiens”. Now, it’s getting seriously more complicated, in other words: mathematical. Titles in the media know, repeating what semi-brainless academics erupted with: “In Cave in Israel, Scientists Find Jawbone Fossil From Oldest Modern Human Out of Africa”.

Paleontologists announced in January 2018 the discovery of a fossilized “modern human” jawbone in a collapsed cave in Israel that they said is between 177,000 and 194,000 years old. By “modern human” they mean: like us.

If confirmed, the find, a find of a kind I expected, will rewrite the official, academic early migration story of our species, pushing back by about 50,000 years the textbook time that Homo sapiens first ventured out of Africa. 

Neanderthals all over us… Fair skin genes seem to have come from Neanderthals … and African from Subsaharan Africa have them to, before much more recent mutations darkened their skins… Yes, matters are becoming complicated. Th argument has been made, by comparison with the mysterious Homo Antecessor, that the Neanderthal face was actually more evolved. Yes, evolved. 

However, one has to be careful: a jaw doesn’t a mind makes. Homo Sapiens Sapiens’ DNA were already found, without any modern DNA descendants (whereas we all, or nearly all, have Neanderthal and Denisovan genetics!)

Previous discoveries in Israel limestone caves indicated that so-called “modern” humans began leaving Africa between 90,000 and 120,000 years ago. But the recently dated jawbone is unraveling that narrative, big time. It is replacing it by the mathematical mix and match I favor..

This would be the earliest modern human anyone has found outside of Africa, ever,” said John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist from the University of Wisconsin, Madison who was not involved in the study… But is an old fashion thinker.

Oldest modern human” is slippery conceptual ground: it seems to insinuate that most humans then occupying Eurasia, and who were to occupy Eurasia for the next 150,000 years, during the 200,000 to 50,000 years span, were not really human, or “modern”.  Yet, those humans made discoveries such as burning coal for energy, genetically engineering European wolves into wolves, etc… Insinuating that Neanderthals and Denisovans were not human is, arguably, the mother of all racism. And against our own ancestors! Sadomasochist racism?

To the contrary, evidence instead points out that Neanderthals and Denisovans were not just human, but super-human (Neanderthals had much larger brains than today’s “Sapiens”, by up to 20%!). It seems highly likely they invented so many technologies, they guaranteeing the evanescence of their own genetic modifications (they obsolesced themselves!)

So what of this “modern human” concept? A “modern jaw” does not make a modern mind.

I have proposed that the dilution of Neanderthals and Denisovans characteristics in Sapiens Sapiens genomics was most probably a mathematical effect, helped by climate change and advancing technology: https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/why-did-neanderthals-disappear/

The upper jawbone — which includes seven intact teeth and one broken incisor, and was described in a paper in the journal Science — provides fossil evidence that lends support to genetic studies that have suggested modern humans moved from Africa far earlier than had been suspected.

In a way, that theory, the all-out of Africa, and Africa only theory, was silly: Homo Ergaster was in the Caucasus around 1.9 million years ago, in force. In those tough conditions, Homo Ergaster, an early prototype of Homo Erectus, was probably dressed in furs (at least, so they were represented on the cover of Science at the time! The winter is cold in the Caucasus!)

What didn’t kill them should have made them stronger, and smarter. Colonization, immigration is not just a hope, it’s a school. By conquering Eurasia, Homo Ergaster made the species stronger and smarter. Actually the earliest example of domestication of fire comes from China, and it’s 1.3 million years old. China, not Africa (right, some parts of China are colder than anywhere in Africa but for the glaciers of Ruwenzori).

It seems likely that colonizing Eurasia made the species more superior than it would have been otherwise. Just as Neanderthal genes were found all the way down Africa, why would not a back colonization, or back migration from eurasia to Africa have happened?

This is exactly what my little “math extinguished Neanderthal” theory predicted, and now what is found ou. Consider : “Deeply divergent archaic mitochondrial genome provides lower time boundary for African gene flow into Neanderthals” Wherein it is shown that African Homo Sapiens genes passed into the Neanderthal gene pool around 270,000 years ago!

It’s not because Darwin said humanity originated in Africa, that it really did in all ways. Maybe it didn’t, in crucial ways. Well, actually, it’s now proven… And guess what? It was only logical. That enemy of Darwin, Nietzsche (“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”), would have been delighted: Eurasian colonization made Homo stronger, and yes, neanderthals were fully human.  

Colonialism springs eternal! This, colonialism, immigration, exploration, is what humanity does, and has always done, and used as an engine of evolution, not to say creation. Notice here the problem with uncorrected, rampant and unthinking Political Correctness: it hates colonialism, thus hates what made us, the core of the human adventure. (OK, paradoxically, although it hates “colonialism”, much of the PC herd loves another way to describe it, immigration! Mental coherence is the first victim of Political Correctness.)

Once again, it turns out that Homo Sapiens Sapiens was actually in Eurasia 100,000 years before we thought (as recently as last year!) that he was. So the interaction with Neanderthals and Denisovans was not a short affair, but something that lasted at least 140,000 years. This indicates that Neanderthals and Denisovans were not inferior, they may actually have been superior, and math extinguished them!

Not only Neanderthals had bigger brains, but they had bigger faces, and those faces differed more from ours than ours may have differed from Homo Antecessor (an ancestor known from just remnants of four individuals at this point; it lived 800,000 years ago, and looked surprisingly “modern”). It’s not me who made this shocking observation, but one of the top specialist of the subject, fellow Algerian Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Hublin and his colleagues created computer models that let them “grow” skulls virtually. “When we do this, we can explain the variation in shape between Neanderthals,” says Hublin. “But if we grow a modern human skull to the size of a Neanderthal, we don’t have something that looks like a Neanderthal. You get something different.

Hublin thinks that modern humans have retained a lot of primitive features from our distant ancestors. “It seems the Neanderthals are more evolved in their own direction than modern humans.” He observes. Said differently, the faces of modern humans may not be that modern.

The term ‘modern’ is somewhat misleading,” says Hublin. “When you say ‘modern’, people assume you mean ‘more evolved’, but in fact in our case it may mean ‘more primitive’.” We have met supermen, and we diluted, we degenerated from them, long ago…

In any case, our ancestors were colonists, here, there, now and then, and everywhere. From DNA studies, it is known that, around 10,000 years ago, Fertile Crescent peasant colonized the Mediterranean islands, and went all the way to Italy, and probably beyond, bringing along their agricultural know-how. So when we go conquer back Iraq, we are going home, Neocons are sure to add, but we will smile sardonically… There had been a controversy about how they proceeded: through land, or islands? Islands! In particular, Crete.

Big data is fashionable. we were created by big data, and, even more, significant data. That data was found in other places than Africa. That data made us smarter.

So now, what’s next? The Moon! Mars! They are within easier reach than the bottom of the ocean, that’s for sure… Colonization will us strong, smart, push us forward, just like our ancestors

Patrice Aymé