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Friday, December 30, 2011

Black History Professor Rejects Afrocentrism

Black History Professor Rejects Afrocentrism
DECEMBER 20, 2009

Clarence E. Walker. We Can't Go Home Again: an Argument about Afrocentrism

By Fred R. van Hartesveldt
Teaching History: A Journal of Methods
Fall, 2003

The factual flaws in much of the writing about Afrocentrism have been exposed in the past. Clarence Walker does so again in We Can't Go Home Again, and does so effectively. In this regard he focuses particularly on the Afrocentric assertion that Egyptians were black and the wellspring of Western civilization. He makes very clear that the modern concept of race as identity simply does not apply to the variegated population of Egypt and would not have been understood there. The importance of his book, however, does not lie in renewing and expanding the critique of the factual and analytical content of Afrocentric literature.

Walker refers to Afrocentrism as "therapeutic mythology" asserted as a way to promote the self-esteem of African Americans (a term he does not like) "by creating a past that never was." He understands it as black nationalism; in fact he argues that the origins of Afrocentrism lay in black nationalism of the Romantic era, but rejects it as history. Were Afrocentrism a means of creating African American community and thus empowering a minority, it would be comparable to such mythologies used by other minorities. Such mythologies, however, have been grounded in historical thought, while Afrocentrism is factually errant and theoretically flawed.

By urging black Americans to seek empowerment in a misconstructed Egyptian history, Afrocentrists not only mislead, opening their students to ridicule, but they also assert that culture is "transhistoric" — that is, it can be transferred through time and space intact. Culture, Walker asserts, is always changing and will be different as a result of any transfer, willing or unwilling, on the part of those living it. African Americans have created a culture of their own — a culture of which to be proud, but not an Egyptian or African culture. To Walker's way of thinking, Afrocentrism turns African Americans into helpless victims whose ancestors created a glorious culture and then for thousands of years accomplished little. They became the dupes and victims of Europeans, enslaved and exploited, and now their descendants must look to a mythical African past for purpose and meaning. Such a denigration of the African-American struggle, which Walker regards as a triumph, clearly angers him.

Given the popularity of Afrocentrism and its spread through the academic community and popular culture, anyone teaching history or otherwise interested in the nature of historical methodology should read Walker. The manipulation of history to create a particular attitude or support a political point of view is, as Walker acknowledges, sometimes a way of creating unity and gaining power. To deny a people the heritage they and their forefathers built is not acceptable. Walker shows that historians should help African-American students to appreciate their own real history and not pursue distortions of the past in the name of identity, especially since their actual past offers them an identity worthy of enormous pride.

Walker's prose conveys his ideas and passions effectively, despite a painful tendency to fall into the jargon of social science. His arguments are clear, thoughtful, and easy to read. His concern for the discipline and its practitioners comes through forcefully. Even those who disagree with his conclusions will be engaged and will find much to think about if they are sincerely interested in historical scholarship and how it influences those who study it.

The value of this book for courses in historiography and methodology is obvious. It offers useful examples of how historians analyze material, and historical knowledge can shape our understanding of contemporary culture. Its applications go beyond metahistory, however. Students of modern American society and education will find much to explore in its pages, and anyone investigating African-American history should examine Walker's conclusions. Walker will help such students understand not only one way African Americans have come to view themselves but also an element in their contemporary efforts at gaining a sense of identity within American culture. Thus, although the title might not suggest it, this book can be a valuable part of a variety of courses.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

100k Anatomically Modern Human in Asia

100,000 year old anatomically modern humans from Zhirendong
I'm sure I'll have a lot to say about this paper once I read it, but right now I'm focusing on the pilot phase of the Dodecad Project.

I'll post my comments later in this post; For now, I'll just say: those pesky ancestors have a way of upsetting scientific theories. But, in a sense, that's the beauty of science.

Press release, National Geographic,, and Razib have more info.

Related: the previous "oldest modern human" was Liujiang.

The paper's section on populational implications:
Populational Implications. Assuming that modern human biology
emerged initially in the late Middle Pleistocene of equatorial
Africa (8, 31, 36), the presence of derived, modern human
mandibular features in East Asia by early MIS 5 implies early
modern human population dispersal or gene flow across at least
southern Asia sometime before the age of the Zhiren Cave human
remains or independent emergence of these features in East
Asia. The early modern human MIS 5 dispersal into Southwest
Asia may therefore have included further population dispersal or
gene flow eastward across southern Asia.

