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Forensic Paleo-Anthropology and the Last Man



A British forensic scientist, Dr. Richard Neaves, has recreated the head of one of the earliest modern human ( some differences in brain case and teeth)  hunter-gathers from fossil remains, in the same manner of reconstructing the identity of homicide victims.

His recreation offers a tantalising glimpse into life before the dawn of civilisation. It also shows the close links between the first European settlers and their immediate African ancestors. To sculpt the head, Mr Neave called on his years of experience recreating the appearance of murder victims as well as using careful measurements of bone. It was made for the BBC2 series The Incredible Human Journey. This will follow the evolution of humans from the cradle of Africa to the waves of migrations that saw Homo sapiens colonise the globe.

….’Richard creates skulls of much more recent humans and he’s used to looking at differences between populations. ‘He said the skull doesn’t look European or Asian or African. It looks like a mixture of all of them. ‘That’s probably what you’d expect of someone among the earliest populations to come to Europe

As with the example of Kennewick Man, efforts at forensic paleo-anthropogy shatter modern racial assumptions regarding our earliest ancestors, regardless of whether those assumptions emanate from archaic stereotypes or modern PC ideology. Kennewick Man bore little or no resemblance to Amerinidian tribal groups that he long preceded, and Native American activists responded to the startling archaeological find  by attempting to have the remains seized, scientific analysis of them banned and the site bulldozed. The “First European”in turn, looks nothing like the Aryan mythology of the Nazis or 19th century European racialist agitators. Instead, he appears somewhat like an Africanized Yul Brynner.

These reconstructions demolish our casual, self-referentially anachronistic, projections of our own demographic groups backward in time. We want to see ourselves in the people “back then” just like we wish to imagine that kind of continuity in a far-flung future. I’m dubous that we will look like “us” 100,00 or 250,00 years in the future and wonder if such a  people will even acknowledge their kinship with us any more than we do with Homo Habilis.


11 Responses to “Forensic Paleo-Anthropology and the Last Man”

  1. Dimcam Kindezr Says:
  2. tdaxp Says:

    I strongly recommend Before the Dawn [1,2].  There is a part, I believe, that references the replacement of the Neanderthals with the (non-behaviorally-modern) humans.  The author, referring to the last Neanderthals marooned on Gibralter, would have been the last white-skinned hominids in a suddenly brown continent.Of course, our cousins the chimps are white-skinned.  What at first glance is the most obvious racial difference is also the most shallow.Evolution gets really interesting when humans will be able to have fractional parenting, beyond the obvious 1/2 (child / sibling) or 2/2 (clone / identical twin) scenarios. If you want descendents but don’t care about the emotional involvement, presumably having 10th-shares in 20 kids is a much safer strategy than half-shares in 2.[1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2007/05/02/review-of-before-the-dawn-by-nicholas-wade.html[2] http://www.amazon.com/Before-Dawn-Recovering-History-Ancestors/dp/1594200793

  3. zen Says:

    That was very interesting Dan. I’m curious of what the different implications of the slightly larger brain case would be – for physical-spatial abilities?  Neanderthals seemed to have a upper limited on the complexity of their cultural evolution that stopped somewhere around animism/shamanism, ritualistic burial and decorative items ( status differentiation ?)

  4. what Says:

    I’m confused by your heading Marc. Not entirely Home sapiens sapiens? Are you inferring that it is a different species? He’s classified the skulls morphologically, if you are familiar with the areas of systematics, cladistics, and phylogeny, just because a species is morphologically different, it doesn’t always follow that it is genetically different at the species taxon. 

  5. zen Says:

    hi What,
    True,  it does not always follow but the fossil remains were a)  fragmentary and b) in a period of time when more than one human population was in existence in the same geographic region. While previously there was a firm belief that the populations remained genetically separate, more recent discoveries have begun to cast doubt on that with remains having mixed characteristics of Neanderthal and Homo Sapiens.  I may well be incorrect, you seem to have expertise here, but I lean toward the differences indicating some minor genetic divergence with Homo Sapiens. If there is evidence to the contrary, I’m certainly open to hearing it.

  6. what Says:

    Well that’s the thing. There isn’t any genetic evidence yet to make a strong claim in either direction, and I’m somewhat skeptical of speciation claims inferred from morphology. Genetics is a much stronger set of evidence. The problem with morphology is that it is vague (another problem is that it’s also a throwback to philosophical essentialism, which is orthogonal to what evolution is about: a long process of change, rather than static structures). There is also some pretty strong arguments against using it to classify species. See Ereshefsky’s "The Poverty of the Linnaean Hierarchy: A Philosophical Study of Biological Taxonomy" if you want to read a convincing argument against using morphology.

  7. what Says:

    I might add two things though: (1) you may still be right and; (2) morphology can still be useful to classify species, when there is a ton of evidence and good argument (I believe in the news today there is the ‘hobbit’ story again, which makes use of morphological evidence to infer a new species. I haven’t read the papers yet, so I’m unsure if they used any other evidence). 

