Convoluted human evolution: another new skull (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 18:56 (1243 days ago) @ Balance_Maintained
edited by David Turell, Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 19:07

Recently found in Israel from about 55 thousand years ago. Is it related to Neanderthals?

"The skull was unquestionably from H. sapiens, says Hershkovitz: it was similar in shape to those of earlier African and later European humans. A patina of calcite coated the fragment, and the researchers used radioactive uranium in the mineral to date the bone to about 55,000 years old. That means that “the Manot people are probably the forefathers of the early Palaeolithic populations of Europe”, Hershkovitz says.

"The Manot people are also a leading candidate for the humans that bred with Neanderthals — exploits that have given all of today's non-African humans a sliver of Neanderthal heritage. The Manot Cave is not far from two other sites that held Neanderthal remains of a similar age. “The southern Levant is the only place where anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals were living side by side for thousands and thousands of years,” Hershkovitz says. The ultimate proof would be to look for the presence of Neanderthal ancestry in DNA from the skull, but the region's balmy temperatures mean that ancient DNA is unlikely to have been preserved."

Further comments on our messy history of human evolution:

"Where does the find fit in? Beware simple answers, and, indeed, simple questions. There is a temptation when discussing human evolution to reconstruct it as a narrative, in which successive species evolved to be more like us, and the more like us they became, the more likely they were to migrate to other parts of the world and replace pre-existing forms.

There are at least four things wrong with this. The first is its rather imperialist framing, in which evolution and replacement can be justified after the fact as a kind of manifest destiny.

"The second is that it dismisses any extinct species as inferior and therefore of secondary importance.

"The third is that it assumes the existence of an arrow of progress, in which species always evolve towards ourselves, a mistaken view that is too welcoming of spurious conceits such as ‘missing links', and unwilling to countenance odd side branches such as Homo floresiensis, the peculiar, dwarf hominin (member of the human family) that lived in Indonesia until relatively recent times (see

"The fourth, and arguably the most important, is that it misrepresents the extreme fragmentation of the fossil record, something that Charles Darwin recognized, with his usual percipience, as a ‘difficulty' with his theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwin was (as usual) selling himself short. That evolution has happened is no longer in doubt: the shared chemistry and structure of all life, from the meanest microbe to the furriest feline, would be testament to that, even had no fossils ever been found."

Another version of the story:

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