However, the Zhiren 3 complex mosaic of distinctly derived,
modern human features of the anterior mandibular symphysis,
combined with archaic features of the lingual symphysis and
overall mandibular robustness, indicates that any “dispersal”
involved substantial admixture between dispersing early modern
human populations (cf. 5) or gene flow into regional populations
(cf. 37, 38). The paleontological data are insufficient to assess the
levels of such gene flow or admixture, but the morphological
mosaic of Zhiren 3 is most parsimoniously explained as the result
of such populational processes. It is not easily accommodated
into any Out-of-Africa with populational replacement scenario.
The short story: anatomically modern humans (AMHs) first emerge in East Africa in examples like Omo and Herto about 200-150ky. The first undeniably modern finds in Eurasia were from Qafzeh in the Levant, roughly contemporaneous with the new Zhiren sample.

These Qafzeh AMHs were usually interpreted as the Out-of-Africa-that-failed, an early excursion of anatomically modern humans into Eurasia that seems to have fizzled as AMHs appear, first as isolated teeth, and then as skulls like the Oase mandible and Mladec in Europe, and Liujiang in East Asia only 50-60 thousand years later.

Until now, it was supposed that these later AMHs were descendants of the Out-of-Africa-that succeeded, which postdated Qafzeh, was contemporaneous with the Aurignacian and the emergence of full-blown behavioral modernity.

The new Zhirendong find upsets this standard model: anatomically modern humans existed 100 thousand years ago in Africa, the Levant, and East Asia. It's extremely difficult to make the argument now that two of these AMH populations died out and the African one repopulated the world.

The two pillars of Out of Africa are (i) the genetics, i.e., the evidence for greater African genetic diversity, diminution of heterozygosity from east Africa, and increase of linkage disequilibrium, (ii) the palaeoanthropology, i.e., the temporal gap between AMHs in Africa and Eurasia.

Factor (ii) has just taken a huge blow. Moreover, Out-of-Africa supporters must now either (a) come up with scenarios for dispersal of AMHs 50,000 years at least before their current models, or (b) accept the emergence of modernity in Eurasia without dispersals from Africa.

UPDATE: John Hawks questions the chin=African equation.

PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.1014386107

Human remains from Zhirendong, South China, and modern human emergence in East Asia

Wu Liu et al.

The 2007 discovery of fragmentary human remains (two molars and an anterior mandible) at Zhirendong (Zhiren Cave) in South China provides insight in the processes involved in the establishment of modern humans in eastern Eurasia. The human remains are securely dated by U-series on overlying flowstones and a rich associated faunal sample to the initial Late Pleistocene, >100 kya. As such, they are the oldest modern human fossils in East Asia and predate by >60,000 y the oldest previously known modern human remains in the region. The Zhiren 3 mandible in particular presents derived modern human anterior symphyseal morphology, with a projecting tuber symphyseos, distinct mental fossae, modest lateral tubercles, and a vertical symphysis; it is separate from any known late archaic human mandible. However, it also exhibits a lingual symphyseal morphology and corpus robustness that place it close to later Pleistocene archaic humans. The age and morphology of the Zhiren Cave human remains support a modern human emergence scenario for East Asia involving dispersal with assimilation or populational continuity with gene flow. It also places the Late Pleistocene Asian emergence of modern humans in a pre-Upper Paleolithic context and raises issues concerning the long-term Late Pleistocene coexistence of late archaic and early modern humans across Eurasia.

The Denisovans and the mystery of blonde hair…

Yeah, we know about Neanderthal and Homo Floresiensis but who the hell were the Denisovans?!
The Denisovans and the mystery of blonde hair…
Ethnic monitoring forms could be about to get even more complicated – that’s if you consider the whole of your ancestry to be important. Before paleogeneticists Svante Pääbo, and David Riech and the team at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology decoded hominidae genomes of the living (humans and great apes) and the extinct (Neanderthal and Denisovan) the “Single-origin model”, of human evolution was popular with several scientists such as, paleoanthropologist
Chris Stringer and geneticist Brian Sykes. Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon were thought of as biologically separate species, unable to breed and produce viable hybrids. But in Stringer’s new book, The Origin of our Species and again during his recent talk at the Royal Institute, Stringer declared he was wrong about the “single-origin model”. (But neither does he fully support the multi-regional hypothesis) A band of Early Homo sapiens migrating out of Africa between 100,000 to 60,000 years ago, didn’t simply replace independently evolved populations from earlier out-of-Africa exoduses, (such as the Neanderthal), they bred with them. Many would convincingly argue the once controversial "multiregional hypothesis" is now proven by DNA evidence. And “Rhodesian Man” and “Iwo Eleru” fossils are no longer confusing anomalies. Stringer, head of Human Origins at the Natural History Museum, is an accessible, modest and world-class academic and clearly inspired by the fossils and the new DNA data that has proved him wrong.

