The fifth skull of Dmanisi, 1,7 million years BP

In Dmanisi, a paleolithic site in Georgia, that is 1.85 million years old, a fifth skull was found, D4500, and a mandible, D2600. The brain case was small, 546 cc . There is a great similarity with this skull and those from that period in Africa.
The skull has the largest face, the most massive jaws and teeth and the smallest brains of the five Dmanisi-skulls. The skull and ma,dible were extraordinarily well preserved. The variation within the five Dmanisi humans is, according to the researchers, the same as between early East African specimen of Homo.
Marcia Ponce de León, one of the researchers of D4500, made a point about the number of human species, between 2.4 and 1.8 million years ago. It is generally assumed that there were four types: Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, Homo ergaster and Homo erectus. “First, the individuals of Dmanisi all belong to a population of a single, early homo species. Secondly, the five individuals of Dmanisi are strikingly different from each other, but not five any more differently than modern human individuals or five chimpanzees of a given population.” according to her it establishes that there was only one human species, albeit with much variation. de Léon chooses to name it Homo erectus.
Dmanisi D4500 sideways drawing

Dmanisi D4500 sideways drawing

Dmanisi Comparison of D4500 and African SK 847

Dmanisi Comparison of D4500 and African SK 847

Photo of the well preserved skull from Georgia D4500

Photo of the well preserved skull from Georgia D4500

Dmanisi skull explanation

Dmanisi skull explanation

Sources
David Lordkipanidze, Marcia S. Ponce de León, Ann Margvelashvili, Yoel Rak, G. Philip Rightmire, Abesalom Vekua, and Christoph P.E. Zollikofer, ‘A complete skull from Dmanisi, Georgia, and the evolutionary biology of early Homo’, Science, October 18, 2013. doi: 10.1126/science.1238484
Ann Margvelashvili, Christoph P. E. Zollikofer, David Lordkipanidze, Timo Peltomäki, Marcia S. Ponce de León, ‘Tooth wear and dentoalveolar remodeling are key factors of morphological variation in the Dmanisi mandibles’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 2, 2013. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1316052110
ABout the finds in Dmanisi, in Dutch : Marc Vermeersch. De geschiedenis van de mens. Deel I. Jagers en verzamelaars.Boek 1, van Pan tot Homo sapiens, p.114.

Art in Olduvai 1,74 Million Years BP, Baboonhead

Baboonhead, Art from Olduvai. 1.74 million years old

Baboonhead, Art from Olduvai. 1.74 million years old

Baboonhead, Olduvai Art
The question when man made his oldest art is important because it points to important mental capacities. In my first book on The History of Man (published in Dutch as ‘geschiedenis van de mens’) I argued that man had developed aesthetic feeling (the appreciation of beauty) through evolution, in the struggle for survival, a Darwinian view.
Art was everything man had made and evoked his aesthetic feeling. A very large definition but one that is necessary because it should cover the timeframe of more than 2 million years and all human cultures.
Three phases could be recognised in this evolution. The first phase in which man thought objects he found the nature were beautiful, e.g. the pebble of Makapansgat. It was not adapted by man, so in our definition it is not art. A second phase in which man retouched objects he found in nature, where he actively engaged. This is art because man changed an object to make it conform with what he found beautiful. All figurines are the Venuses of Berekhat Ram, 233.000/800.000 BP, and Tan Tan, 400.000 BP.
There is however a much older object that was adapted by man. It dates from 1.74 million years ago. That is the period, 1.8 M BP, that man gained control over fire, that acheulean tools were developed and Homo erectus/ergaster appeared. Mary Leakey published an article in 1971 with the results of the excavations in Olduvai between 1960 and 1963. It was in the surroundings that the oldest stone tools of hominids, 2.6 million years old, were found.
Her team had found a cobble of phonolite, a very hard-rock, that was adapted by man. It had a certain, natural resemblance with the head of a monkey. It was named baboonhead. It had a groove that ran around the skull. On the left cheek six cupules had been carved (see illustrations). Cupules would be made by man until recently, so during 1.8 million years. They were found in Africa, in India and were exported by man to Australia and Tasmania and -so to speak- recently in the Americas. A very long-lasting cultural continuity!

These and other finds reinforce the idea that man developed his mental capacities during a very long period and not in a short burst when Homo sapiens appeared.

Dr. Marc Vermeersch
Marc.Vermeersch@gmail.com

Additional information
Mary Leakey writes:
“In concluding this review of the lithic material from Oldowan and
Developed Oldowan Sites the grooved and pecked phonolite cobble found in Upper
Bed I at FLK North must be mentioned. This stone has unquestionably been
artificially shaped. But it seems unlikely that it could have served as a
tool or for any practical purpose. It is conceivable that a parallel exists
in the quartzite cobble found at Makapansgat in which natural weathering has
simulated the carving of two sets of hominid-or mre strictly primate- features
on parts of the surface. The resemblance to primate faces is immediately
obvious in this specimen, although it is entirely natural, whereas in the case
of the Olduvai stone a great deal of imagination is required in order to see
any pattern or significance in the form. With oblique lighting, however,
there is a suggestion of an elongate, baboon-like muzzle with faint
indications of a mouth and nostrils. By what is probably no more than a
coincidence, the pecked groove on the Olduvai stone is reproduced on the
Makapansgat specimen by a similar but natural groove and in both specimens the
positions of the grooves correspond to what would be the base of the hair line
if an anthropomorphic interpretation is considered. This is open to question,
but nevertheless the occurrence of such stones at hominid sites in such remote
periods is of considerable interest.”
M.D. Leakey, Olduvai Gorge3 Excavations in Beds I and II, 1960-1693, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), Vol. 3, p. 269

If you are interested in art you might like these blogs:
Art in Olduvai 1,74 Million Years BP, Baboonhead Rather unknown, undeserved, the oldest known art in the world
The Origin of Aesthetic Feeling and Art Fundamental: How our aesthetic feeling originated in reproduction of man, a darwinian explanation.
The oldest statuettes adapted by man are between 233,000 and 800,000 years old
“Lion Man”, the oldest statuette with a combination man-animal ‘Der Löwenmensch” was found in Germany.
The oldest Love Statuette in the World They keep on loving for ever in the British Luseeum.
A virtual visit to the Lascaux Cave is mind blowing!
Nerja Caves: the oldest Cave Art in Europe, 42,000 years old Rock paintings , probably made by neanderthals

Art. The oldest Cartoons in the World? 14,000 BP

Situation of the cave of La Marche (cartoons in France

ap La Marche (FR)

One expression of art we wouldn’t expect to be as old as 14,000 years are cartoons. Yet in the cave of La Marche ( Lussac-les-Châteaux,Vienne, see map), hunters and gatherers engraved drawings of people that look very modern to us. Some of them look as if we could meet them on the street today. Other forms of cave art may look very modern to us, but this form might be the one that is closest to contemporary people. Who has never drawn a cartoon e.g. of a teacher? It is clear that the same surprise or astonishment that struck people 14,000 years ago is still capable of moving us today. These cartoons are as far as we know the oldest ever made.

Cartoon youngster hat 1

Cartoon youngster hat 1

Drawing Picasso style of cartonn in La Marche 14,000 years ago

Drawing in Picasso style in La Marche 14,000 years ago

Two young men Bandana 3 Cartoon

Two young men with Bandana (3 Cartoon)

 

Cartoon Solshenitsin look alike 4

Cartoon Solshenitsin look alike 4

Cartoon Boy 5 La Marche

Cartoon Boy 5 La Marche

Cartoon Angry young man 6

Cartoon Angry young man 6

Cartoon Young man with hat, sitting 8

Cartoon Young man with hat, sitting 8

Cartoon Old, bold man 9

Cartoon Old, bold man 9. La Marche France

Cartoon Collection of portraits, drawn sideways 11 La Marchee

Cartoon Collection of portraits, drawn sideways 11 La Marche

Dr. Marc Vermeersch marc.vermeersch@gmail.com

If you are interested in art you might like these blogs:
The Origin of Aesthetic Feeling and Art Fundamental: How our aesthetic feeling originated in reproduction of man, a darwinian explanation.
The oldest statuettes adapted by man are between 233,000 and 800,000 years old
“Lion Man”, the oldest statuette with a combination man-animal ‘Der Löwenmensch” was found in Germany.
The oldest Love Statuette in the World They keep on loving for ever in the British Luseeum.
A virtual visit to the Lascaux Cave is mind blowing!
Nerja Caves: the oldest Cave Art in Europe, 42,000 years old Rock paintings , probably made by neanderthals
7000 BP. The Thinker and the Sitting Woman. Two extraordinary statuettes from Romania.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 11,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 18 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Dawkins on Religion. Reflections on religious wars and the adaptive function of religion

