[A collection of thoughts on human evolution made over the last several years 1999. In 2007 it was upgraded a bit for the web.]
Charles Darwin supported his proposal that humanity would find its evolutionary roots in Africa with the proof that the animals most closely resembling humans currently lived there. However, other scientists countered this assertion with the Neanderthal bones and man-made "eoliths" found in Europe and Asia. These eoliths were so crude in nature they may have been no more than strangely fractured native stones. Then the discovery of the Piltdown Man in 1912 added more muddle to the problem and as late as 1960 many archaeologists were considering Europe-Asia as the homeland of humanity. The archaeologists working in Africa were disparagingly called "the wild men of Africa." Unfortunately, these wild men's truly important discoveries were discounted by their contemporaries. Eventually, however their continuing finds of manlike progenitors proved the Africa hypothesis more acceptable than the Europe-Asian one, at least for the original evolution of the most ancient hominids. (2) The archaeological finds are presently somewhat better and they indicate that after our "earliest" human ancestors, Homo erectus, evolved in Africa they spread across the old world from Africa to Java. Before a million years ago they had spread into areas where no previous hominids have been found. However, these people were not like us. Their fossilized bones reveal that they were much more muscular than we are and they had smaller brains.
Homo erectus are definitely not modern humans and there had to be a substantial modification of that previous human type to form what we now recognize as humans. At present there is a relative paucity of bones documenting the evolution between the million-year-old Homo erectus and the modern Homo sapiens sapiens first represented at Cro Magnon. The period between one million years ago and 30,000 years ago still lacks a clear archaeological record for Cro Magnon's lineal ancestors. The Neanderthal type lived in Europe and Asia from 300,000 years ago to perhaps as recently as 20,000 years ago but these particular individuals are not modern man's ancestors. (3) The oldest discovered fully modern people, the Cro Magnon types, came from somewhere outside of where the known Neanderthals were living. When these fully modern people do appear in Europe, they bring with them sophisticated tools. The creation and possession of these tools imply that they also arrived with a modern culture. This modern development of their body form and their technology implies that they came from somewhere outside of Europe. This development intimates there was a place where they had the time to evolve their human artifacts, modern human bones, human culture and human language. But, where is their homeland, their Garden of Eden, where all of that development occurred? It has not yet been revealed by archaeological digs. At present archaeologists favor Africa as the site of modern man's evolution, including the evolution of language, but no conclusive archaeological evidence has been presented at this time.
There is a problem with any theory identifying the Africa-Europe-Asia land mass for the human homeland and that is that it is a single easily traversable land mass; at least it has been most of the time during the last million years. By the simple experiment of walking we may prove that movement over the Europe-Asian-African old-world continent is fairly easy for modern men; it follows that, if these ancient men could walk as well as we, then the development of a new technology in one area would, over the course of a few millennial find its way to every part of the land-mass. But as no artifacts, let alone modern human bones, have been found to show this to be the case, it seems more reasonable to assume there were no Cro Magnon-level people present anywhere upon the unified world-continent landmass. If they had been living anywhere on this land mass their artifacts would be found everywhere. And a large population of Cro Magnon-type people living over a large area, for more than 200,000 years, would have left a tremendous quantity of artifacts.
The reasoning presented in both trains of thought is new and a bit unusual but it is based on some very particular facts about modern humans. The arguments developed are specific and that is why they lead to such a specific localities.I believe a case can be made that this Eden is most likely to have been the island of Halmahera in the Spice Islands of Indonesia, or Zanzibar and I will develop the reasons for asserting this below. [In 1994 when I first developed this line of reasoning the results were not yet conclusive for Africa as the homeland but as that genetic evidence now seems conclusive I must take Zanzibar as my new best choice for an Eden.] For an alternate discussion I wrote in 1995 leading also to Halmahera, go to: PROBA/Eden.htm That is a slightly different approach and it is a special case of speculation based on population trapping, and upon specific human traits like hairlessness, breath holding and a liking for certain spices. Both of these separate lines of speculation require digs, in the proper strata, of the Spice Islands and Zanzibar to affirm or deny their ultimate validity. The Spice Islands have been little explored in an archaeological way and finding artifacts will be difficult because of the tropical conditions but because it has volcanoes there is a probability that some entire villages were buried over time and thus preserved from the destruction by the tropical climate. Finding villages buried for thousands of years may be difficult but they were buried they are still there waiting to be unearthed. Let me begin by placing Halmahera on the map. It is directly on the Equator in the Moluccas, which are often called the Spice Islands. It is between New Guinea, Celebes and the Philippines. It is isolated by narrow canyons of deep oceanic water from both the Asian Archipelago to the West side and New Guinea-Australia land mass to the East side. However, during ice ages the deep water adjacent to what is now an isolated island of Halmahera was only a few miles across and the various stepping stone islands between the continents would have been visible from each other. Furthermore land based birds, which cannot land on water, are seen flying between these stepping stone islands even today when the distances are greater. You can go to Google Earth and fly from one island to another to prove to yourself how the islands are visible from one to the other even now when the ocean level is higher than during the transfer. During those times even primitive methods of water travel such as hanging onto a floating log and paddling may have been sufficient to cover the shorter distances. Surely occasional floating logs would have been available even to Homo erectus and so at the right times they would have been able to travel from Halmahera to the Asian main landmass or to the New Guinea-Australia landmass. At the maximum extent of an ice age and the associated sea level drop it might have been difficult for a group of primitive people to make the necessary crossings but not impossible. The difficulty was mostly in conceptualizing any advantages for the trip rather than the physical demands of the trip. All of these same conditions apply to Zanzibar also.
