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

Glenn R. Morton (
Wed, 02 Sep 1998 23:57:30 -0500

Hi John,

At 08:49 PM 9/2/98 -0500, John P. McKiness wrote:
>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

Given the fact that at 300 kyr ago people lived along the Lena River in
Siberia, 400 kyr ago, they lived in Germany which is not a warm place in
winter, and 500 kyr ago they lived in Beijing which also isn't warm in
winter, it is logical to deduce that something kept them warm. The
anthropological evidence is that H. erectus had no fur so that seems to be
ruled out by the data. That leaves then clothing. Naked people freeze in
the winter in Beijing, Germany and Siberia, not to mention Georgia.

And to assume seasonal migration of distances required to get them to
warmer climes, requires they migrate further than any other mammal.
>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.

Let me note a couple of things. First, have you ever tried to make a stone
tool? It requires lots of planning and forsight. It isn't the sort of
thing that can be learned by rote because each stone is different requiring
a different sequence of blows to bring out the desired shape. That type of
activity requires intelligence. Secondly, it is a fact that at Gadeb,
Ethiopia 1.2 million years that erectus seems to have been able to remember
to carry obsidian hand axes over 100 kilometers to the site where they were
used. This also implies an intelligence much above that of any primate.
Assuming 25 km/day (which is really trucking it on) means a demonstrable
minimum of 4 days of advanced planning. They weren't dummies back then.

>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

So explain to me how Homo erectus 400 kyr ago at Bilzingsleben Germany was
able to build a village if he was just "an animal in a human body,
incapable of
>sapiens level language and abstract thought". Mania, Mania and Vleck write:

"The home base of early man from Bilzingsleben was situated on a shore
terrace close to the outflow of a karst spring into a small lake. Previous
excavations revealed a division of the camp site into different activity
areas and outlines of three simple shelters with hearths and workshops set
up in front of them. Five to 8 m from the dwelling structures, an
artificially paved area with a diameter of 9 m was found. According to the
archaeological evidence, special cultural activities may have been carried
out there.
"Along with large pebble tools( choppers, chopping tools, and
hammerstones), small specialized tools of flint appear. Basic standard
forms are knives, scrappers, denticulates and notches, simple points which
are pointed-oval, Tayac and Quinson points, borers, and core-like tools.
Edge retouches predominate, but also unifacial and bifacial retouches
occur. Large scrapers, knives, chisel-shaped tools, wedges, bodkins, and
work supports were manufactured from the compact bone, preferably of the
straight-tusked elephant. Mattock- and cudgel-shaped tools were made from
cervid antlers. Specific, deliberate manufacturing activities are
recognizable in the workshops. Apart from the dissection of the animal
prey, these tools served for the working of predominantly organic materials
which in turn were used for the manufacture of other tools and objects of
daily use. Wood was also a frequently used raw material. Numerous
calcified remains of wood artifacts were found at the site. Some bone
tools dispaly deliberately engraved sets of lines which we regard as
expressions of abstract thinking, perhaps as graphic symbols." ~ D. Mania
and U. Mania and E. Vlcek, "Latest Finds of Skull Remains of Homo erectus
from Bilzingsleben (Thruingia)", Naturwissenschaften, 81(1994), p. 123-127,
p. 124

They were also smart enough to face their hut doors to the south to avoid
the north wind coming in.
"At Bilzingsleben each hut opened to the south had a hearth in front of the
door See Figure 5 ~ D. Mania and U. Mania, "Latest Finds of Skull Remains
of Homo erectus from Bilzingsleben (Thuringia)" Naturwissenschaften,
81(1994):123-127, p. 127

And as to this cultural area mentioned above, it has all the appearance of
a religious altar. If you found this in a modern human village, you would
turn around and run fearing for your life:

"But Mania's most intriguing find lies under a protective shed. As he
opens the door sunlight illuminates a cluster of smooth stones and pieces
of bone that he believes were arranged by humans to pave a 27-foot-wide
"'They intentionally paved this area for cultural activities,' says Mania.
'We found here a large anvil of quartzite set between the horns of a huge
bison, near it were fractured human skulls.'" ~ Rick Gore, "The First
Europeans," National Geographic, July, 1997, p. 110

Apparently there was some art at Bilzingsleben left by the erecti.

