Human Migration: not a mystery, a mess

For those who like their truths cut and dried, the story of the wanderings of our earliest ancestors[1] is a bewildering mess. So much so that all we can do is start with a sort of fairy story and then ask a series of rather wistful questions. We hope this blog will act as a sort of inoculation against anyone who tells you confident, otiose stories and try to give the impression that they have spoken the last word on any subject. Especially economics and holiday villas.

A Fairy Story (for children) Once upon a time a group of nasty little apemen in Africa called Australopithecus invented stone tools. Somehow they evolved into another little creature called Homo habilis, which made them better. Then somehow, still in Africa, a much larger, altogether more noble fellow called Homo erectus evolved. They made magnificent Acheulian tools and marched out to conquer the world. Reaching as far as places like Java and Flores.

The truth has to be rather different, as we wonder below

1 The Dmansi finds[2] (Homo georgicus?) are alleged to be an early form of H erectus up in the Caucasus(1.8m years bp) But they were rather small, primitive looking people. Would classic Homo erectus like the Turkana boy really recognise them as being the same people? And why is their technology of the old fashioned Oldowan type, beloved of the Austraolopithecines?

2 Ubeidiya If the Dmansi people came out of Africa, they must have passed through the Middle East. The only site on the route of any significance is at Ubeidiya in Israel. The date and location are about right. But the only bone suggests a bigger creature, in line with the classic Turkana Homo erectus. Are we really implying this species started small (H habilis), got bigger(Turkana boy) marched off north, then got small again in the Caucasus? [3]

3 Name me a name What exactly is Homo erectus any way. And what is Homo ergaster? It’s a concept that is profoundly fuzzy round the edges

4 Dear Little Hobbits Homo floresiensis is often held to be a last offshoot, on the extreme geographical range of Homo erectus. Yet some researches assert it has skeletal resemblances to Australopithecus rather than Homo. What was it doing there?

5 China Crisis Who or what made the incredibly early assemblages in Gongwangling in China?

6 Out of Africa, 2-and the sequel And finally-why do all the migrations seem to start in Africa? First Homo erectus. Then Homo Heidelbergensis. Then Homo sapiens. Always one way, spreading a more advanced way of doing things every time. Or were there larger populations of hominins spread right across Africa and Eurasia, for much longer than we suspect? Much more digging is needed, in places which haven’t been tried, Until that happens, believe nothing.






#human evolution #paleoanthropology #homo erectus #pleistocene #stone tools

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