Modern humanity's various root species, without much doubt, are located inside of Africa. However, after about one million years ago our precursor species the Homo erectus had spread throughout the old world and therefore modern humans might have arisen from any place where they had resided. One of the major theories at present is that modern humanity arose simultaneously from that species throughout the entire old world and that gene flow between the extremes of the continents was sufficient to maintain humanity as a single unified species. This unified-by-gene-diffusion theory would work for a highly mobile species like migrating birds or modern human jet setters. Perhaps, diffusion might be sufficient to maintain uniformity within a species which hadn't changed much over the time period. However, as the human species went through a great improvement in respect to language abilities at that time, the gene flow available would have been far too slow to have maintained the uniformity of the quality, which is now present. This is especially true of a very large population, which would be implied if they had a continent-wide distribution but if they didn't have a large population it would be difficult to find other humans with which to exchange genetic material. Furthermore, efficient methods of transportation such as horses or boats certainly were not available until long after modern man had dispersed, about 50,000 years ago. Walking from one end of the continent to the other would be slow during the earlier "homogenizing" period. Even in the unlikely event that all foreign travelers were welcome by the various locals and the distant visitors were given every available aid to assist and comfort them, still their journeys would have taken several years.
Furthermore, these travelers would have had to have been given ample opportunity for gene transfer as they were passing through these foreign lands. That sexual cooperation is very difficult to assume and to maintain! Language isn't a single gene or there would be sudden and common and consistent variations in various groups ability to speak. The new genes would have had to have flowed back and forth thousands of times to have maintained uniformity of a large and dispersed population. Language wasn't created by a few sporadic gene flows from one end of the continent to the other. This constant gene flow over tens of thousands of miles and hundreds of thousands of years would have had to include all people in every remote pocket of the old world to maintain the observed genetic uniformity of the speaking ability of the present human species. This long history needed for the gene flow theory implies a large population which implies a large number of artifacts and the artifacts are missing as well as the bones. With all of these obstacles weighed I believe that a sustained million-year-long diffusion of evolving complex genetic traits, such as language, in paleolithic times from Tasmania to England is totally implausible. Even if gene diffusion were correct there would be a bottleneck to travel at Halmahera and so that location would be an appropriate site for archaeological digs.
The difference between modern man and ancient man below the Adam's apple is quite modest and a modern person with a modern head but with an ancient-type body, even an erectus body, could function reasonably well in modern society. Having an extremely muscular and hairy body would not preclude socialization or language acquisition of a modern head. But the reverse is unquestionably not the case. A person with an ancient type of head placed upon a modern body, lacking the physical and mental equipment for language within the modern head, would have a very difficult time in modern society. There might be employment for these people, especially in unskilled physical occupations, but lacking modern language abilities they would be very limited in the complexity of the activities which they could learn to perform well.
Of course it is difficult to show the evolution of the non-fossilizing soft tissues but even if we were in possession of a perfectly fresh bottled specimen of any human brain it wouldn't tell us much about that brain's ability to handle symbols in vivo.
The philosophers and archaeologists have the same bad habit of chopping everything up with a cleaver into ever refined distinctions, thinking they are about to find something, but in the end this procedure can never bring us any understanding only the ground up dust of impossible theories. Nor would a complete shelf of perfectly bottled brains of every mother and father going all the way back to erectus tell us much about the potential for symbolic activity within those brains. It is what the brain is capable of, and not so much its weight or the relative size of various portions, that has been evolving. It is the artifacts which tell us most about what those people were thinking. But we have to put ourselves into their exact time, space and mind set to understand what they were thinking.
