Melanesian walk abouts

14 Aug 2015

An interesting piece popped up at ... which seems to take a swing out of the Out of Africa theory (but then it turns out to be another variation on the same old). Modelling has been used - as in most everything scientific nowadays. Therefore the end result comes from the assumptions used by the modellers. For example, they know that Australo Melanesians were migrating into New Guinea and Australia a very long time ago (and that fact has always been a bit of a problem). The model discounts the fact that Homo erectus is also thought to have migrated out of Africa at a very remote period in prehistory (several Ice Ages away from where they wish to locate the Australo Melanesians). It is interesting to note that some years ago there was an Australian anthropologist that claimed the Aborigines were descended from Homo erectus. As might be expected in the multi cultural environment he didn't last very long - and seems to have gone off the radar. However, that was when Out of Africa was in full vogue - and provided all humans wherever they are in the world with a pristine origin, descendants of a single expansion dated to just 50,000 years or so ago. Nowadays, genetics has shown that European people are descended from Neanderthals - and it is only the degree of that ancestry that is being argued. Therefore it is perhaps no longer outrageous to think in terms of Homo erectus reaching Australia in deep time - and possibly even migrating to the Americas. Hybridisation with later arrivals is also on the cards - or it should be. Nothing should be dismissed until it is properly investigated.

Getting back to the Popular Archaeology storyline - it is now being suggested that Australo Melanesians migrated Out of Africa earlier than other groups. It is still maintained that everyone else left Africa in the proscribed time - but it is no longer possible that Australo Melanesians fit the bill, so a certain amount of leverage has been allowed. Mind you the date of their migration is only a matter of a few thousand years prior to the main Out of Africa movement. They also pointedly ignore the genetic evidence from the cave in the Siberian Altai, where Neanderthals and other early humans lived, and where a mysterious tooth was found that showed a genetic link with Melanesians (way out in the middle of central Asia). This branch of early humanity was subsequently called the Denisovans - after the name of the Siberian cave. The fossil human bits and pieces were dated hundreds of thousands of years ago - long before Out of Africa dictates. It also implies humans are not as pristine as mainstream insists, as they are a mixture of everything that went before Homo sapiens sapiens. Homo erectus lived in villages and were not a lot different to any hunting and gathering society. It is only the idea of humans evolving from savages to modern (presumed) advanced forms of humanity that has kept Out of Africa ticking. To say Aborigines were descended from Homo erectus was like saying they were an inferior breed of humanity. We know that isn't true - but anthropologists haven't cottoned on yet, that Homo erectus and Neanderthals were not the brutes of their dreams.

One can see the problem faced by anthropologists is the dating issue - in particular the Gradualist belief in long episodes of the Ice Ages. Hence, if the remains of Neanderthals and Denisovans (a branch of Homo erectus) are found in sediments from an inter-glacial they are dated in parcels of 100,000 years. This is the major problem. A lesser problem is the idea that humans have evolved from apes in a series of small improvements, an idea bound up with academic Marxism. From that point of view the earlier a human group is dated the more brutish and ape like it must have been. Homo erectus is dated several hundred thousand years ago - so it must be primitive and backward. However, if Gradualism is taken out of the equation, and time is telescoped enough to allow them to be near contemporaries of Neanderthals and modern humans (wherever they might be), the situation changes. In fact, it is generally acknowledged that Homo erectus survived until around 40,000 years ago - disappearing roughly contemporary with the disappearance of Neanderthals in Europe and western Asia. Is that telling us something? By that I mean that the date is associated with a major catastrophic event, one that wiped out the Kow Swamp people in Australia (which resembled in some features Homo erectus, or so it has been argued). Is it just a coincidence that modern human skull types predominate after the 40,000 years ago catastrophic event - and were unknown prior to that date (although an African ancestry is thought likely). Were Homo erectus affected by the same burst of radiation (or whatever) that caused the change in Neanderthals? The answer to this appears to be biological in nature, rather than anthropological.

Some links on the same subject ... ... and