Really Old Skull debases "Out of Africa" theory. . .
July 10, 2002 4:28 PM   Subscribe

Really Old Skull debases "Out of Africa" theory. . . "The find calls into question a widely held hypothesis that the evolution of big brains propelled the exodus of early humans out of Africa."
posted by Espoo2 (25 comments total)
How does this call the recent migration of Homo sapiens from Africa 250 - 500 kya?
This hypothesis proposes that early H. sapiens came out of Africa that, with a refined toolset and bigger brains, adapted much quicker to newly explored areas already populated by the descendants of H. erectus (including Neanderthal).
As to the first erect hominids leaving Africa first, there they have a case. Most attribute it to H. erectus around 1 mya. This being 1.8 mya. If that is the case, then they've changed the date for H. erectus' departure from Africa. But that is an entirely different hypothesis from the Out of Africa one National Geographic puts for the title.
posted by linux at 4:43 PM on July 10, 2002

Call into question, I meant to say in that first sentence.
posted by linux at 4:44 PM on July 10, 2002

CNN used the headline: "Ancient skull challenges human origins" about 2 hours ago, but then changed the call-out on their front page to :"ANCIENT HUMAN SKULL FOUND". It's not a H. sapiens and it hasn't yet been shown to be a human ancestor at all.
posted by signal at 5:04 PM on July 10, 2002

As I understand it, early human ancestors leaving Africa could mean that humans evolved in parallel in different parts of the world rather than just evolve in Africa then migrate elsewhere (the "out of Africa" theory).
posted by Stuart_R at 5:35 PM on July 10, 2002

remember piltdown? yah. let's see some more evidence, huh?
posted by moz at 5:52 PM on July 10, 2002

That Ted Turner is such a prankster.
posted by skallas at 5:52 PM on July 10, 2002

looks suspiciously like evanizer's ashtray to me.
posted by mlang at 6:01 PM on July 10, 2002

My favorite line from the news was from News Interactive Australia:
"Its age, physical appearance and location challenge basic beliefs about the evolution of humankind's earliest ancestors."
My first thought was, "if this calls evolution into question, what does it say about creationism?" My second thought was "First Cheney gets sued and now this, Bush is having a really bad day."

A monkey stands up in Africa 7 million years ago which leads to two snarky comments delivered through the most amazing connective device humanity has yet created.

I need to go buy some fruit.
posted by joemaller at 6:04 PM on July 10, 2002

posted by dorian at 7:42 PM on July 10, 2002

actually current research shows that it was bipedal walking, not increased brain capacity, that was the first step from our ape ancestry to modern humans. further evidence for this theory came with the discovery of the hominid skeleton dubbed 'Lucy', which had a braincase the size of a chimpanzee's, yet hips for bipedal walking.
posted by LuxFX at 8:04 PM on July 10, 2002

but lucy was still in africa, right?
posted by folktrash at 10:27 PM on July 10, 2002

There is an anthropological cabal that has layed down the base theories of human evolution. For many, many years no outside theory would be entertained. Even if it was supported by archeological evidence. No matter how important that discovery was. Brain size, bi-pedalism, numerous physical attributes (such as orthodontia)... All of it has been very closed for discussion for going on 45 years now.

The bottom line...

No one questions the Leakeys and those nodded upon by them.

It's been good to follow anthropology on the internet over the last 7 years or so, as more controversial work has gotten far more exposure than it ever could. I'm not saying that the Leakeys and their contemporaries didn't do incredible things, just that the science is so controversial that new theories aren't entertained easily.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 10:42 PM on July 10, 2002

Dean: Yeah, well, I've noted here before the scientific axiom that one's theories are rarely so much proven, as one's enemies are outlived.
posted by dhartung at 11:07 PM on July 10, 2002's theories are rarely so much proven, as one's enemies are outlived...

Thanks Dan, I'd forgotten that one.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 11:25 PM on July 10, 2002

> but lucy was still in africa, right?