Language, on the other hand, is extremely rudimentary in all other creatures even in our closest living relatives, the great apes, and thus our genes for sophisticated language appear to have arisen almost totally in the last six million years, the period since our last common ancestor with the apes. As the Neanderthals seem to have been very slow to learn Cro Magnon skills even after tens of thousands of years of exposure to the superior Cro Magnon technologies, we may assume that they had very little in the way of genetically encoded verbal abilities. This implies that, since the Cro Magnon could speak, they acquired the physical and genetic and social ability somewhere else. This other place had to be where the Neanderthals were not genetically interbreeding during the time period that the language ability evolved, or else they too would have been included in the previous gene pool and they too would have had the language ability, or alternatively they would have diluted the gene pool to where language failed to develop. The Neanderthal and the Cro Magnons did have some common ancestry more recently than their erectus forebears because their skull forms are much more similar to each other than they are to Erectus. When the first wave of humanity, the Heidelbergensis humans, came out of the ancient Eden, wherever it is, about 300,000 years ago, they seem to have been sufficiently advanced in total adaptive qualities to have quickly displaced most if not all of the Homo erectus from the old world. It appears that these earliest "Neanderthals" were traveling representatives of the level of genetic, technical and social development at Eden at the time of their departure. The Homo Heidelbergensis are like a photographic snapshot of Eden at that time.
After they left Eden they were too diffuse and too numerous to evolve further and they began regressing toward their common ancestors the Homo Erectus. The regressed form is the Neanderthal. A very curious feature of Heidelbergensis is that they appear more modern looking than do their more recent descendants, the Neanderthals, possibly because of some interbreeding with erectus but probably not. This seeming reversal of development away from modern appearance occurs among Heidelbergensis in Europe, and also in Australia, China and Africa, and the implication is that they were evolving without some earlier common selective factor, which was apparently confined to Eden. They were losing their tropical adaptations because in the temperate regions they didn't need them and were counter-productive. This is a bit different than selecting for some trait but rather taking the pressure off for selecting a trait permits the species to drift back towards its earlier adaptations because those genes are still relatively available for expression. Modern people also seem to be following this trend and are becoming less like our 30,000 year old sapiens ancestors in the same way that the Neanderthals became less like their first European ancestors. Aldox Huxley may have been right in his book "Chrome Yellow" [I read this in about 1955.] when he had his protagonist evolving back into a pre-human. It appears that both types, Neanderthals and modern people, have an ancient root in the same tropical location and when either of those groups moved away from that location they slowly reverted back to a somewhat more temperate and erectus like body form. The erectus genes were there all along while humanity was residing in the tropical Eden but they were not desirable in that location for those people and so they were selected against and after a while not expressed very often. The change at this level isn't aided by mutation very much but rather it is the selection between the expression of combinations of already latent genes.
Another discernible wave out of Eden may be found in Australia where not long after about 100,000 years ago a type of humanity appeared which is more modern than Neanderthals but less modern than Cro Magnons. These people also seem to revert toward some more Erectus like bodily form after their introduction into Australia. About 25,000 years ago modern man may have revealed his appearance there because there is a sudden extinction of mega-fauna.(4) The implication is that someone invented a new technology for killing those animals and that implies a more intelligent and developed group of people. The weapon technology appears to have been based on wooden artifacts such as a "throwing-stick" or boomerang or possibly that extinction was the result of the advent of the bow and arrow. The bones of fully modern man have been found that date to soon after that time, and they seem to have been the ones who displaced the earlier type of Australian people. There have been some finds of rock art in Australia that are perhaps 80,000 years old. If that proves valid after further finds and tests then what we may be seeing is an example of a cultural advance beyond Neanderthals but not so advanced as Cro Magnon. The only reasonable link from Australia to Europe is through Indonesia and the easiest link is through the bottleneck of closely spaced islands near Halmahera. It was the stepping stone between Africa-Europe-Asia and Australia. Probably there wasn't long distance travel during those times but rather occasional breakouts of small groups across the usually impassable ocean straits. An occasional Robinson Crusoe or even a breeding pair will not do to set up a sustainable colony. A more reasonable minimum colony size is one hundred and even that would be far more stable if it had some continuing contact with the parent population. Until it expanded beyond a thousand or so it would be unstable. However, in this near perfect situation, in a land totally devoid of human competition and in a nearby island environment with which these people were perfectly familiar the population would expand very rapidly. This transfer group cannot be too small for more than a very few generations or the genetic health-giving diversity of a larger group is lost. A brief genetic bottleneck might give better consistency of genes but at the great risk or even likelihood of the group going extinct. The colony of Norse settlers in Greenland from 1000 AD to 1450 AD is an example of a marginal colony of about 5,000 persons that didn't make it. Of course they had a very poor location during the Little Ice Age. And yet it couldn't have been too poor because they flourished their for several hundred years. Easter Island is another example of a small group crossing the sea to an isolated island which formed a population about the size I am describing. After a couple hundred years of prosperity it nearly went extinct. Perhaps because the founding population, said to be a single boat load of people, was too small for sustained genetic stability. Or, in that case habitat destruction due to over-population. There was a similar event with people crossing over the Bering Straits about 12,000 years ago. But these people probably did so in moderately large numbers and also they soon had the genetic diversity and stability of large numbers as the entire continent was available to be expand onto. Of course these expeditions occurred long after humanity's departure from the tropics and only after they had developed more experience with a variety of difficult environments. These first Americans probably moved south immediately, with the natural flow of the oceanic currents or by following the migratory birds or game if they happened to be inland.
Briefly stated, I am postulating that a Neanderthal like people departed from Zanzibar (or Halmahera) onto the old-world continent, about 300,000 years ago, who possessed a very rudimentary language skill. Secondly a departure of people onto Australia and the Old-world about 100,000 years ago who possessed good and genetically hard-wired language skills. And later, about 40,000 years ago, a fully modern human exodus onto both Australia and the old-world continent of people who possessed brains genetically programmed for modern language acquisition. Therefore, humanity acquired the basic universal physical form and the genetic hard-wired programing for speech and other uniquely human qualities between 100,000 and 40,000 years ago. After the diaspora there may have been some localized variation but it would be a minor overlay onto the basic language ability.
Here we have a problem in that if language is subtle and complex and has a major hardwired genetic component, how did it arise so quickly. How did the modern language ability arise in a mere few hundred thousand years at the maximum and 30,000 years at the minimum? That is, how did language arise in the period between the splitting off of the Neanderthal's ancestors from the Australian's and the Cro Magnon's ancestors? How did it arise so quickly when something seemingly no more complex, the eye, seems to have taken more than a thousand times as long to have come into fully functioning existence? Furthermore, even though the genetic component of human language seems to be complex it appears to be stable and consistent over the whole of the human species. That consistency implies a period of sustained gene flow between all members of the proto-modern population. It would take a long time to create the genetic subtleties needed for hard-wiring the human brain for language and then to diffuse it throughout the entire group and then to maintain the stability of their inheritance over the entirety of humanity for long enough for it to homogenize and stabilize. If everyone didn't have nearly the same genetic hard-wiring then communication between people would be much more difficult and inefficient and those who lacked the preferred wiring would be strongly selected against and their genes would vanish. If the diffusionist theory were correct there would be pockets of humanity that had different hard-wired responses to linguistic stimuli. This doesn't seem to be demonstrable at present. If there are pockets where the diffusion of language genes has not fully penetrated they would be in the most remote localities from Eden and the most difficult to access such as the densest jungles of central Africa. It is the remote and impenetrable localities to which displaced populations are forced to flee when they are overwhelmed in their central home lands. However, when a population has been confined to a relatively small place for quite a long time the problem of maintaining homogeneity vanishes. Another method of getting genetic consistency would be with a bottleneck in the gene stream. A very temporary bottleneck would probably happen when there was a population breakout from Eden, (Zanzibar or Halmahera) over to the mainland as a hundred or so individuals made it to the new land. But then, the Australian aborigines would have a noticeable difference from the rest of humanity, and they don't, implying that the final diaspora was in both directions at the same time. "Recent surprising data and theoretical calculations suggest that small single population bottlenecks, from which a sexual population rapidly rebuilds size to some Malthusian limit after a few generations, may be important in evolutionary change. Such a bottleneck appears to be accompanied by release, to the action of natural selection, of new re-combinational genetic variability."(5) There is the possibility that some of the later people did interbreed with the earlier ones but if so their descendants would have a discernible difference in the way they created sense out of words. Of course there is already a great deal of difference between languages but within the present differences there is an underlying continuity. It is that underlying genetically hard-wired continuity which would be different with these people who hypothetically carry some of the Neanderthal-like people's genes. If the breakout was permitted by access to newly invented rafting technology then the base population could move to New Guinea-Australia-Tasmania as easily at that time as to Asia-Europe-Africa and there would be only small genetic drift differences between Englishmen and Tasmanians' speaking abilities. If the pre-existing ancient populations were able to retreat into pockets and survive and over time to interbreed with the latest escapees, then one would expect language acquisition variations and greater genetic variety than is, at present, observed. The physical bodily form varies, driven by the local environmental niche, but core language ability should be slower to change and remain relatively stable. Of course if a group decided to select for some different aspect of our speaking ability, such as musical ability or artistic ability, then that would change more quickly and become more prominent.
What seems to be implied is that there existed a relatively small and relatively concentrated population of proto-modern people who had a population large enough to have physical and genetic stability and yet small enough to have rapid, sustained and thorough gene flow throughout the entire group. The ideal population size for this to happen is about 6,000 breeding individuals. Tiny localized populations of less than 500 tend to go extinct too easily and dispersed populations of more than 100,000 would be too diffuse for complete gene spread and stabilization to take place in a plausible time frame. Language ability could most easily arise when there is a trapped population of about 6,000 breeding individuals, and there is some process operating for selecting for language ability. That is, with only those two special circumstances there could be a development of language. Even under these special conditions there is ultimately only one method of selection which can satisfy the time requirement. It is artificial selection.
