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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Meganthropus Robustus

Meganthropus Robustus

It surprises me how many people who have scoffed at the idea of giants in our ancient past have not heard of the hominid species of 1 million years ago called "Meganthropus Robustus." It was an extremely tall and robust hominid which lived alongside human sized races of homo erectus in the great continent of Sundaland, most of which now lies beneath the sea. If you have not heard of this hominid, a good place to get the basic info is Wikipedia:

Like many descriptions of hominids in scientific publications, the Wikipedia takes on a conservative and guarded air, and one might even walk away from the article relieved that their conventional models of history are still intact, and that Meganthropus was not remarkable and "within the range of homo erectus." However, if we take the time to really interpret what the scientific jargon is saying and "read between the lines," we might truely get the big picture of what this creature was and how it affects the way we should perceive the remote past of human history.What the article says is basically that some scientists claim that Meganthropus was 2/3 the size of Gigantopithecus. This would put the hominid at slightly over 8 feet and at least 500 pounds.Other scientists claim that the hominid was "within the range of homo erectus." But what exactly is the "range" of homo erectus?

My thought is that both schools of thought are right. The "average" Asian homo erectus, over the span of more than 1 million years, was only an inch shorter than the average homo sapien sapient of today, if that (Asian Erectus averaged 5'10"). The average African homo erectus, or homo ergaster, was a good 4 inches taller than the average homo sapien of today (Homo Ergaster averaged 6'3"). Since there are and have been homo sapien sapient populations that approach 7 feet, it's not feasible to doubt that populations of homo erectus reached that height as well, and most probably above it, even when taking a conservative viewpoint. But the fact is that there was much more variation among size and physical traits in homo erectus than there is or has been in homo sapien sapient, probably because homo erectus never went through the extreme bottleneck that homo sapien did, judging by the DNA evidence in our own species. Indeed, we have found the fossils of homo erectus populations that are much smaller than the smallest extremes of the homo sapient "range" on the the island of Flores. So it's not too hard to believe that the extended range of homo erectus goes up in size beyond that of homo sapient just as it goes down in size far below it. The hyper-robust fossils of Meganthropus certainly tend to support this assumption, for they are more massive than any other fossils in the entire hominid catalogue. They are much bigger than the fossils of the second largest hominid known, Austro Bosei, which is estimated at about the size of a gorilla. It's even been stated by scientists on the "giant" side of the fence that if the same formula were used to determine the size of Meganthropus by jawbone fossils that is currently used to determine the size of the "Bosei" fossils, that Meganthropus would be easily over 8 feet tall.

It really shouldn't be that hard to believe that a population of 7 to 9 foot tall hominids did exist in the world at one time. Even individual homo sapiens have reached nearly 9 feet, though probably only because of diseases. It must be remembered that homo erectus' "range" was much larger than our own, and it's even been said by DNA researchers that a homo erectus would be more different from his or her own sister or brother, as far as DNA goes, than a modern Native American is from an African. This is because a bottleneck in our species has severely limited our variation, and hence, our range. Not so with Homo Erectus.

The general consensus is that Meganthropus was tall, and taller than an average homo sapien. But scientist are scared to death of estimating an actual average height because they don't want to be ridiculed, and because not enough evidence is present to be exacting. But we can safely assume that at least some "clans" of Meganthropus were at least as tall as the average NBA basketball player or the average member of the Watusi tribe in Africa.If you take the conservative view that Meganthropus was a "mere" 7 foot in height on average, it may allow you to settle back into the old mires of educational history which we all have been fed the falsities of since grammar school. But before you do so, think of this; a 7 foot tall homo sapien is nothing like a 7 foot tall Meganthropus. These creatures had bone densities several times thicker than ours, and presumeably had muscle mass more like that of an ape than a human. Extreme muscle mass would be absolutely necessary in order to support the bulky skeleton, and barbarians get plenty of strength training in the wild. Think of a 7 foot professional wrestler instead, and then add a couple of hundred pounds of muscle and bone mass, and throw in a bit of primitive ugliness and animalistic savagery. You can probably throw on another foot of height, too, if you're not a scientist worried about grants and tenure. This is the type of creature that one of our presumed ancestors, the homo erectus species known as "Java man," had to compete with on the Island of Java and its now flooded extension of Sundaland. Java man was a good bit shorter on average than even the other Asian strands of homo erectus, so to those who passed the folk tales down to us, Meganthropus was a giant indeed. It's interesting that Meganthropus had a smaller brain than the "average" homo erectus as well; I can almost hear the stupidly intoned sound of "fee-fi-fo-fum" as I write this blog!

Joe Lyon Layden is a prehistoric fiction author and primitive musician. To receive a free copy of this entire novella "The Man from Parkho Khatune Bears Favor," as well as three free songs and monthly updates, freebies, and discounts on Joe's ongoing work, please sign up for the newsletter below.

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