Neanderthals & Denisovans — Who Were They? Comparison Of Evidence Against Pop-Culture Projection

November 6, 2016 in Fossils, Humans

Neanderthals. Since the term was first coined more than a century ago, it has often been used to refer to people of supposedly low intelligence and brusque manner. But is there any truth to these characterizations?

Were the so-called Neanderthals, that lived in Europe, the Middle East, and Northern Asia for possibly more than half a million years — back when the weather was, going by the evidence, periodically far more extreme than it now is, and when enormous and intelligent carnivores such as cave hyena, cave lions, and others, actively hunted people — truly stupid? (Cave hyena and cave lions were much larger and more numerous than their modern equivalents). What about the so-called Denisovans?

Would that even have been a possibility? If a modern human was to be plucked out of the highly insulated, and relatively predictable, modern world and put in the place of a neanderthal would they actually behave more “intelligently?” Would a modern human behave more intelligently than a neanderthal during a hunt? In a fight? In small-scale warfare?

The truth, as noted by many of those in relevant fields, is that the behaviors associated by most modern people with “intelligence” are cultural solutions, not individual/genetic ones. They’re solutions of specialization and hierarchy. Solutions based on agriculture, food surplus, professional armies, relatively static social and symbolic structures, and deep enculturation.

Solutions of domestication in other words.

While on the mass scale you could consider these solutions to be effective ones (that will depend on your opinion of mass deforestation, desertification, extinction, and anthropogenic climate change), they don’t truly relate to increased individual intelligence — just to a greater focusing on specialized knowledge, and participation in a larger system that one doesn’t actually have direct knowledge of. (And they seem to have the effect of decreasing a sense of personal responsibility for one’s actions, neighbors, and the wider world, as well.)
Read the rest of this entry →

Denisovans — Fossils, Genetics, Artifacts, & Speculation

November 6, 2016 in Fossils, Humans

(This article is actually the second part of the Neanderthals & Denisovans — Who Were They? Comparison Of Evidence Against Pop-Culture Projection article, that had to be split because of length. Head over to that article for the preface and further information.)

The “Denisovans” receive their name from the Denisova Cave located in south-western Siberia, in the Altai Mountains. The cave itself has received its modern name owing to a Russian hermit by the name of Denis that lived there in the 1700s.

While the cave had been explored before, it wasn’t until 2008, when Michael Shunkov from the Russian Academy of Sciences and other Russian archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of Novosibirsk explored the cave, that hominid remains were found.

Altai Denisovans cave denisova

To be particular, in addition to artifacts, including a bracelet, the finger bone of a juvenile hominin was discovered. The artifacts were dated using radiocarbon and oxygen isotopes to sometime around 40,000 Before Present. A bone needle found at the site at a later point has been dated back to 50,000 BP — making it the oldest needle yet found anywhere in the world.
Read the rest of this entry →

Gastornis — Giant 6-Foot Tall Flightless Bird That Used To Live In The Arctic Circle

February 12, 2016 in Animals & Insects, Fossils

While it’s long been known that at various points in the past the Arctic (and the Arctic Ocean) has been considerably warmer, and home to animals such as crocodiles, camels, tropical birds, etc, there is still quite a lot that remains unknown about the past history of the region. The recent discovery of fossil remains of a giant 6-foot tall flightless bird known as Gastornis — a relative of similar birds mostly known from fossil remains found much further south — is a case in point.

Picture a giant, likely very loud, bird with a head the size of a horse’s and a beak big and powerful enough to crack your skull open… Walking around during the 24-hour daylight of the Arctic midsummer. Or perhaps during the permanent midnight of the Arctic winter (which was still quite a warm season, at the time).

Tall flightless bird

Quite an image right? The past was quite strange — probably far more so than people can today readily imagine (or maybe remember is a better word?).
Read the rest of this entry →

160-Million-Year-Old Fossil Shows That Choristodere Reptiles Provided Post-Natal Care For Young

January 26, 2015 in Animals & Insects, Fossils

A recent 160-million-year-old fossil found by a farmer in China represents what is — now — the oldest-record of post-natal parental care in the world, according to new research from

The fossil — which shows an adult Philydrosauras (a type of choristodere) accompanied by six juveniles — dates to the Middle Jurassic, and notably extends back-in-time the date of the earliest known post-natal parental care amongst animals.

Philydrosauras choristodere reptile
Read the rest of this entry →

Marine Reptiles, Origins In Europe? Fossil Placodont Discovered In Netherlands

March 28, 2013 in Animals & Insects, Fossils

The origin of one of the first groups of marine reptiles, the Placodonts, is now becoming clear, thanks to the new discovery of a fossil skull in the Netherlands. The 246-million-year-old skull, discovered in the region that was once the Tethys Ocean, shows that these highly specialized marine reptiles, one of the earliest saurians, very likely originated in Europe.


The placodonts lived for about 40 million years or so in the flat coastal regions of the Tethys Ocean, from around 250 million years ago to 210 million years ago. Possessing their “trademark” crushing teeth, they fed primarily on shellfish and crustaceans, but were likely opportunistic predators as well. The distinctive features of these teeth really make them stand out in the fossil record; “the upper jaw had two rows of flattened teeth – one on the palate and one on the jawbone – while the lower jaw only had one set of teeth ideal for crushing shellfish and crustaceans.”

Read the rest of this entry →

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons