The Mysterious Biped




Дата канвертавання26.04.2016
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Yasmin Ahmed

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Chapter 28/Outline:

“The Mysterious Biped”



  • It all started by a Dutch Dr. Marie Eugene Francois Thomas Dubois, in 1887 who travelled to Sumatra for the intention to find human remains.

  • Dubois’s main goal was to fill in the missing link between humans and apes fossil fuel findings.

  • By 1887 there was:

  1. 5 incomplete Neandertal skeleton (new man in Greek)

  2. One partial jawbone of uncertain provenance

  3. Half a dozen ice-age humans found in a cave.

  • Disputes started to occur on whether Neandertal bones are ancient or not. Authorities were supporting any idea that opposed the fact of early humans’ history.

  • In 1891, Dubois went to Java where his team found a section of human cranium named the Trinil Skullcap. This showed non-human features but a brain larger than that of apes.

  • This was considered to be the missing link between apes and humans. It was first named as “Anthropithecus erectus” then “Pithecanthropus erectus” and later on simply known as the “Homo erectus”.

  • In 1892, a thigh bone was found which proved that Homo erectus walked upright.

  • Moving on, in 1940, Dubois died with his theories and findings rejected by all scientists and authorities.

  • Meanwhile in 1924, Raymond Dart in Johannesburg received a complete skull of a child naming it Taung with a more of ape-like structure this is when Dart realized that it went earlier than Homo-erectus and gave it a name of Australopithecus Africanus which meant “Southern ape man of Africa”.

  • Again like what happened with Dubois Dart’s ideas were strictly ignored and fought against simply because it wasn’t parallel to what was currently known.

  • Broom was one of Dart’s supporters; he thought that Taung skull was vital to early human history but also with no use. For the next 50 years the skull was known to be an ape skull not more but now it’s one of the most expensive treasures of anthropology.

  • By 1924, four categories of hominids were known:

  1. Homo Heidelbergensis

  2. Homo Rhodesiensis

  3. Neandertal

  4. Dubois’s Java Man (Homo erectus)

However these concepts changed:

  • A Canadian amateur named Davidson Black was in China specifically in Dragon Bone Hill which was known to have lots of human fossil remains but unfortunately the Chinese grounded the bones for medicine. So by the time he was there almost all the bones were vanished however he was still able to find some remains which he named “Sinanthropus Pekinensis” meaning Peking Man.

  • But these bones weren’t kept long because they were lost by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941.

  • Then a team led by Ralph von Koenigswald followed Dubois path and discovered lots of new species relating to early humans but these discoveries where prone to tactical errors. Ralph used to pay locals 10cents per each piece of fossils found so he later on found that they used to break down large pieces to increase their income.

  • By the 1950’s the number of known hominid reached hundreds.

  • In 1960 F.Clark Howell suggested to cut the number of genera to just two :

  1. Australopithecus

  2. Homo (rationalizing the others) meaning that Peking and Java man would be Homo erectus.

Again this didn’t last.

  • Reaching the end of the 1960’s a lot of new species were found, some twenty hominids are recognized today but unluckily we can never find almost two experts who know the same twenty types.

  • The reason behind this chaos was the shortage of evidence and the uneven distribution of fossils remains over space and time since the Homo erectus moved around the Earth for million of years.

  • If the fossils were distributed evenly over space and time many species won’t be regarded as new groups neither there would be this vagueness between historical time periods.

  • It was traced back time slowing the point of divergence more similarities would be found so it becomes difficult to differentiate between late Homo erectus and early Homo sapiens.

  • Due to this vagueness scientists make assumptions which are valiant guesses.

  • At one point the species Homo Habilis was considered the waste basket meaning that any irrelevant fossils could be thrown under this species headline.

  • All these findings are related to human nature so they interpret their findings to flatter their stature.

  • So whatever is said about our pre-history will always face disputes by someone somewhere.

  • Whatever the arguments were on our history goes something like this, billions of years ago we had a common line between chimpanzees then 7 million years ago something major happened causing new species to emerge with larger brains, more skills and have the ability to walk upright. Later on these species moved out of Africa and dominating the Earth. Some of these species existed for well over millions of years but others only hundreds of thousands but we have to put in mind that even the least successful species had histories longer than we have had.