There are only a few methods whereby the genes of a species may be modified. I will briefly discuss five methods of species modification. Mutation, Natural Selection, Sexual Selection, Artificial Selection and Gene Manipulation.
Broadly stated, mutation is a copying change within a chromosome whereby modifications are made to the chromosome which is transmitted to the resultant offspring. It is from these copying changes that new phenotypic expressions arise. Mutations are almost always harmful to the individual organism but it is the process whereby from an occasional improvement the species is kept genetically healthy and drifting toward the optimum balance with its ecological niche's selective forces. In the more frequent cases where mutations are deleterious the individual either dies from poor health or loses out in the sexual selection process when seeking to mate.
Natural Selection is a process whereby random genetic variations occurring within a species are being selected for reproduction by environmental gradients of stressors selectively pruning off the less fit individual members as defined by the sum of those stressors.
Sexual selection refers to when members of a species preferentially select other members of their species, when mating for reproduction, because these mates possess some special discernible quality.
Artificial selection requires "verbally" defining desirable qualities and preferentially mating those individuals who possess the desired qualities and usually the willful discouraging from reproducing of those individuals who lack the qualities.
Gene manipulation is willful human intervention by physically modifying genetic material in an effort to create variety and create new phenotypes . We can skip over this method because it was not available to the ancient people.
Natural Selection is the overarching principle and one can argue that as man is a natural phenomenon everything that man does is natural. However, in the definitions above that quibble is largely circumvented. In any case, the usual process of natural selection would be far too slow to come up with something apparently as complex as language in less than 300,000 years. The 300,000 years is about the maximum time of the last common ancestor with the Neanderthals and as discussed herein their speaking ability was very limited. Not possessing speech for a Neanderthal, living in a society where no one had much speaking ability, would not bring about his death or prohibit him from mating. However, for a Cro Magnon or for a modern person it would usually preclude mating, especially for a male. All normal members of any species possess a high degree of survivability in their normal conditions, after all they are the product of over a billion years of natural selection and a normal Neanderthal group should be very fit indeed, except when competing with a society of modern men.
Sexual selection, however, can select for desired traits much more rapidly than natural selection because it preferentially breeds for a chosen quality and that quality can be selected for repeatedly and consistently and so the controlling genes will spread quickly throughout the entire group. Typically sexual selection selects for a single quality such as excessively big antlers on a buck deer. The buck who possesses the species-defined in-encumbrance is physically saying to the does, "Choose me; I am so healthy I can carry around this huge impediment to my well being and fight off other bucks and still survive; thus your offspring sired by me will be very vital."
Artificial selection can make even greater changes in very short time periods as is shown by the great variety of dogs brought into being in the last two hundred years. It was not necessary to have an understanding of Mendel's genetic laws to make the verbally defined desired changes. The ancient methods of artificial selection are reflected in old sayings such as, "like breeds like" and "like father like son." These primitive methods of artificial selection will bring about great changes in the desired direction in only a few generations. This simple method of Artificial Selection gives a directed evolution but it requires speech, at least rudimentary speech, to make it work. The original pre-speech method of artificial selection would have been less selective than "like father like son" and harder to define in words because it was indicated by non-verbal or semi-verbal gestures. Probably a typical gestured statement would be something like, "that guy is desirable because he has desirable things." There were probably several pre-verbal selective factors all generally selecting for the same qualities, but once the human female (or male) was choosing a mate based not only upon physical qualities, as all animals do, but also upon the value of his property and his ability to create valuable things such as food and tools that too would become part of the genetic make up of the human species. Bower birds also prove their worth to their females by building a home and placing fancy items conspicuously on the floor. As Homo Erectus unquestionably possessed stone tools they undoubtedly possessed artifacts of perishable materials also. These artifacts would have variable utility and part of that utility would be dependent on "form follows function" and function tends to look simple and symmetrical and thus beautiful to the modern human eye. Thus it is that females were unknowingly selecting for the genetically inherited ability to make beautiful objects and this would be an additional factor selecting for the language ability. This is a circular positively re-enforced feedback loop, because what we define as beautiful is in part defined by what was bred into us as being beautiful and that quality being selected for becomes enhanced over each generation. With the surviving stone artifacts we have a tiny sample of what those people were aesthetically capable of producing and the record clearly shows a several million year long progression toward more aesthetically pleasing artifacts, as we define them. An octopus would probably have a genetically different definition of beauty because its needs are so very different from our own. Rather than bilateral symmetry an octopus might define as beautiful the ability to flash various skin colorations, and such as things as topside shiny, bottom-side rough and horizontal eight-ness. A peacock would find upwardly radial iridescent spots beautiful and everything else sexually unacceptable. A five limbed starfish would find any other number of limbs ugly. The Neanderthal artifacts discovered so far do not directly show much provable symbolic meaning but there is some aesthetic sensitivity. It is not until the creation of artifacts found with anatomically modern people that we see clear signs of objects with aesthetic and symbolic forms intended to be beautiful and therefore to have additional meaning implied in their structure. This is a further argument for a hidden homeland where there was an evolution of artistic and symbolic production which demonstrates an evolution of the artistic capability of the brain which shows a genetic evolution of that quality. There is only the tiniest gradual increase of aesthetic quality in the pre-Cro Magnon historical record of artifacts but with the Cro Magnon's appearance there is abrupt demonstration of fully modern aesthetic intelligence.
