Dmanisi and the age of humanity

From: Glenn Morton (glenn.morton@btinternet.com)
Date: Sun Aug 25 2002 - 22:29:04 EDT

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    The question of when hominid became Man is one that has facinated me for a
    long time. Each new discovery pushes back the date for rather interesting
    behaviors among ancient hominids--activities which were believed to require
    higher intelligence are continually found earlier and earlier. We also see
    a gradual improvement in technology over the past 2 million years making it
    difficult to cite some particular point in the anthropological record as
    being the point at which mankind suddenly appeared. Indeed, the difference
    in technology between 21st century peoples and the technologically most
    primitive people merely 200 years ago is stark. To claim that technology or
    some particular piece of durable technology marks humanity would exclude
    many we know are among the family of Man. Such technologies as toolmaking,
    art, creativity, speed of technological change, and many other items have
    been claimed to be the mark of man. Each in their turn has fallen as an
    indicator because we find earlier hominids (whom we prefer not to call
    human) engaged in such behavior or because we find that other animals do it.

    Last Fall there was a discovery at Dmanisi, Georgia, which once again
    knocked down a preconception of the abilities of earlier hominids and has
    the implications of altering the definition of Homo sapiens. In this
    particular case, most outside of anthropology will not fully understand the
    full force of the argument so I will try to explain.

    The hominid record is populated by species which display anatomical
    differences. These are australopithecus, H. habilis, H. rudolfensis etc. The
    current view is that Homo erectus was the first hominid with the technology
    and physical abilities to enable them to leave Africa. The physical ability
    included long legs and the intelligence to adapt to varied climate. Indeed
    H. erectus is found over a wide area of the the Old World almost
    simultaneously. That along with the fact that all earlier hominids had
    been found only in Africa gave rise to the idea that they didn't have the
    intelligence or ability to travel outside of Africa..

    The discovery at Dmanisi has shattered this view for a variety of reasons.
    The latest National Geographic has an article on the discovery. The new
    skull resembles H. habilis more than erectus. THere are two facts which are
    amazing about this. First, he is found outside of Africa and secondly, he is
    found in the same strata as two H. erectus skulls. It is believed that they
    were a population. Obviously, something that resembles an habilis, found
    outside of Africa, implies that they were smarter than previously believed.
    Gore writes:

    ýThe face of the newest Dmanisi skull suggests something far more primitive.
    As reconstructed here, it resembled chimplike Homo habilis, a 2.5-to
    1.6-million-year-old hominid with long arms and short legsˇproportions some
    have thought better suited for life in the trees than trekking from Africa.
    It had a thin brow, a small nose, and a brain less than half as large as a
    modern humanÝs.ţ Rick Gore, ýThe First Pioneer?:Profile of a Trailblazer,ţ
    National Geographic, August 2002, No page number 3rd page of article

            ýAnd the tiny brain of the Dmanisi skull? Scientists may be forced to
    reexamine the connection between brain size and intelligence. ŰThereÝs no
    reason to downgrade these early Georgians on the IQ scale,Ý says Philip
    Rightmire. ŰThey took a long hike, and they made it.Ý Maybe, says Rightmire,
    brain size by itself doesnÝt matter, and IÝs instead the ratio of gray
    matter to the rest of the body that determines intelligence. In other words,
    these small-brained humans might have done more with less.ţ Rick Gore, ýThe
    First Pioneer? National Geographic, August 2002, No page number 9th page of
    article

    ýThe new find at Dmanisi complicates most models for Homo erectus using its
    brave new brain to march into Eurasia. Homo erectus in Java and China was
    heavier and more robust than it was in Africa. Moreover, Asian erectus did
    not have hand axes. So, itÝs possible that Dmanisi stock somewhere in Asia
    and then moved back to Africa. Maybe there were multiple migrations back and
    forth.ţ Rick Gore, ýThe First Pioneer? National Geographic, August 2002, No
    page number 9th page of article

    Concerning this population, Gore writes that it suggests that there aren't
    as many species as the some anthropologists believe. He says:
    ýFossils from as many as six individuals have been discovered in the same
    1.8-1.7-million-year-old layer of sediment at Dmanisi since 1991. They seem
    to belong to the same species, even though they range in size from
    gargantuan (a well worn mandible, below center) to relatively small (the new
    skull, above center). If individuals this varied could belong to the same
    species, then the most common version of the Homo family tree (top) may have
    to be redrawn. Perhaps all species after Homo habilis should be lumped
    together as two variable species. Homo erectus and H. sapiens.ţ Rick Gore,
    ýThe First Pioneer?: Boning up on a New Genealogy?,ţ National Geographic,
    August 2002, No page number 4th page of article

    This could simplify taxonomy

    ýThe new find at Dmanisi complicates most models for Homo erectus using its
    brave new brain to march into Eurasia. Homo erectus in Java and China was
    heavier and more robust than it was in Africa. Moreover, Asian erectus did
    not have hand axes. So, itÝs possible that Dmanisi stock somewhere in Asia
    and then moved back to Africa. Maybe there were multiple migrations back and
    forth.ţ Rick Gore, ýThe First Pioneer? National Geographic, August 2002, No
    page number 9th page of article

    If there was migration back and forth, from Asia back into Africa, then that
    is the perfect description of multiregionalism. Gore further writes:

            ýMaybe, suggests Milford Wolpoff of the University of
    Michigan, we should
    scrap the idea of Homo erectus entirely and simply say that everything after
    Homo habilis is Homo sapiens. The remarkable variability of the specimens
    found at Dmanisi may support this radical revision of HomoÝs genealogy.ţ
    Rick Gore, ýThe First Pioneer? National Geographic, August 2002, No page
    number 9th page of article

    People should realize that there is a perfect gradational series between H.
    erectus and modern humans. The only real changes are in the skull. Below
    the neck, H. erectus was almost exactly like us--only minor differences.
    Thus, if this new data is carried to its logical conclusion, we may be in
    the same species as hominids 2.5 million years ago.

    Many Christian apologists are simply burying their heads in the sand when it
    comes to anthropological data or worse, they are ignoring the data
    altogether. We act as if only our morphology is worthy of being called human
    and that is a mistake many of our ancestors made when they first found that
    there were a different looking group of people inhabiting the New World. It
    took 3 papal encyclicals granting humanity to the Indians before many took
    it seriously. We simply like to exclude those who look different when in
    fact they may not be different.

    glenn

    see http://www.glenn.morton.btinternet.co.uk/dmd.htm
    for lots of creation/evolution information
    anthropology/geology/paleontology/theology\
    personal stories of struggle



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