Richard Dawkins and Mehdi HasanOn December 23, 2012, Aljazeera broadcasted an interview with Richard Dawkins. As a biologist he published ‘The Selfish Gene’ (1976), as an atheist ‘The God Delusion’ (2006). The interview happened at the Oxford Union. The University of Oxford started as a theological faculty. Dawkins was interviewed by Aljazeera’s Mehdi Hasan, not your average interviewer, who was sharp, sought controversy and did not easily let go.

You will find the debate on: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/general/2012/12/2012121791038231381.html

With a ‘Atheists cannot claim to be better than believers’ a first shot was fired. Directly thereafter the commentator’s voice (of the introductory film) asked if science is any better than religion and he continues saying that science is responsible for poisoning the environment and for unleashing killing on an industrial scale. Apparently a point that needed no proof, let alone scientific proof. Atheists as Hitler and Stalin are cited as being mass murderers.

In the interview/debate one shot is fired after another:

  • Dawkins. The god of the old testament is … a vile vindictive monster
  • Did Dawkins say that “Faith is one of the world’s great evils.”? Mehdi Hasan cites him.
  • Dawkins “That’s why religion is evil because it can make you  do evil things, believing it is good. ”
  • Robert Pave is cited. There is no connection between terrorism and faith. True?
  • Dawkins does not deny that many wars were not for religious reasons as e.g. ‘My country right or wrong.’
  • Mehdi Hasan puts science against religion.
  • Mehdi Hasan: “In your book you cite lots of evidence for the bad things religion has done. I wonder, if you were being fair wouldn’t you have included some of the good things that religion has done? ”
  • Dawkins: “Do you believe that Muhammad split the moon in two. (…) And flew to heaven on a winged horse.”
  • Dawkins is questioned about a statement that religious indoctrination (protestant: children would burn forever in hell) may be worse than child abuse by a priest.
  • Dawkins: science should not answer e.g. what is good and bad, but religion cannot either.
  • About the multiverse (the hypothetical set of multiple possible universes).

Etcetera.

This was a debate on a high level. Richard Dawkins stayed calm all along the interview and defended science and atheism in a sublime way.

Yet, there was a weak point with which Dawkins was confronted, is religion evil or not? Let us not go into individual believers, Dawkins confirmed and every other reasonable person agrees that there are billions of believers and non-believers that do not use violence because of their convictions.

Religion and religious wars

What about the global picture, collective behaviors, religions as a whole? The Baha’I (born out of islam), Quakers (part of Christianity), the first centuries of christianity prove that religions can be peaceful. Religions can be violent. Christianity and islam (or parts of these religions) oppressed and assassinated other believers during a very long time. Sometimes for pure religious reasons.

Most of recent times economic and/or political reasons played an important role in wars and conflicts. In fact religious wars made their appearance late in human history. If we agree that man is here since 2.4 million years, pure religious wars appeared when Christians fought the first heretics. Then what about the bible, when Jews and Philistines fought each other relentlessly? The Jews under the banner of Yahweh. All religions have the ancestor cult as their original religion. Jews are not an exception. Originally, Yahweh was the ancestor of the tribe of the Jews. All human clans and tribes had one or more ancestors they worshipped and prayed to. It would lead us to far to elaborate this point. One aspect that points to the ancestor cult is that even today it is ‘God, the Father’. Before the current epoch it was obvious: every clan or tribe had its own ancestors. Fighting over that was senseless. The ancestors were asked to help in battles but the wars were not about religious beliefs, just about land, treasures and women. Since the Babylonian exile Judaism had changed. Especially the priests had a conception of religion that was more theoretical, the ancestor had evolved into a god, was in that process purified from a lot or most human petty details. (Not all, even this more abstract god – all gods, spirits etc. – is anthropomorphic.)

The adaptive function of religion

In my doctoral thesis (abstract on http://wp.me/p1jvXp-4B ) I developed the hypothesis that the most important function of religion was the transmission of ideology. Ideology defined as the entirety of human ideas, knowledge, motivational ideas etc. In the earliest societies of man these played a important, ever growing role in the reproduction of humanity.  In the ancestor cult the transfer of human ideology had an important role. The young had to learn from the elder. It was essential for their survival. On the cultural level this was the adaptive function of the oldest religion. Clans that worshipped their ancestors transmitted in myths and stories their knowledge. They must have reproduced better than clans that did not.

Atheism and the appraisal of religion

A problem in the study of religion is that believers and non-believers inevitably had their own bias. Every one searched for confirmation of their own point of view. This is not necessary for the function religion has played in history. It was a means to help to transfer human ideology which had become a necessary condition for reproduction, a positive role.

Marc.Vermeersch@gmail.com

Other posts on religion:
The origin of religion
“In order to reproduce himself man must also reproduce himself ideologically” Ph. D. of Marc Vermeersch

7000 BP: The Thinker and the Sitting Woman

The Thinker and the Sitting Woman. Hamangia culture, Romania, 7000 - 6600 years ago.

The Thinker and the Sitting Woman. Hamangia culture, Romania, 7000 – 6600 years ago.

In history, there are works of art that have a special place and that almost everyone knows: the golden mask of Tuthankhamun, the Pantheon in Rome, the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, the sunflowers of Van Gogh, … an endless list. Art works from a much older past are barely known to the general public but often they earn to be known. Some have of an extraordinary quality. One of my favourite works in this regard is “The Thinker and the Sitting Woman” thatwere found in Romania and are between 6,600 and 7,000 years old.

We know that these people were farmers. Chances are that they were resting after a day of working. The woman sits relaxed just like the man. He is thinking. About what is open for speculation.

A paradox

Both statuettes have a modern look. If we would see them for the first time, without prior knowledge, then we might think that these are very recent works of art, that is not more than 100 years old. Compare The Thinker with the bronze statue of Rodin[1], ‘Le penseur’, from 1902. We may spontaneously think that this is older than ‘The Thinker and the Sitting Woman ‘.

Rodin, statue known as 'Le penseur' (The thinker). Rodin created it as an image of Dante Aleghieri, the Italian writer. Its was 'The Poet'

Rodin, statue known as ‘Le penseur’ (The thinker). Rodin created it as an image of Dante Aleghieri, the Italian writer. Its was ‘The Poet’

Surprisingly, it is also true that some very old works of art sometimes show style characteristics that were reinvented in the 20th century. Paul Levy wrote about ‘The Thinker and the Sitting Woman’: “Their elongated necks and small heads are compellingly reminiscent of Matisse and the Cubist painters and sculptors, and a curator told me that it is just possible that Brancusi saw them.”[2]

Egyptian royal couple.  27th century BCE. Very static in comparison with 'The Thinker and the Sitting Woman'

Egyptian royal couple. 27th century BCE. Very static in comparison with ‘The Thinker and the Sitting Woman’

Hamangia culture. Headless stauette. Very stylised. It was probably worn as part of a necklace.

Hamangia culture. Headless stauette. Very stylised. It was probably worn as part of a necklace.

The Hamangia culture and woodworking

The Hamangia culture in Romania began around 5250/5200 BCE and lasted until around 4550/4500 BCE. It was a culture of farmers who lived in small communities, without a state. Technically, they were at the same level as the first European farmers that came from Anatolia had moved to Europe more than 1000 years before. The statuettes were found in 1956. They were made of clay and baked in an oven. Remarkable is that the man sits on a small stool. It is one of the oldest depictions of furniture in history. Such a seat is not difficult to make but like so many things it is very difficult inventing it, starting from zero. The stool indicates that almost 7,000 years ago farmers in South-East Europe had developed woodworking and the necessary stone tools.

The figurines ‘ the thinker and the seated woman’ undoubtedly belong in the gallery of the greatest works of art created by man. Today they look as fresh and intriguing as almost 7000 years ago.

Marc.Vermeersch@gmail.com


[1] The statue of Rodin was originally called the poet and represented Alegieri Dante
[2] Paul Levy, Beautiful Ashmolean Exhibition Offers Glimpse of ‘Old Europe’, May 21, 2010. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB127438940492094541.html

If you are interested in art you might like these blogs:
Art in Olduvai 1,74 Million Years BP, Baboonhead Rather unknown, undeserved, the oldest known art in the world
The Origin of Aesthetic Feeling and Art Fundamental: How our aesthetic feeling originated in reproduction of man, a darwinian explanation.
The oldest statuettes adapted by man are between 233,000 and 800,000 years old
“Lion Man”, the oldest statuette with a combination man-animal ‘Der Löwenmensch” was found in Germany.
The oldest Love Statuette in the World They keep on loving for ever in the British Luseeum.
A virtual visit to the Lascaux Cave is mind blowing!
Nerja Caves: the oldest Cave Art in Europe, 42,000 years old Rock paintings , probably made by neanderthals

Abstract of the Ph. D. of Marc Vermeersch

AbstractHypothesis. “In order to reproduce himself man must also reproduce himself ideologically”Higher animal species reproduce themselves through food and sex. In a long development, lasting millions of years, hominini had to constantly adjust themselves in East and Southern Africa. This led to new capacities such as Theory of Mind, spoken language and a bigger brain. The development of the brain allowed to better analyze, synthesize, symbolic thinking, to have joint attention, patternicity, motivation etc.

Many of these properties make learning easier. Human children have a prolonged childhood and a much longer learning time than Pan. Attachment between children and parents facilitates children to learn from their parents and allo-parents. The function of these adaptations allows humans to cooperate on a high level and to accumulate and transmit knowledge.

After a long period man had to reproduce his ideology. (For the purpose of the study we defined ideology as the entirety of human views: tribal, philosophical, moral, educational, technical, totemistic, exogamous, aesthetic, legal, religious ideas etc.) This had become necessary just as food and sex were necessary for reproduction.

The hypothesis was further examined in three areas:

• How was the effect of Westermarck (children that are raised together avoid sex with each other) translated on the cultural level? The Australian Aboriginals had very strict exogamy laws, so that inbreeding was avoided, incest was forbidden. Incest was sometimes preferred in royal families but also amongst the people in ancient Egypt and ancient Iran.

• The position of women in six societies of hunter-gatherers and farmers (without a state) show big differences. Extreme oppression (Baruya, Achuar, Kwaio) was accompanied with ideological oppression. Sometimes women had an equal position in comparison with men as was the case with Pygmies, Iroquois and Buid (Mindoro, Philippines). Their ideology was one of equality.

• The hypothesis helps to provide a Darwinian explanation for the existence of religion. This complex cultural phenomenon is very old, at least hundreds of thousands of years. It has obvious disadvantages (violence, investment of time and goods … are non-adaptive). The benefit for the reproduction of humans was that the ancestor cult gave knowledge transfer (and motivation for knowledge transfer) an important place in society. The striking parallels between the relationship parents-children and the relationship adults-ancestors in the ancestor cult, ensured that with every new generation the basis for the reproduction of religion was also reborn. In that regard religion was adaptive.

Research in these areas shows that, on the same biological basis, different, including diametrically opposite, cultural practices are possible and do exist. In the area of e.g. incest and inbreeding some very long accepted practices are counterproductive but other cultural practices increase the fitness for reproduction.

Ph. D. defended on September 18, 2012 at the University of Ghent.

marc.vermeersch@gmail.com

Résumé français: Résumé. Thèse de doctorat de Marc Vermeersch. Pour se reproduire l’homme doit aussi se reproduire idéologiquement

Nederlandse abstract: abstract doctoraat Marc Vermeersch

The study was published in Dutch as: ‘Om zich te reproduceren moet de mens zich ook ideologisch reproduceren. Menselijke ideologie als factor van menselijke reproductie
ISBN: 978-908134-772    Price 25€.
Distribution is done bij: EPO vzw, 2600 Berchem (Antwerp), Belgium. uitgeverij@epo.be
The book of the Ph. D. study

The book of the Ph. D. study

If you would like to buy the book and you are lving outside the Benelux
The book can be obtained by paying 25€ +  10€ shipment = 35€ on the account of P&P Publishers, in Belgium
Bank: BNP Paribas Fortis
Account, IBAN nr.: BE 96 2900 2398 6505 ; BIC Code GEBABEBB
Mention: Ph. D. Marc Vermeersch

Position of women was examined for different continents. Buid live on the island of Mindoro (Philippines). Kwaio live on Malaita (Melanesia). Baruya live in New-Guinea.

The position of women was examined for different continents. Buid live on the island of Mindoro (Philippines). Kwaio live on Malaita (Melanesia). Baruya live in New-Guinea.