Populations of people outside of Africa have far less genetic diversity than modern Africans, but they carry approximately 2.5% Neanderthal DNA - but not the same 2.5 of genetic material. Thus, which modern non-African regional groups inherited what particular Neanderthal genes and under what selection pressures and what benefit those genes give, if any, remains to be determined. DNA is best preserved cold, the small Siberian Denisovan fossils yielded both mitochondrial and autosomnal DNA. Denisovan Mitochondrial DNA analysis shows the shared ancestor of modern humans, Denisovans and Neanderthal lived 1M years ago, whereas the Mitochondrial ancestor of Neanderthal and modern humans lived 500,000 years ago. Both Homo heidelbergensis and Antecessor split and speciated away from their Homo Erectus origins around 1.5 million years ago. It is possible that H. heidelbergensis gave rise to Neanderthal and the Denisovans were a hybrid of Antecessor and early Neanderthal. The Denisovan morphology (a very large molar was found) and their genome suggests these were a robust and archaic-looking people. Yet they made tools and ornaments (before the Denisovan fossil discovery artifacts of this sort were attributed to modern humans) and were living in Southern Siberia up until at least 30,000 years ago.

Lake Baikol in Southern Siberia, largest freshwater lake in the world.
Denisovans colonised vast areas of East Asia, whereas Neanderthal populated Western Asia and Europe. When anatomically modern humans migrated from Africa they subsequently met and bred with the Neanderthal, somewhere around 60,000 years ago and those that went East subsequently met and successfully bred with the Denisovans – people with regions of their genome more similar to a chimpanzee than a Neanderthal. Some of these hybridised archaic people continued Eastwards and around 40,000 years ago became the early Melanesian (and probably Australasian) settlers. Thus, today’s Melanesians have 7.5% archaic genes, approx 2.5 Neanderthal and 5% Denisovan. This would help to explain the Australian 10,000yr old Kow Swamp skull’s archaic robusticity. Tests of Tasmanian bones are now important for future sampling.

Tasmanian Aboriginies

The YALI tribe of Papua New Guinea are believed to be direct descendents of the Denisovans.
Yali man Papua New Guinea
DNA from late populations of Southern European Neanderthal show they had evolved genes for red hair and fair skin. Some Melanesians and the Australian Aborigine are blond, in the pre-genetic-testing past this pigmentation confounded anthropologists. It was wrongly assumed Dutch sailors had left behind their genetic admixture for blond pigment. But as these groups exhibit a combination of blond hair and dark skin this theory was always doubted. I wondered if the Denisovans might have been blondes? At the Max Plank Institute pigmentation is not a major interest and they have not pursued this particular line of research, so, we must wait for another team to take up this challenge.

Blond hair is frequnetly seen in Melanesian children

African Bushmen (particularly groups that use a “click” in their language), also appear to carry archaic DNA. It’s possible some Erectus groups did not evolve into Heidelbergensis or Antecessor and, in turn, some of these did not evolve into Homo sapiens. Some isolated groups had a slower development and remained in confined regions of Africa, but were opportunist breeders when they encountered others, including emerging anatomically modern Africans. The archaic looking but recent “Iwo Eleru” fossil from Nigeria suggests hybridisation of archaic and emerging moderns continued up to as recently as 10,000 years ago. The “Rhodensian Man” specimen is 200,000 years old, (Homo sapiens Mitochondrial Eve lived 150,000 year ago) yet this fossil has the robusticity of a 2M year old H. erectus. Speciation of our direct ancestors away from archaic chimps took some 4 million years from approximately 9M to 5M yrs ago. Hybrids were born and they mated with both our ancestors and ancestral chimps giving rise to various Australopithecines. Stringer now believes that diverse ancestral groups developed in separate niches, 120,000 years ago the Sahara supported oases of grassland and interconnected rivers leading to the Mediterranean. It’s possible some relic populations of Australopithecines also held on in isolated regions. Homo floresiensis (Hobbit) is now thought to be an australopithecine and may be re-classified, even though these dinky bipeds had human faces, sailed boats, made tools, made fire, hunted co-operatively and lived as recently as 17,000 years ago.

Hobbit skull next to modern human skull and an artist impression of the Hobbit

There is no doubt that Africa is the continent of our origin, but the story of human evolution is complex, involving the hybridization of several highly divergent lineages. Stringer pays homage to Darwin in the naming of his book, but at the close of his Ri lecture Stringer commented, “As there seems to be archaic DNA input into all modern humans, even within Africa, I possibly should have called the book, ‘Origins of our Species’, instead of ‘Origin’.”

