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Spears found from 280,000 years ago? Whose are they? Human family tree threatened?

Here:

Remains of the world’s oldest known stone-tipped throwing spears, described in a new paper, and so ancient that they actually predate the earliest known fossils for our species by 85,000 years.

There are a few possible implications, and both are mind-blowing. The first is that our species could be much older than previously thought, which would forever change the existing human family tree.

The second, and more likely at this point, is that a predecessor species to ours was extremely crafty and clever, making sophisticated tools long before Homo sapiens emerged. More.

Whoever wrote this thinks that paleontologists are much surer than they are about dates. All it really means is that they haven’t yet turned up any bones from 280,000 years ago but the site, Gademotta in Ethiopia, might be a good place to look.

As for the existing human family tree, aw, don’t worry about it. It’s already taken a huge hit from the recent Dmanisi find:

The level of variation between the skull remains at Dmanisi could well be matched among modern humans waiting for the bus in a multicultural city.

What makes the find controversial is that much ideology around human evolution depends on a variety of not-quite-human species that once walked the Earth (but one rose above its fellows or prevailed over them). If there is no real evidence for more than one human species, ever, well, the unity of the human race is more consistent with traditional non-materialist assumptions than modern materialist ones.

See also: Trimming the human family tree into a telephone pole

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3 Responses to Spears found from 280,000 years ago? Whose are they? Human family tree threatened?

  1. What makes the find controversial is that much ideology around human evolution depends on a variety of not-quite-human species that once walked the Earth (but one rose above its fellows or prevailed over them).

    No one is suggesting that these fossils are like modern Homo sapiens.

    This is evidence in favor of re-uniting H. erectus and H. ergaster, and re-uniting H. habilis and H. rudolfensis, and possibly uniting H. antecessor with either H. erectus or H. heidelbergensis, etc.
    It’s the old debate between “lumpers” and “splitters” and this find is a point in favor of the lumpers.

    But no one is suggesting that, say, H. habilis should be lumped in with H. sapiens (which would open things up to further bizarre results. Since habilis is far more similar to many Australopithecines – which many Creationists and ID proponents believe are apes – than to modern humans, than they would logically be included also, and so on.)

  2. There is, however, suggestion that homo erectus is the same as homo sapiens. And if that’s true, than “modern” humans have been around for 1 million years and had no clear predecessor.

  3. There is, however, suggestion that homo erectus is the same as homo sapiens. And if that’s true, than “modern” humans have been around for 1 million years and had no clear predecessor.

    Current consensus is that Homo sapiens population descends via Homo erectus and the previous tendency to classify new finds as separate species was incorrect. It seems more likely that the variation we see in fossils of ancient Homo are not greater than the variation we see among individuals today. Dividing species on a temporal basis is somewhat arbitrary as there is no clear line at which one species becomes another. We all look at least a little like our parents.

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