It is necessary to have some minimum ability to communicate before the positive feedback loop of artificial selection can begin to exert its strong influence. However, once the feedback loop has been started and the "verbal" selection information disseminated throughout the population the broad spectrum of required genes for the physical manifestation of this complex aesthetic-speaking trait will be selected for rather quickly. When this minimally speaking species has made all of the selections readily available from the genes and gene combinations existing in the population, then the mutations which enhance these abilities will become more apparent. The people will be speaking with one another albeit at a much more primitive level than any modern people. But, when they are speaking minimally the positive mutations will become more discernible and they will be seen and spoken of as desirable and selected for by the group. They will then be able to discern the trait even better and praise it verbally even more clearly and this soon leads to an even more refined discernment and to an even more pro-selective reproduction of the trait. This positive feedback loop is a bit awkward getting started when there isn't much language to work with but once it is operating it should proceed through to a basic speaking ability fairly quickly.
In modern society most females have children but very few have more than eight; during explosively good times, like the populating of the United States by Europeans in the 1800s it was not uncommon for mothers to have more than eight children. Of course, ultimately it has averaged to just two plus a bit more to sustain the population growth of our species. But in comparison to females "many" males have fewer two children and some males have over eight and perhaps one male in ten thousand has over twenty children. However, a large percentage of adult males, ten to thirty percent, have no children at all. This disproportionate reproduction of the best males, as defined by the current population, has probably always been the case with human populations. Generally speaking, almost all young men pursue almost all young women but it is the women who choose which men will be fathers. Therefore, it is the women selecting which men they are going to breed with that determines which way the human population is going to drift. The best men, as defined by the women of the group, will have the most children. The eternal question for men becomes, "What do I do to please women so they will mate with me?" The corollary question for women becomes, "How do I maximize my attractiveness so I will be able to get the best possible man?"
At first glance it would seem to be impossible to know what a Neanderthal woman would like or how she would go about choosing a mate. We can use the technique of looking up the answer and then trying to fill in the space between the question and the answer with plausible scenarios. From these scenarios we may get hints as to where to look for the necessary proofs as to which is the most likely scenario. Taking as our end point the "universal traits" of modern humans, we have: males selecting females for their ability to make themselves appear physically young, healthy and stylishly harmonious with current standards; and females choosing males who appear healthy and have high social status and productive prowess and kindly disposed toward them in particular. These desiderata are generally covered with a heavy coating of local customs and taboos. Within the group the perfect manifestations of the desired traits are easily stated but not easily attained and it takes intelligence, knowledge of the local customs and work to maximize one's sexual desirability. In a social situation where there is very little property to be acquired or ability to store food, this selection strategy would develop into obedience to ritualized relationships and the ability to satisfy the group's defined expectations of behavior. These things require intelligence, memory, verbal and aesthetic ability to discern what is better from what is inferior. Even non-speaking or minimally-speaking groups would develop myths defining some idealized type of individual and behavior. This ideal would be striven for by individuals in the group and those most like the ideal would have the highest status and the highest reproductive rating. It would be a positive feedback loop for the human traits of intelligence, speech, aesthetic ability, cooperation, and physical beauty. Once these traits are verbally defined or at least physically demonstrated in some behavior then it is only a matter of time until the group fulfills the expectation, genetically, in its own physical and mental traits. After minimal speaking ability has been attained those men able to tell stories well, or able to create better artifacts would gain in social status and sexual status and thus reproductive success. These traits undoubtedly have a genetic component and they are probably linked to each other as well. It is surprising how almost all ancient physical artifacts have been beautified, presumably by their owner. This gave the owner of the artifact additional status which translates into additional sexual access and thus more children and thus to more survival of the "art making" artistic genes. The rock and roll songsters had it right, by their own definition, in their choice of an easy profession when they sang, "We get our money for nothing and our chicks for free." That is an impossible to prove motive for Cro Magnon period verbal and musical art forms but it is clearly demonstrated in their physical art because beautified physical-art objects from the period are the rule.