  • In 1974, the most famous skeleton dating 3.18 million years ago named Lucy was found by a team led by Donald Johanson.

  • Lucy was not a fully complete skeleton but it suggested that she could be a good climber, walk but her skull was missing so nothing about her brain size could be confidently said.

  • So if humans ‘full body skeleton had 206 bones, and a half skeleton would have 120 bones Lucy constituted only 20% of a half skeleton and 20% of a full one.

  • Later on, 2 years after Lucy discovery, two footprints were found from the same family of hominids they were following a volcanic eruption.

  • The American museum of Natural History made a diorama that recorded their moment of passing; they created them as a male and a female with more human like features than ape like. However Ian Tattersall said that if he had a chance to re-create this diorama he would make them less humanlike more apelike.

  • Ian had a clear idea that these creatures weren’t human but were Bipedal apes.

  • In the book “Extinct Humans” Tattersall and Schwats oppose the idea of putting Lucy as our ancestor and that she wasn’t even a walker. They supported this idea by saying that although some features of Lucy were common between us humans other parts remain unclear.

  • By 2001 and 2002 four specimens were found dating from 5.2 million to 7 million years again proving that Lucy was an unsuccessful side branch but all the findings proved to be upright walkers.

  • The scientific definition of Bipedalism; it means refashioning the pelvis into a full load-bearing instrument. To preserve the required strength, the birth canal must be comparatively narrow. This has two important effects, beginning with the pain for any birthing mother and a greatly increased danger of fatality to mother and the baby. And to get the baby’s head through such a tight space it must be born while its brain is still small and while the baby therefore is still helpless. This means long-term infant care which in turn implies sold male and female bonding.

Why did Lucy and her kind move out of the forests and Africa?

  • Mainly due to extreme climatic changes and almost the conversion of the African forests to Savannas.

  • When they moved out they became more exposed, since upright walked can be seen better however their brains were capable to plan strategies and their hands were capable to attack harmful objects.

  • Despite the fact that the surroundings of Lucy and her fellow Australopithecines helped in the evolution of their brains, for about 3 million years they showed no sign of evolution, more surprisingly they lived alongside with other hominids who used tools and more advanced strategies however the australopithecines never took advantage of such phenomena.

  • For about 2 and 3 million years six types of hominids existed in Africa however “homos” were the only ones who lasted. It is still unknown what the relationship between hominid and australopithecine is or what happened to bring upon the extinction of the latter species.

  • The “homo” line begins with, Homo Habilis (handy man) they were the first species who used tools even though they were simple ones, their brains were 50% larger than that of Lucy, but yet there was no persuasive reason behind the sudden increase in the brain size however some say it was due to the movement of these species outside the forests. The line ends with us the Homo sapiens.

  • Tattersall thinks that the increase in humans’ brains was an evolutionary accident like any other thing that happened throughout the tape of lime.

  • It’s just a matter of step by step manner, one old generation handing the torch to a younger and fresher generation who will bring along new evolutionary habits.

  • It was believed by the authors of the Java man that Homo erectus is the dividing line, meaning that anything before that was more of apelike and anything after it was more of humanlike.

  • Homo erectus weren’t fully taken into consideration by scientists until a full skeleton of a boy ageing around 9 to 12 years old was found in the 1980’s. This opened up doors to study more about this group.

  • Then another was skeleton was found, she was a female that died 1.7 million years ago she had hypervitaminosis A, which is a disease that comes from eating excess liver of carnivores.

This helped scientists to prove that:

  1. Homo erectus ate meat

  2. The amount of growth, meaning that she lived weeks or months with this disease.

  3. And that someone must have been taking care of her, showing tenderness in hominids evolution.

  4. Homo erectus had the ability to communicate.

Then there is this question which is frequently asked, how did Homo erectus manage to turn up in Asia so soon after its first appearance in Africa?

  • First it all starts by approximating the date of the early human remains, if the actual age of African bones is at the higher end of the range of estimates or the Javan ones at the lower end or both, then there is plenty of time for African erects to find their way to Asia.

  • Putting aside all the arguments and disputes about species names and evolutionary beliefs, over a million of years some new comparatively modern upright being left Africa and started to move across the globe facing different environmental conditions and food sources.

However the mystery remains unanswered on how they managed to find their way around Africa and the west side of the Red Sea.


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