© 1995-2001 Untangle Incorporated
Last Updated: Tuesday, September 05, 2001

Hominids

One of the cousins of the pre-homid A. Afransis ("Lucy") was a hominid.

When Sapiens Sapiens became artisans, mythmakers, is really unknown. I refer readers to Richard Leakey's book "The Origins of Humankind" for the details.
The problem is this: there is no physical evidence that we humans did anything creative until about 35,000 years ago, when cave paintings and sculptures of various types were made. The Neanderthals clearly had some practices that look to us like rituals, but we don't know for sure.
Did Homo Erectus evolved into Neaderthalis who in turn evolved into Sapien Sapien? A lot of caution is needed in answering this question. There is only three pieces of evidence people have now to try and decipher what these hominids were like: molecular biology evidence of modern humans and apes; fossil evidence of their skeletons and their artifacts which gives clues as to their lifestyle. The assumptions are these: they more they look like us on the outside the more the must have been like us inside ("If it walks like a duck..." rule). The artifacts suggest to us something of there thinking abilities, which is the second way we try to simulate their inner thinking. Because of the human trait of belief inertia, once a scientist has a belief about how these people lived and thought, they take all the physical evidence and interpret it that way.
An excellent example of this belief inertia is how most paleontologists including say Raymond Dart believed that all of the hominids were meat eaters (and for later versions of hominids there is good evidence of it). The paleo-anthropologists as a group felt that if hominids were meat eaters they were hunters. And a myth was born. "Noble hunters, who bravery led the human race into acquiring and perfecting speech (for better hunting), weopens and tools for skinning and using the animal products of kills, and so on and so on.
Very careful work in the late 1970's and 1980's totally exploded the myth. Any meat eaten was scavanged. That is these human-like people at most chased off vultures and hyenas, or butchered as much of an animal they found dead as quickly as possible before predators showed up. This is a very different picture from people hunting. This is not to say that over time people did not also hunt. However anyone who observes wild carnivores know they scavange first, and only hunt out of necessity. If humans are intelligent why would they do anything different. Scavanging takes a lot less energy and the work to butcher and share takes a lot of energy anyway.
The main problem, in spite of all the 'recent' (200,000-35,000 years ago) fossils of hominids is that there is only really three dates corresponding to major fossil finds: about 1.8 million years, 100,000 and 30,000 years ago. It hard to be sure of any evolutionary hypothesis when only 3 points can be used to fit the curve. Also the belief inertia gets in the way of most people looking at the evidence without having it, in their mind, support their belief. The evolution of one species of hominid to another in many parts of the world all occuring over time is called the Multiregional Evolution (Note 1). The fossils (called Peking Man) if their facial structure is recreated show Oriental (technically 'mongoloid') features. This would be totally convincing except some of the skeletons in other parts of the world at the same time show the same features. In other words, the 'mongoloid' features is a genetic variation that can happen anywhere at any time to the species. Interbreeding of the trait will make it very prominent but its existance does not prove Multiregional Evolution.

So if there that much debate needed to decide on physical characteristics, think of how difficult it would be to arrive at reasonable answers as to when mythology was created (Note2) and used by these people. They could have drawn in mud, sand, made artistic things out of reeds and other things which would have rotted out of existance by now. Somewhere in the last three hundred thousand years we and our cousins the Neanderthals likely created mythology, probably not once but likely many times, and through language and culture kept promolgating it forward in time through offspring.

References
Primate Fossil Record
Primate Species
FAQ about Hominids also at for Q & A's
Hominid CrossWord Puzzle
Primate Evolution
Richard Leakey Primate Site


Note 1:The main alternative hypothesis to the Multiregional Evolution one is the "Out of Africa" Evolution hypothesis, where the original Sapien Sapien population originated in Africa and migrated everywhere else. Remember how sparse the fossil record actually is, even for late hominids (where for example Leakey mentions there are 20 full skeletons), the dating of Sapien Sapien skeletons from Africa to the rest of the world is oldest in Africa, and progressively more recent the further away from Africa you get, which is consistent with one species offspring migrating over time away from their original homeland.

Note 2:When could hominids communicate like we humans do? And when did they? How about consciousness like we humans have? Only in the last 20 years since the 1980's have there been any tangible evidence brought forward to start an answer on those questions. Many of the cave artists in France 35,000 years ago, and some in Africa as well could draw with perspective, an artistic ability not seen again until the Renaissance 600 years ago. 35,000 years is a long time to rediscover the artistic technique of perspective. Briefly here is the evidence for language and consciousness: Note 3:Here is a more recent summary of Neanderthal studies,