Below artist impressions of the multi-regional bushy hominid lineage and a Denisovan
Denisovan/Melanesian admixture in a Polynesian princess

I'm going to push the boat out here a little bit further and say that odd accounts of supposed proto-humans such as "Zana" require modern DNA testing. Could Zana have been a descendent of the Denisovans?
It's possible that archaic populations found niches in remote forested and mountainous areas of Europe, such as the Caucuses, Urals and Altai ranges and they may have lived on in these isolated areas until recent times. The Medieval accounts of "hairy men" and the "wood woo" may actually be anecdotal sightings of archaic hominids.Source

Late Archaic in Africa (15k years ago)

In recent years the Later Stone Age has been redated to a much deeper time depth than previously thought. At the same time, human remains from this time period are scarce in Africa, and even rarer in West Africa. The Iwo Eleru burial is one of the few human skeletal remains associated with Later Stone Age artifacts in that region with a proposed Pleistocene date. We undertook a morphometric reanalysis of this cranium in order to better assess its affinities. We also conducted Uranium-series dating to re-evaluate its chronology.

Methodology/Principal Findings
A 3-D geometric morphometric analysis of cranial landmarks and semilandmarks was conducted using a large comparative fossil and modern human sample. The measurements were collected in the form of three dimensional coordinates and processed using Generalized Procrustes Analysis. Principal components, canonical variates, Mahalanobis D2 and Procrustes distance analyses were performed. The results were further visualized by comparing specimen and mean configurations. Results point to a morphological similarity with late archaic African specimens dating to the Late Pleistocene. A long bone cortical fragment was made available for U-series analysis in order to re-date the specimen. The results (~11.7–16.3 ka) support a terminal Pleistocene chronology for the Iwo Eleru burial as was also suggested by the original radiocarbon dating results and by stratigraphic evidence.

Our findings are in accordance with suggestions of deep population substructure in Africa and a complex evolutionary process for the origin of modern humans. They further highlight the dearth of hominin finds from West Africa, and underscore our real lack of knowledge of human evolution in that region.

More from BBC

Archaic genes in Some Africans

A long-debated question concerns the fate of archaic forms of the genus Homo: did they go extinct without interbreeding with anatomically modern humans, or are their genes present in contemporary populations? This question is typically focused on the genetic contribution of archaic forms outside of Africa. Here we use DNA sequence data gathered from 61 noncoding autosomal regions in a sample of three sub-Saharan African populations (Mandenka, Biaka, and San) to test models of African archaic admixture. We use two complementary approximate-likelihood approaches and a model of human evolution that involves recent population structure, with and without gene flow from an archaic population. Extensive simulation results reject the null model of no admixture and allow us to infer that contemporary African populations contain a small proportion of genetic material (≈2%) that introgressed ≈35 kya from an archaic population that split from the ancestors of anatomically modern humans ≈700 kya. Three candidate regions showing deep haplotype divergence, unusual patterns of linkage disequilibrium, and small basal clade size are identified and the distributions of introgressive haplotypes surveyed in a sample of populations from across sub-Saharan Africa. One candidate locus with an unusual segment of DNA that extends for >31 kb on chromosome 4 seems to have introgressed into modern Africans from a now-extinct taxon that may have lived in central Africa. Taken together our results suggest that polymorphisms present in extant populations introgressed via relatively recent interbreeding with hominin forms that diverged from the ancestors of modern humans in the Lower-Middle Pleistocene.Source

Heidelberg Man from West Asia?

The last common ancestor of humans and Neanderthals was a tall, well-traveled species called Heidelberg Man, according to a new PLoS One study.
The determination is based on the remains of a single Heidelberg Man (Homo heidelbergensis) known as "Ceprano," named after the town near Rome, Italy, where his fossil — a partial cranium — was found.
Previously, this 400,000-year-old fossil was thought to represent a new species of human, Homo cepranensis. The latest study, however, identifies Ceprano as being an archaic member of Homo heidelbergensis.
The finding may shed light on what the species that gave rise to both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens looked like.
"Considering other fossils that can be lumped together with Ceprano in H. heidelbergensis, we can hypothesize that the 'Ceprano-morphotype' was tall, with a strong mandible (jaw) and small teeth," coauthor Silvana Condemi told Discovery News.
Condemi is the Director of Research at the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) in the laboratory of anthropology at the University of Marseille, where she directs the unit of paleoanthropology.
For the study, she and colleagues Aurelien Mounier and Giorgio Manzi compared Ceprano with 42 fossils from Africa and Eurasia ranging from 1.8 million to 12,000 years ago. The scientists also compared Ceprano to 68 modern humans. The sample set is the most extensive ever assembled in relation to the ancient Italian fossil.
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In addition to identifying Ceprano as a Heidelberg Man, the analysis found notable similarities with other human-associated fossils from Europe dating to the Middle Pleistocene 781,000 to 126,000 years ago. Connections were also made to early human fossils from Africa. The researchers therefore believe that Homo heidelbergensis was widespread, dispersing throughout Eurasia and Africa beginning around 780,000 years ago.
Good weather may have permitted Heidelberg Man's worldly lifestyle.
"We can hypothesize that particular environmental conditions during the Middle Pleistocene may have favored the expansion of H. heidelbergensis and contacts between populations," explained Condemi, who is also the co-editor of the new book Continuity and Discontinuity in the Peopling of Europe (Springer, 2011). "The gene flow was never completely stopped between Old World populations."
Paleontologist Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, London, told Discovery News that he agrees with most of the new study's conclusions.
"I have long argued that Homo heidelbergensis represented our common ancestor with the Neanderthals about 400,000 years ago, and the Ceprano fossil, with its newly-determined late date, is well-situated chronologically to be part of this common ancestral group," Stringer said.
"However, it is quite a primitive specimen in several respects and therefore it may be that, like some other samples of heidelbergensis in Africa and Europe, it does not represent the actual last ancestral population," Stringer added.
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"In my view, we still do not know where that particular population existed," he explained, "and it may even have lived in a place from which we have very little evidence at present, such as western Asia."
Ian Tattersall, curator of anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History, told Discovery News that he agrees Ceprano has been "appropriately assigned to the cosmopolitan species Homo heidelbergensis. But in Europe this species is contemporaneous with the lineage leading to Homo neanderthalensis."
If Homo heidelbergensis did arrive before modern humans, "it must thus have been via an earlier, presumably African, representative of the species," Tattersall explained.
While many eyes are on Heidelberg Man as being the likely common ancestor to Neanderthals and our species, the jury is still out as to where that pivotal evolution took place.
Anthropologist Eric Delson of Lehman College, The City University of New York, thinks the new study is "very interesting and takes a good approach," but he believes additional research is needed to elucidate exactly when, where and how Neanderthals and modern humans originated.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tooth Study Lends Support to "Out of Asia" Theory