  8. zen Says:

    Ah, I loved the "hobbit" story – which is a danger, we’d all like it to be true.  I think it might be, considering the diversity of primates that exist/have ever existed but it takes a while for science to weigh in definitively.
    This is one of those areas of science that I’d like to have studied formally, had I not gone the history route and in which I need to do more reading. You obviously have spent a lot of time on these questions and I appreciate you weighing in.

  9. Seerov Says:

    "Although it is impossible to work out the skin colour of the prehistoric hunter, it is likely to have been darker than modern white Europeans. " (From the artcle)
     This sentence gets to the crux of what this story is truly about. The power structure is starting to see signs of resistance to its program of forced diversity and ethno-cultural replacement.  Therefore more efforts will be made to make people believe in ideas like "we’re all Africans" or "race is a social construct."  The power structure sees the Western middle class as a major obstacle to its future plans.  Therefore regardless of high unemployment rates, overcrowded schools, or stressed social services, these middle class populations will be forced to accept losses in standard of living by demographic warfare.
    Any sort of disobedience to the "diversity is strength" zeitgeist will be met with loss of reputation, or livelihood, or even freedom.  The power structure sees the next 30 years as critical to its 80/19/1 goal. That is, 80 percent ignorant slave class/19 percent administrator class/and 1 percent ruling class. During the cold war it was forced to accept a 10/80/10 configuration which was made up of a 10 percent underclass/80 percent middle class (that handled administration)/and a 10% elite which featured a small elite within the elite.  Today, due to the fall of Soviet Union and new technologies, the middle classes serve no role for the elite so its elimination is necessary.
    The war against the Western middle class is mostly an information war. It takes place everywhere information is disseminated, with its major battlefields being the schools, media, and popular entertainment. The major tactical methodologies are 1) to present diversity as the ultimate good, while Western (read:white) homogeneity as very bad 2) label any sort of resistance to forced diversity as evil which will always lead to genocide of non-whites 3) support the narrative of white on non-white oppression as the major theme of history 4) demonization Western history and Western historical figures as evil, corrupt, incompetent, stupid 5) Use of selective outrage in the media: This is done by giving a lot of attention to stories of white on non-white violence or perceived "oppression" while never reporting the reverse 6) glorification of interracial breeding as "healthy" while portraying white on white breeding as an impediment to "progress" or even as unhealthy 7) Portraying people and organizations that resist the forced replacement as evil, sick, hateful, backward, dumb, while portraying followers of the zeitgeist as loving, smart, progressive, brave 8) Reassuring the population that "we’re all equal" while using elaborate theories to explain away any and all group differences.
    These tactics will intensify in the coming years. As the situation become unbearable, and resistance becomes larger, the war against the Western middle class will become more overt.  We should expect laws against free speech, forced diversity at the micro level, heavy indoctrination in the schools, and even losses of freedoms.
    Our best bet for living an acceptable life will to be in the 19 percent administration class. The better you are at destroying the middle class the better your life will be. You’ll have to engage in some nauseating platitudes but at least you’ll be able to send your kids to private schools.

  10. tdaxp Says:

    On skin color…Both Mongoloids and Caucausoids possess appear to possess different mutations that create light skin.  These mutations both appear to be around 12k years old. Therefore, it’s assumed that the ancestors of the Mongoloidss and the Caucusoids before 12k years ago probably possessed skin color similar to that of the Bushmen, say, or the inhabitants of north-east sub-saharan Africa.On modern humans:One of the striking findings of archaeology is that the earliest cities preceed the earliest farms.  At the end of the last Ice Age, the fertile crescent was abundant enough that people could leave a city, hunt game, collect fruit, go back into the city, and wear out their environment. At about this time, however, the human skull was also shrinking.  The argument I hear is that a major inflection point in our species’ evolution was that humanity began domesticating itself. Typically, domestication involves artifical constraints on breeding that result in duller, friendlier, and weaker pets out of what were once beasts.Roughly 12k years ago, we became our own pets. We formed cities for the first time.  And later, when we had to, we invented farming.

  11. toto Says:

    Of course, our cousins the chimps are white-skinned.

    Well, they aren’t, at least not after early childhood. Many Old World monkeys are, though.

    The first modern humans were dark-skinned (the genetic evidence, alluded to in tdaxp’s post, is quite conclusive), not because the Illuminati say so, but because having dark skin is necessary to withstand sun exposure at lower latitudes, especially for a Naked Ape. Indigenous skin colour all over the world correlates strongly with sun exposure, which in turn correlates strongly with latitude + altitude. The lighter skin of Northerners (e.g. Europeans and East Asians) is a derived trait that presumably evolved because of the need to compensate for reduced sun exposure at higher latitudes. You do need to get some sunlight into your skin to synthesise enough vitamin D, for example.

    The mindset behind Seerov’s post ("Your assertion clashes with my uninformed prejudice, ergo you must be part of The Conspiracy") is a bit unsettling. Or maybe I just got it wrong.

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