Was that after the Connecticut episodes or before?
posted by pracowity at 2:37 AM on July 11, 2002

Meanwhile another skull fossil is making the news- as well as complicating our picture of human origins.
posted by talos at 5:23 AM on July 11, 2002

Regarding the hominid tendencies of the skull, I don't know why anyone would be surprised.

If you consider, as they used to say, that all homid fossils would fit inside a shoe box, I don't know why new finds that don't fit the paradigm cause such a fuss.

It seems to have more to do with egos than with science. I would think that this would be one field where an open mind would be the rule instead of the exception. I think that the final solution to our origins will be more fantastic than we can imagine. Everything I see in paleontology is blowing away the old preconceived Victorian notions that were the result of wishful thinking, racist diatribe, and religious doctrine. Science will go where the data leads it.

Being blinded by our own bullshit only makes us ignore what is before our eyes.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 6:33 AM on July 11, 2002

that raises an interesting question. What would the discovery that modern humans developed from (say) four different primary groups, simultaneously, throughout the world do for/to our racial relations, and other 'different is bad' mindsets?
posted by folktrash at 8:01 AM on July 11, 2002

Speaking of old skulls, anyone remember Old Skull, the world's youngest punk band?
posted by risenc at 10:47 AM on July 11, 2002

While it seems easy to ridicule creationists, most scientific circles seem just as closed minded and are so damn silly in their ridgidity and stuffing square pegs into round holes. New information creates the need for more and more 'creativity'.
posted by Mack Twain at 1:14 PM on July 11, 2002

Bipedalism is certainly the hallmark of the hominid, and it's quite true that bipeds have walked the Old World before humans came about.

The most controversial theory in the late 80s and 90s was the Mitochondrial Eve Hypothesis, which basically suggests that all humans come from a single population that evolved in Africa as recently as about 100-150 kya.

This was far too recent for many, especially those that did believe in parallel evolution where groups of H. erectus over Europe, Africa, and Asia maintained genetic communication through the eons to produce H. sapiens. But the wonderful thing about genetics and this experiment was that it was based on scientific data on the current human population. We all did indeed hail from a small population, it's the timing that's difficult to establish. And it certainly is possible that some ancient human groups were mixed in as migration spread. There is a fairly large case being made that some Neanderthals (archaic H. sapiens) were incorporated into our family by incoming H. sapiens.

This skull is 1.8 million years old. While the origin of H. sapiens sapiens is still being debated, it has nothing to do with this skull. As someone said, this skull will probably affect the dogma established by the Leakeys, where we are looking at a period with very little information on speciation and migration. So yes, this will provide information on that part of our genetic history. As for humans? Well, we don't come into play till much, much later.
posted by linux at 1:32 PM on July 11, 2002

As for race: "... research reveals that there is less genetic variation among Earth's entire population of humans than there is in a typical troop of our closest relative, the chimpanzee... ".

An undergrad human evolution course booklist will give you many references on this subject. They all say the same thing. Race is more a social problem than it is a genetic one.
posted by linux at 1:36 PM on July 11, 2002

Speaking of old skulls, anyone remember Old Skull, the world's youngest punk band?

mp3s now!
posted by mcsweetie at 9:23 PM on July 11, 2002

'Dja ever notice how people question Theory X or Scientist Y and then finish with, No one questions Theory X or Scientist Y? Except, erm, this article, and, well, all the other articles questioning ThX/ScY -- and concluding that nobody questions ThX/ScY...

One should be skeptical of scientific propositions or schools of thought that appear to depend for their primary sustenance on debunking, resenting, or imitating some other, more established proposition or theory.
posted by anser at 1:11 AM on July 12, 2002

> Speaking of old skulls, anyone remember Old Skull,
> the world's youngest punk band?

"Gonna kill a dead eagle/How do you kill a dead eagle?/Just...kill it!"
posted by pracowity at 2:44 AM on July 12, 2002

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