First Europeans Came From Asia, Not Africa, Tooth Study Suggests
<< Back to Page 1 Page 2 of 2
"Teeth are like the safe-box of the genetic code," Martinón-Torres said.

That's because—compared to bones—teeth change shape very little once they are formed, and their shape is strongly influenced by genetics.

China's Earliest Modern Human Found (April 3, 2007)
Human Genetics Overview
Fossil Tooth Belonged to Earliest Western European, Experts Say (July 2, 2007)
The researchers classified each of the teeth using more than 50 indicators, such as fissure patterns, overall size, and length-to-width ratio.

"We looked at the entire landscape of the teeth—the mountains, valleys, ridges—everything," Martinón-Torres said.

What they found is that European teeth were more similar to Asian teeth than they were to African teeth.

However, the results don't rule out African influence on European genes.

"This finding does not necessarily imply that there was not genetic flow between continents," Martinón-Torres and colleagues write in their paper, "but emphasizes that this interchange could have been both ways."

The work will be published in tomorrow's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Fluid Migrations

Rather than a one-way stream of people coming from Africa, Martinón-Torres and colleagues think there must have been a more fluid pattern of migrations.

"Just because people had come out of Africa didn't mean that they couldn't turn around and go back again," she said.

The researcher also believes that climate, food, and geography were major influences on hominid migration patterns.

The Sahara, for example, presented a big barrier for movement out of Africa and directly into Europe (see photos and read a related feature about athletes who ran across the Sahara earlier this year).

Rather than struggling across the Sahara, it appears that human ancestors spread in many directions before arriving in Europe.

Erika Hagelberg, a geneticist from the University of Oslo in Norway, is impressed with the study, but cautious about how it should be interpreted.

"The study shows that the genetic impact of Asia on Europe is stronger than that of Africa. But the teeth can't tell us the direction or the time when people migrated," she said.

Nonetheless, the new study does complement direct gene studies and supports the idea that hominids evolved independently in many different parts of the world.

"The fossil teeth are a way to study the traits of past peoples," Hagelberg said, "and help balance the work being done on the genes of people alive today."Source

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Georgia Mayans

Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of an ancient Mayan city in the mountains of North Georgia believed to be at least 1,100 years old. According to Richard Thornton at, the ruins are reportedly what remains of a city built by Mayans fleeing wars, volcanic eruptions, droughts and famine.

In 1999, University of Georgia archeologist Mark Williams led an expedition to investigate the Kenimer Mound, a large, five-sided pyramid built in approximately 900 A.D. in the foothills of Georgia’s tallest mountain, Brasstown Bald. Many local residents has assumed for years that the pyramid was just another wooded hill, but in fact it was a structure built on an existing hill in a method common to Mayans living in Central America as well as to Southeastern Native American tribes.

Speculation has abounded for years as to what could have happened to the people who lived in the great Meso-American societies of the first century. Some historians believed that they simply died out in plagues and food shortages, but others have long speculated about the possibility of mass migration to other regions....

All Homo Hominids Abandoned Africa 1.4 million years ago?