Very specific locations for potential human evolution have been named. Halmahera is good for creating the conditions, where these specific priorities for creating the hardwiring necessary for speech could have arisen. It had to be an isolated location where the necessary driving forces could have been sustained for a very long period of time, perhaps as much as a million years, and not diluted by too large of a gene transfer from an external populations. Because of its being isolated by a rising ocean between ice ages Halmahera and Zanzibar offer the ideal locations for these transformations to occur. I suggest that a Homo erectus population made it to one of these islands about a million years ago, around the same time they are known to have arrived on the island of Java, which at that time was connected to the mainland of Asia. When the ice sheets melted and the ocean rose both groups would have been trapped and isolated from the mainland of world continent on their respective islands. The feedback loop never developed on Java or if it did that island's population was too large for it to work well and the Homo erectus didn't change much and remained much as they were when they arrived. Those who were on Java, Halmahera or any of the other islands of the Indonesian archipelago without boats or rafts would be trapped and would remain trapped where they were until the next ice age made the oceanic distance separating them from each other and from the mainland much easier to cross. The breakout apparently became possible once about 300,000 years ago and some of the Neanderthal type people escaped onto the mainland. It happened again about 100,000 years ago with an ancient population reaching Australia and again about 50,000 years ago when modern man escaped onto the world continent mainland. This last escape was of fully modern people so this event may mark the creation of the ability to make rafts. However, the earliest known raft is only 6,431 years old (as defined by radiocarbon dating) and the break out may have been by holding onto logs and paddling or totally accidental. Or perhaps it was simply several people being unintentionally blown off the island during a storm and finding each other on the not too distant Celebus Island from Halmahura or the African mainland from Zanzibar.
The oldest known depictions of boats are from pre-dynastic Egypt at about 5,500 years ago. (6) These dates are only one eighth as old as the diaspora from Eden which implies that, as no other boats have been discovered, boat building may been that relatively recent achievement.
A simple proof of this seemingly outlandish assertion, that innovation is very rare, is that there were only about six million U.S. patents granted in the last 200 years. Most of these patents are quite trivial and never see the market place and are never used but every one of these patents was tested for its newness and usefulness by the patent system. Then they are subjected to the most perspicacious of all testers, the market place where money is exchanged and the challenges of claim jumpers must be addressed. Most of the six million patents passed even that rigorous test which proves that the original patent claim validators did a good job of deciding what was truly new. Currently there are about six and a half billion people on the Earth and over the 200 year time period when the patent process has been available there were roughly thirty billion people who lived. Simple division gives only one patent per five thousand people. That very roughly stated is one invention per five thousand people per entire lifetime. Even though this proof is a very, very rough approximation it is indicative of the rarity of innovation. In one small sub-category of technology which I track, computer hardware, there are new products at a lower price nearly every day. And once every couple of months or so something quite new comes along. But we live in an environment where there is a mass market system and mass communication system and great rewards for innovation. It is difficult even now to market a new invention but if anyone of the current population comes up with a really new and useful item they can become millionaires even billionaires almost overnight. That is for most people a real motivation to try and invent. It has been said that 95% of all of the research scientists who have ever lived are presently working. Even so there is very little invention on a personal level. Even so the above stated "one invention per five thousand people per lifetime" is not far off.
If we apply this same rate of creation to a primitive people with a very small population and only word of mouth to inform others of the creation we would have only one new idea for the entire human population per entire human lifetime. People would not even know that there was such a thing as invention. After all they had never seen anything new and all items which they possessed had been invented, beyond the time horizon, by the Gods at the very beginning of creation. In an isolated culture of about 6,000 individuals even our modern explosive rate of creation would show totally imperceptible progress during a typical lifetime. However, in the situation which prevailed within the culture with no stimulus or rewards, and possible punishments for creation, the rate of innovation would be even slower. Creation of complex new and useful items, such as boats which require several separate innovations to work, would be very slow indeed. However, in the world of artistic development these people could be very innovative in terms of quality although perhaps very slow to develop new styles, after all they were trying to conform to a societal standard of what was desirable. Their goal being not to be creative but to make things of exceptional beauty that would please not just their fellow men and women but their concept of an ultimate being. Within that constriction they might have created wonderful things, and some of these might still remain to be found and amaze us. Within an area that has explosive volcanoes there might exist complete small cities buried, much like Pompey in Italy, under layers of ash, with an abundance of beautiful artifacts. What a find that would be!!
