Re: Your book review in PERSPECTIVES, page 222, of Morton's

John P. McKiness (
Wed, 2 Sep 1998 20:49:15 -0500

Hi Glenn,

At 19:59 PM 8/26/1998 -0500, you wrote:
>>At 08:45 AM 8/25/98 -0500, J. McKiness wrote:
>>Hi Glenn,
>>Sorry but I disagree. You are comparing moderns with erectus. The
>>peoples you mention have the needle something there is no evidence erectus
>>had; so their clothing is better. At this point we have no evidence that
>>erectus even had clothing at all, even the evidence for fire is
>>uncertain. I think that migration into and out of the more extreme regions
>>of their range is the most reasonable and the simplest explaination.
>You make a very bad assumption. You assume that a needle was required to
>make clothing. That is not true. The Fuegians apparently didn't sew their
>skins into form-fitting cloths, but they had cloths in the form of pancho's
>and they used them to keep warm at their 45 deg S. latitude homes.
>[snipped quote]

My assumption, when I entered this thread, was that the discussion was about
the northern most confirmed erectus sites (Georgia, between 1.8 and 1.5 m.y.
ago and Zhoukoudian, 500,000-200,000). I didn't make the assumptions that
erectus had or didn't have clothing (they may very well have, but we don't
have direct evidence of it -- just indirect evidence, which you interpret as
fact. I stated that without the needle they couldn't make the warm clothing
that the people you mentioned (Inuits, Native Americans, Gilyaks, Tungis)
had prior to contact, who by the way usually did not live in the same
portion of their ranges in the winter as they did in summer. Inuits could
winter over at their coastal winter encampments only because of the
predictable supply of fat in seals and whales.

The point is that these are sapiens not erectus and I doubt that erectus
would have been able to put the strategies of sapiens into practice;
remember, by Walker and Shipman's (1998, _The Wisdom in Bones_)
interpretation that erectus was an animal in a human body, incapable of
sapiens level language and abstract thought, an interpretation based on
their research. I believe that erectus would behave more like social animal
predators who are dependent on herds of grazers and browsers than like
hunting/gathering sapiens who switch resources to stay in a temperate
regions year round. Migration makes sense for erectus just as it does for
many sapiens today.

We all accept the evidence that supports our pet hypothesis as fact. This
is why we _must_ work with multiple hypotheses so we do not become overly
restrictive in what we accept as valid research or blind to other possibilities.

>And I would like to know precisely why the following not considered
>'evidence' of clothing or tents both of which are means of protecting one's
>self from the cold?
>[snipped quotes]

I do not have problem with this, it may be the case (probable is), but are
these erectus sites or archaic sapiens sites? Were they making clothes and
shelters or were they just making bags to carry their tool kits, babies,
roots, and meat? And what do the associated proxy climate indicators say
about the climate present when the site was occupied (ocean core proxies are
of little use here)? We need to match up the hominid with the vegetation,
micro mammal, soil, insect, snail, and local isotope records to know the
approximate climate at occupation. I suspect that it may be close to the
early to mid Holocene conditions but we (on this list) do not know that yet.
I haven't been able to look for the info yet, so I do not even know if it

Again I do not deny that erectus wore leathers, made shelters, or even could
create fire on demand, especially during the later part of their time range;
the problem I have is that you are mixing your data of all hominids with
your interpretations of what any particular one was capable of and you work
loose with the climates that they lived in. Just because their remains are
found in areas where we have the climatic stats for the past 200 years
doesn't mean that those sites were occupied by hominids during either the
extremes that exited then or those moderns have recorded.

>>There is no shame in migrating out of areas you can not survive in.
>>Hunters and gathers still do that where they can. Why wouldn't erectus?
>Because it is too far. This is the same problem one has in explaining the
>existence of Cretaceous polar dinosaurs. Some have suggested that they
>migrated 5000 km/yr (which would be similarly needed for naked men and
>women). Diring Yuriak is near Yakutsk, Siberia and is about 63 deg
>latitude. It dates over 260,000 years ago.
>[snipped quote]

The Cretaceous polar dinosaurs and the Diring Yuriak site are bad examples
for this discussion.

As I remember the problem for Cretaceous dinos was darkness and
photosynthesis shut down, not necessarily the cold conditions in continental
interiors. Just to show that I can do basic math also, consider the
following. Assume a 5000km/yr annual migration, also assume 30 days stay at
each extreme locality of this annual migration. That leaves about 305 days
for migration. 5000/305= about 16 km/day. At 1km/hr that gives 16 hrs of
movement on course. I do not believe that average rate is unreasonable for
active herd animals and the predators that depend on them. As modern
analogs, bison and wolves are known to cover at least 80 km in a night
(sorry I do not have a reference at hand but I believe I got this from a
book on the research of Isle Royal wolves in the late 1960's and/or R. Dale
Gruthie's work on "Blue Babe," most of my books and files are in storage).

The hominids at Georgia and China did not have to go that far . Assume 1000
km one way (about 63 days at 16km/day. Again Maur, Germany, Boxglove,
England, and the Siberian sites do not have evidence for erectus as I
remember (see Larick and Ciochon, _The African Emergence and Early Asian
Dispersals of the Genus Homo_ in the Nov-Dec 1996 American Scientist, which
is on the web). If you assume only one species of Homo existed between
1,800,000 and 250,000 years ago then erectus was there, but I believe that
there is enough evidence that more than one species existed during portions
of that time period (ergaster, heidelbergensis, and early sapiens besides

At Diring Yuriak we do not know which hominids were present and even the
date is controversial at this point; the minimum is about 250,000 yrs (as
sited in the Mammoth Trumpet 11(1) 1996, also on the web) but this is a
thermoluminescence date of the overlying sands and silts which may well have
moved down slope by solifluction during the late Pleistocene or even during
the early Holocene. I doubt that erectus was the hominid there but that is
a personal opinion.

Again, I think we can also only assume that these "extreme" sites were
occupied during the summers of the warmest years of the warmest portions of
an interglacial or interstadial by hominids of unknown affinity. So my
stated idea that we cannot rule out migration is still valid. You smoke
screen the issue with nonpertinent "facts" and your misinterpretations of my

>And I would say that it is unlikely that H. erectus or any other hominid
>migrated the distances you want them to. It is an unworkable suggestion
>which is contrary to the observational data.
>[snipped signature]

I do not think so. I believe you confuse the issue out of your desperation
to bring agreement between the fossil record and your interpretation of