I have been trying to find some evidence of homo activity in Africa after 1.4 million years ago, when homo ergaster disappears from the fossil record. Homo fossils don't show up there again until 1 million years ago, and then only at one site in east africa, and the fossil is attributed to homo erectus (Daka).
It's another 300k years until Ternifine in North Africa, also a Homo Erectus. Another 100 k after that until Bodo man, also a homo erectus with some archaic traits.
From these facts, it looks to me like around 1.4 million years ago, homo habilis went extinct and homo ergaster either abandoned Africa or went extinct with it. Homo antecessor appears around 1.2 million years ago and is more similar to ergaster than to erectus so I would opt for the former explanation for ergaster's disappearance, and it would not be so surprising because of the Saharan pump theory. Africa was getting dry and the desert areas grw enormous, so lots of animals were leaving during this time.
Surprisingly, it's hard to find out much about this. It's just not mentioned very much, in text books and in arheological websites. It seems the mainstreamers would rather us believe that there was continuous habitation of Africa from ergaster to archaic homo sapien all throught the pleistocene.
I'm sure many people would say that it was occupied, we just haven't found fossils yet. Or that the heat made it less possible for fossils to remain preserved. The problem with that is, south east asia and India were teaming with homo erectus during these times when Africa is yielding nothing, not only evidenced by fossils but also with Acheullian remains.
If there was anyone in Africa between 1.4 million years ago and 700,000 years ago, besides that short visit from Daka man circa 1 million, Daka 1 million years ago...then where are the Acheullian tools?
I've been searching for hours, but have only found this in wikipedia:

"H. ergaster is believed to have diverged from the lineage of H. habilis between 1.9 and 1.8 million years ago; the lineage that emigrated Africa and fathered H. erectus diverged from the lineage of H. ergaster almost immediately after this. These early descendants of H. ergaster may have been discovered in Dmanisi, Georgia.[8] H. ergaster remained stable for ca. 500,000 years in Africa before disappearing from the fossil record around 1.4 million years ago. No identifiable cause has been attributed to this disappearance; the later evolution of the similar H. heidelbergensis in Africa may indicate that this is simply a hole in the record, or that some intermediate species has not yet been discovered."

This is the only place I can even find a writer pointing out or admittiong that there's a hole in the fossil record of Africa, and the possible explanation they give is laughable. Possible Paleothic hominid sites in Africa have been dug, redug, and dug again, more than those of any other continent in the world.
History writers continually glass over the anomoly when describing the Acheullian industry; virtually every texts says that Acheullian started 1.6 million years ago in afric and quickly spread all the way to India. It was formerly thought not to have been present in East and South-east Asia but new finds in China and elsewhere have disproven that. It didn't reach Europe until 400. 000 years ago...or possibly 700,000 if you count a site in Spain. It persisted in India until 120, 000 years ago.
It's like they are glossing over one mentions that it disappeared in Africa 1.4 million years ago and then only re-emerged at a later date before giving way to Upper Paleo industried...but obviously that is exactly what happened.

The implications of this seem very big to me. It explains alot about the migrations of homo and the appearance of homo heidelbergensis, and gives me answers that I've been struggling with for a long time. I'm just wondering if anyone has noticed this "hole" and thinks it's significant.

Is the Narmada hominid an Indian Homo erectus?

In 1982 a fossil hominid calvaria was found in a middle Pleistocene deposit in the central Narmada valley of Madhya Pradesh, India, and was assigned to the new taxon Homo erectus narmadensis. Subsequently, morphometric studies of the specimen were conducted by two separate research teams from France and the United States, both in collaboration with Indian colleagues. Results of the most recent study, which includes morphometric and comparative investigations, lead to the conclusion that "Narmada Man" is appropriately identified as Homo sapiens. While the calvaria shares some anatomical features with Asian Homo erectus specimens, it exhibits a broader suite of morphological and mensural characteristics suggesting affinities with early Homo sapiens fossils from Asia, Europe, and Africa as well as demonstrating that the Narmada calvaria possesses some unique anatomical features, perhaps because the specimen reflects the incoherent classificatory condition of the genus Homo.

Homo Erectus in India

From here.

Generally speaking, Archeulean industry (which basically amounts to a certain kind of ancient stone tools), is associated with archaic hominins and most prominently, with Homo Erectus. It follows "the more primitive Oldowan technology some 1.8 million years ago" associated with Homo habilis, and is found in a period often called the Lower Paleolithic.

Acheulean tools were not made by fully modern humans that is, Homo sapiens although the early or non-modern (transitional) Homo sapiens idaltu did use Late Acheulean tools as did proto-Neanderthal species. Most notably however it is Homo ergaster (sometimes called early Homo erectus), whose assemblages are almost exclusively Acheulean, who used the technique. Later, the related species Homo heidelbergensis also used it extensively.

The 1.5 million years ago date suggests that Homo Erectus, or a similarly sophisticated hominin arrived in India within 300,000 years after this species of hominin evolved in Africa...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Oldest ritual not discovered

In 2006 an associate Professor announced the remarkable discovery of
evidence for ritual in Borswana 70,000 years ago. There was a great buzz
in the press for a short while, and it was embedded in various places
including Wikipedia. I noticed it last week and did a bit of research.
Here's what I wrote
In 2006 the site known as Rhino Cave became prominent in the media when
Sheila Coulson of the University of Oslo stated that 70,000-year-old
artifacts and a rock resembling a python's head representing the first
known human rituals had been discovered. She also backed her
interpretation of the site as a place of ritual based on other animals
portrayed: "In the cave, we find only the San people's three most
important animals: the python, the elephant, and the giraffe
Since then some of the archaeologists involved in the original
investigations of the site in 1995 and 1996 have challenged these
interpretations. They point out that the indentations (known by
archaeologists as cupules) described by Coulson do not necessarily all
date to the same period and that "many of the depressions are very fresh
while others are covered by a heavy patina." Other sites nearby (over 20)
also have depressions and do not represent animals. The Middle Stone Age
Radiocarbon dating|radiocarbon and thermoluminescence dating for this site
does not support the 70,000 year figure, suggesting much more recent
Discussing the painting, the archaeologists say that the painting
described as an elephant is actually a rhino, that the red painting of a
giraffe is no older than 400 AD and that the white painting of the rhino
is more recent, and that experts in rock art believe the red and white
paintings are by different groups. They refer to Coulson's interpretation
as a projection of modern beliefs on to the past and call Coulson's
interpretation a composite story that is "flatout misleading". They
respond to Coulson's statement that these are the only paintings in the
cave by saying that she has ignored red geometric paintings found on the
cave wall.
They also discuss the burned Middle Stone Age points, saying that there is
nothing unusual in using nonlocal materials. They dismiss the claim that
no ordinary tools were found at the site, noting that the many scrapers
that are found are ordinary tools and that there is evidence of tool
making at the site. Discussing the 'secret chamber', they point to the
lack of evidence for San shamans using chambers in caves or for this one
to have been used in such a way.
World's Oldest Ritual Site? The "Python Cave" at Tsodilo Hills World
Heritage Site, Botswan NYAME AKUMA, the Bulletin of the Society of
Africanist Archaeologists2007
Doug Weller --
A Director and Moderator of The Hall of Ma'at
Doug's Archaeology Site:
Amun - co-owner/co-moderator

Denisovan Ancestors

A previously unknown type of human ancestor was discovered when 50,000
year old finger bones and a tooth from Denisova cave in Southern
Siberia were mtDNA tested.
The results showed that the bones were of people neither modern human
nor Neanderthal. Comparison of their DNA with modern human groups' DNA
showed that around 5% of Melanesians may be descended from the
Denisovans, as they are being called.

Java Man's First Tools


About 1.7 million years ago, a leggy human ancestor, Homo erectus, began prowling the steamy swamps and uplands of Java. That much is known from the bones of more than 100 individuals dug up on the Indonesian island since 1891. But the culture of early “Java Man” has been a mystery: No artifacts older than 1 million years had been found—until now.

At the meeting, archaeologist Harry Widianto of the National Research Centre of Archaeology in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, wowed colleagues with slides showing stone tools found in sediments that he says were laid down 1.2 million years ago and could be as old as 1.6 million years. The find, at a famous hominid site called Sangiran in the Solo Basin of Central Java, “opens up a whole new window into the lifeways of Java Man,” says paleoanthropologist Russell L. Ciochon of the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Although hominids apparently evolved in Africa, Indonesia is a Garden of Eden in its own right, with a wealth of H. erectus fossils. The startling discovery 2 years ago of “hobbits”—the diminutive H. floresiensis of Flores Island—added a controversial new hominid to the Indonesian menagerie.

In 1998, Widianto found stone flakes in the 800,000-year-old Grenzbank layer at Sangiran, whose well-plumbed sediments reach back 2 million years. Then in September 2004, his team struck gold in a layer dated by extrapolation from the rocks around it to 1.2 million years ago. Over 2 months, they unearthed 220 flakes—several centimeters long, primarily made of chalcedony, and ranging in color from beige to blood red—in a 3-by-3-meter section of sand deposited by an ancient river.

The find, not yet published, could be even more spectacular than Widianto realizes, says Ciochon. His team, which also works at Sangiran, has used ultraprecise argon-argon radiometric methods to date the volcanic strata overlying the levels excavated by Widianto to 1.58 million to 1.51 million years ago—making the flakes at least 1.6 million years old. If the flakes were undisturbed, Ciochon says, they would represent “some of the earliest evidence of the human manufacture of stone artifacts outside of Africa.” Their antiquity would match that of the oldest flakes found in China, at Majuangou, dated to 1.66 million years ago and also made of chert.