Ultimately, we may never know where modern humanity came from unless a homeland, an Eden, where all humanity evolved is revealed by archaeological discovery. A bed of artifacts may exist or they may not but I am offering a plausible location to start searching and some reasons for searching at those specific locations. Perhaps there was an Eden in Africa which is modern man's true homeland as it is almost certainly ancient man's homeland. Wherever Eden was, quite a lot of digs within a time strata in the range of 300,000 to 50,000 years ago are needed to discover the transition location and the bones of modern speaking-man Homo Vocalis. There may be discoveries of almost modern people in this time period but we must be careful of them because they may be representatives of groups that broke out of Eden and not Eden itself. When it is finally discovered the true homeland should have a clear unbroken record with an abundance of bones and of artifacts in the period 500,000 to 50,000 years ago!
Most predator prey relationships develop over long periods of time with the specific species involved in the transactions making many small evolutionary adaptations each of which give them an small advantage. Because the new genetic adaptations are fairly small at any time, and in any specific case a countermanding adaptation takes place in the other co-evolving species the extinction of any of the species is a rare event. When an extinction does take place it is probably because of extenuating factors outside of this interactive co-evolutionary process. However, in the case of modern humans, because of their ability to use learning and communicate their learning to others of how to exploit a given environmental situation, they have caused the extinction of a great many species. In general, people can adapt their thoughts more rapidly than plants, animals and microscopic life forms can adapt their defenses against human predation. It is a marker throughout the world of early modern man's presence that the choicest of the game animals and plants have been consumed to extinction. There are many examples of this during historic times, but to let the Europeans off the hook for a moment, I will mention the Maori experience in New Zealand and the Easter Island devastation of their home land and the American extinctions of 11,000 years ago and the Australian extinctions of 25,000 years ago. It seems that wherever modern speaking man, whom I like to call homo vocalis has gone in the last 50,000 years there have been immediate extinctions. In Europe there was a vanishing of the larger animals which may easily be seen by viewing the cave paintings drawn by these earlier people and then looking about Europe to try to find some living examples. Two of the earliest mass extinctions of large animals, and possibly the first, were in Australia. They probably coincide with the creation and introduction of new weapons by man. The Aboriginal Australians were particularly prolific in their introduction of various types of missile devices. It may well be that the atlatl and the bow and arrow came from Australia along with the boomerang and various specialized throwing sticks. The standard throwing spear may predate modern humans. That being said, it is strange that Africa still possesses an abundance of various types of desirable game animals. If Africa were the homeland of modern humans, and they lived there while evolving to the Cro-Magnon level of technical sophistication it would seem that Africa would be the first continent to experience widespread extinctions and not the last. Another strange spin on this idea is that Halmahera hasn't had any large animals for many thousands of years even though there are many islands around it which do have a history of large animal populations and it would seem that those islands were just as difficult to populate with those species as Halmahera would have been. The simple conclusion is that modern man has been there for a very long time and he ate those animals into extinction.
What does the latest research indicate? Science Magazine 25 April 1997 page 353 (VOL276) reports on the progress of Michael Hammer's haploid flow research. It references M. F. Hammer et al., GENETICS 145, 787 (1997). Hammer is a geneticist at the University of Arizona and the study refers to the DNA of 1500 males from 60 populations worldwide. He did DNA analysis on a tiny portion of the Y chromosomes searching for sequence changes that varied between the genetic populations. He found the oldest versions of the DNA he studied to have arisen in Africa some 800,000 years ago but that some portions seem to have arisen in Asia and flowed back into Africa more recently than 200,000 years ago. Thus on haplotype research alone Southeast Asia, which was previously not thought to be our ancestral homeland because no artifacts have been found, becomes a possibility. Research into tropical regions searching for ancient artifacts might now be contemplated. We will have to look under volcanic ash beds for the period 50,000 to 500,000 years ago in Indonesia and in particular in the Spice Islands, and especially Halmahera to prove the existence of this homeland, this Garden of Eden. Zanzibar is also an excellent possibility and has a major advantage of being next to the continent where most of prehuman evolution took place. Also, there is more genetic variation in Africa than elsewhere in the world, implying a deeper historical population base. It will be difficult to find Eden but it may not be impossible. Look for artifacts in the 300,000 to 50,000 year beds in Halmahura and Zanzibar.
1. Use the date and file insert on every document so they will be easy to find from the printed document.
2. Donald Johanson and Blake Edgar. 1996 "From Lucy To Language" New York, Simon & Schuster GN281.J57 19962.
3. Associated Press. Friday July 11, 1997
Genetic differences indicate the Neanderthals were a different species from the early humans who swept them aside in Europe and western Asia--although they appear to have split from a common ancestor a half-million years ago, according to German and U.S. scientists.
The research, which was published Friday in the Cambridge, Mass. -based science journal Cell, was carried out by a team at the University of Munich's zoological Institute.
4. See Quaternary Extinctions
5. Hampton L. Carson, Department of Genetics and Molecular Biology; John Burns, School of Medicine, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI 96822.; Science 12 October 1990 p. 191