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World's Oldest Homo Sapiens Fossils ... from Marakesh

History at 30,000 feet: The Big Picture

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Jun 8, 2017, 11:23am Top

It's a nice confirmatory discovery. It supports the view that has been emerging over the last 15 years or so that the hominid lineage is a highly braided affair, with contributions from multiple sources and interbreeding between goups being the rule. The whole multirregional vs "out of Africa" debate over the last half century has shifted significantly over the last decade and a half away from the earlier view leaning heavily toward the later. The forces at work with in Africa are no different, as they rely on the ingrained and basic human tendency toward mixing between groups, as opposed to evolution in isolation.

Edited: Jun 8, 2017, 3:43pm Top

I find all these texts so politicized, I can't even start to read it. The "where" remains unclear. Africa is a continent. It is stupid to try to pinpoint locations. Finding it in northern Africa only means that in Northern Africa fossils are less prone to damage than elsewhere.

What is more interesting is the dating. 100.000 years older for Homo sapiens 1.0. HS 2.0 remains for the moment at 60.000 years before our era.

Edited: Jun 8, 2017, 3:19pm Top

>3 Macumbeira: There is certainly a great deal of academic politics in these matters, and sensationalism in how they are covered in the media. It makes for a much better story to say "Discovery upends established view" than "more data to consider".

The current report shows people who look like us in a new place in Africa earlier than we've seen before. Were they dwelling there for long? Did they walk there from elsewhere? Where? How does this relate to other findings? It's very interesting, but I see nothing revolutionary here.

Jun 8, 2017, 3:25pm Top

I heard that the scientists making the discovery are saying that it shows that HS didn't evolve in any particular location in Africa but across all of Africa.

Edited: Jun 8, 2017, 3:46pm Top

>4 stellarexplorer: You are right, but I prefer "more data to consider"

>5 jjwilson61: It depends with newspapers you read. One I glanced at said that Man after all did not come from Olduvai Gorge but from Morocco. Easy how some writers skip a few million years.

Jun 8, 2017, 6:07pm Top

>5 jjwilson61: If a scientist said that, it would seem to me to be unduly speculative not to mention premature. But still in keeping with the "humans tend to breed between populations not only within a population" model. The words matter, and one understands better if the limits of what conclusions can be drawn are respected.

Jun 8, 2017, 10:13pm Top

Finding it in northern Africa only means that in Northern Africa fossils are less prone to damage than elsewhere.

I find paleontology a fascinating parallel to the field I was trained in—classical history, as they both raise questions of how to deal with very scarce evidence, shaped by the conditions that preserve it, etc.

Jun 9, 2017, 12:58am Top

>8 timspalding: That is an interesting similarity. If only paleoanthropology had access to some written texts like classical scholarship does! The pictures on the walls do help, at least a little.

But yes, and while I don't know a great deal about the study of classical history, when you have limited evidence as in paleoanthropology, the creativity of the human mind -- and maybe the dislike of uncertainty -- tends to generate stories to make sense of what isn't settled. It requires restraint and discipline to keep clear what you know and what makes for a good story.

Jul 4, 2017, 5:51pm Top

One thing this discussion has resolved for me is that Sarah Knapton of The Telegraph is a crap science writer. She favors exactly the sort of unhinged rhetoric that this thread has criticized, e.g., "The history of human evolution has been rewritten...."

That, and The Telegraph needs copy editors who can tell "are" from "our".


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