"It is worth noting that Feustel has also mentioned marks on a
Bilzingsleben bone that may be the depiction of a large animals. If the
authors' view is correct, it is important that this 'animal figure' be
definitively disproved by them as soon as possible. On the other hand, if
Behm-Blancke and Feustel were correct, it would make Bilzingsleben even
more remarkable than it already is." ~ Paul G. Bahn, "Comments", Rock Art
Research 5:2(1988): 91-107, p. 96

John, at what point to you change from accusing me of only accepting data
that supports my thesis to admitting that you are ignoring lots of evidence
that doesn't support your pet theory?

>>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?

All those examples were of erectus sites. And what animal incapable of
human thought engages in the above type of behavior?

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)?

Bilzingsleben was occupied during an interglacial, but that is irrelevant.
Spend this winter naked in Germany and you will not see the spring, yet we
are in the warmest period in centuries in the middle of an interglacial.

>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.

If you agree with me that erectus could do the things you say above, then
they were behaving in a very HUMAN fashion. The only reason you don't
accept them as human is your theological bias against humanity being on
earth that long ago. And as to the latter part of their range, that is
also irrelevant. Why? Plato, Abraham etc were constitutionally and
intellectually our equals. Yet we can do more than they (like fly, do
nuclear physics build cars etc) because there have been inventions since
they lived. Just because early erectus' didn't do certain things doesn't
necessarily mean it was because of mental retardation. Certain things
hadn't been invented yet. Are you aware that art carved in stone or bone
requires a stone tool called a burin? The burin was invented about 150,000
years ago, but didn't become widespread until 40,000 years ago. I would
suggest that the lack of permanent art up to that time may be due to the
LACK of the invention that made art possible.

Even 300,000 years ago at Diring Yuriakh, Siberia, the winters were cold.
After all it was about 65 deg latitude. Even today, in an interglacial it
isn't warm. Tell me where on today's very warm earth you can spend a winter
outside naked above 40 deg latitude

As to mixing my men, pay closer attention. I clearly say who those things
apply to.

>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

There is some evidence that dinos lived the winter above the arctic circle.
They may have had feathers. See Gregory S. Paul, PHysiological,
Migratorial, Climatological, Geophysical, Survival, and Evolutionary
Implications of Cretaceous Polar Dinosaurs," Journal of Paleontology,

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).

I repeat the observational fact that NO mammal migrates that far and indeed
energetically it is maladaptive.

>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).

modern homo sapiens was NOT on earth 300 kyr ago and so it couldn't have
been them, unless you are suggesting an 'Out of Siberia' theory to replace
the 'Out of Africa' theory.

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

Between 500 and 150 kyr there is a transitional series from H. erectus to
H. sapiens. Early in this time period there are lots of arguments as to
whether it is an erectus or a sapiens. And the last erectus lived as late
as 150 kyr (Children of the Ice Age, p. 204)

>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.

Sounds ad hoc to me to save your viewpoint.

So my
>stated idea that we cannot rule out migration is still valid.

I can certainly rule it out until you can provide an observational example
of a species of mammal that migrates that far.

>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

My desperation? I have cited lots and lots of evidence with references
supporting what I suggest. All you do is say "I don't believe you", which
of course is your perogative, but it isn't very useful in a scientific
discussion. Where is evidence that any mammal migrates the distance you
require? Where is the evidence that animals "incapable of human thought"
and planning are able to maintain fires, make spears and build villages? I
submit that if they do all that THEY ARE HUMAN.

Adam, Apes and Anthropology
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