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Indonesian tool kit. Homo erectus used small, finely worked tools on Java.
But not everyone is convinced. Although the chert flakes are abraded, possibly by water, a few limestone flakes are remarkably sharp. “The difference in preservation condition could indicate that we are dealing with secondary deposition,” or flakes of different ages mixed together, cautions archaeologist Susan Keates of Oxford University in the U.K., who was at the talk. Others disagree. “I feel their excavation is reliable, because the deposits are thick and undisturbed,” says Hisao Baba, curator of anthropology at Japan's National Science Museum and the University of Tokyo, whose team has also uncovered H. erectus fossils and flakes on Java.

The Sangiran flakes “are fundamentally different”—smaller—than the stone choppers made by H. erectus in Africa, says Ciochon. The evidence, he argues, suggests that Java Man had to range far for small deposits of good flint or chert and so created small, finely worked tools in contrast to the larger tools found in Africa. Considering the scarcity of raw materials on Java, Ciochon says, it's “a remarkably fine technology.”

Widianto will resume excavations in June. “I will be going deeper and deeper, older and older,” he promises.

African Arrow Origins

"'I think the finding adds to growing evidence for the great antiquity
of complex projectile weaponry in Africa,' says paleoanthropologist
John Shea of Stony Brook (N.Y.) University. 'The real startling upshot
of this finding is that it challenges longstanding archaeological
beliefs that important changes in projectile technology only occurred
very recently, less than 30,000 years ago, after humans dispersed into

25,000-year-old pendant found in Spain

A pendant some 25,000-years old has been found in northern Spain’s Basque region by archaeologists.

The piece, an oblong gray smooth stone some 10 centimeters in length, is perforated at one end and apparently was hung from a cord around a person’s neck, according to the director of the excavation, Alvaro Arrizabalaga, who added that the other end of the stone was used as a tool to retouch the edges of tools made from flint, like arrows or scrapers.

The object comes from the Cromagnon epoch.

Arrizabalaga said that the pendant is older than other such items found so far in the Praileaitz cave which are estimated to be some 15,000 years old.

In addition, he said that there have been “some 20 pieces from this same epoch” found on the Iberian peninsula to date, with the peculiar unifying element that they have always been found in caves.

“The piece is very well preserved and we’ve been lucky to be able to remove it without damaging it in any way” from the dig near the town of Zestoa, Arrizabalaga said.

The dig leader said the pendant “is not going to need any more restoration”, and after experts study it and include it in the collection of Cromagnon discoveries found at the site, it will be placed in the hands of a public museum.

“Twenty-five thousand years ago, human beings of our species came to this place that functioned as a hunting place for wandering groups” the archaeologist said, adding that the groups of humans “moved eight times per year to zones where there were specific types of resources”.

The Irikaitz deposit, where archaeologists began working in 1998, is known for being the site of discoveries of pieces up to 250,000 years old, a period when the precursors of Homo sapiens were still in existence.

Denisova Admixture and the First Modern Human Dispersals into Southeast Asia and Oceania
American Journal of Human Genetics Reich, D. et al. Am. J. Hum. Genet. 89, 1-13 (2011)
"It has recently been shown that ancestors of New Guineans and
Bougainville Islanders have inherited a proportion of their ancestry from
Denisovans, an archaic hominin group from Siberia. However, only a sparse sampling
of populations from Southeast Asia and Oceania were analyzed. Here, we
quantify Denisova admixture in 33 additional populations from Asia and
Oceania. Aboriginal Australians, Near Oceanians, Polynesians, Fijians, east
Indonesians, and Mamanwa (a “Negrito” group from the Philippines) have all
inherited genetic material from Denisovans, but mainland East Asians, western
Indonesians, Jehai (a Negrito group from Malaysia), and Onge (a Negrito group from the
Andaman Islands) have not. These results indicate that Denisova gene flow
occurred into the common ancestors of New Guineans, Australians, and Mamanwa
but not into the ancestors of the Jehai and Onge and suggest that relatives
of present-day East Asians were not in Southeast Asia when the Denisova
gene flow occurred. Our finding that descendants of the earliest inhabitants of
Southeast Asia do not all harbor Denisova admixture is inconsistent
with a history in which the Denisova interbreeding occurred in mainland Asia
and then spread over Southeast Asia, leading to all its earliest modern human
inhabitants. Instead, the data can be most parsimoniously explained if
the Denisova gene flow occurred in Southeast Asia itself. Thus, archaic
Denisovans must have lived over an extraordinarily broad geographic and
ecological range, from Siberia to tropical Asia."