October 14, 2009 | David F. Coppedge

What’s in a Name?  Sima Fossils Confuse Human Evolution Story

“A hush fell over the room….”  Ian Tattersall had just astonished paleoanthropologists gathered for a meeting on human origins in Gibraltar.  The group was puzzling over a treasure trove of hominin bones found in the mid-1990s at Sima de los Huesos in Spain.  What should they be called?
    The co-discoverer, Juan Luis Arsuaga, had assigned them to Homo heidelbergensis because preliminary dates put them in the 350,000 year old range.  Now, however, new uranium-series dating tests by James Bischoff (U.S. Geological Survey) said they were 530,000 years old – as old or older than the classic H. heidelbergensis fossils found elsewhere in Europe, “fossils that the Sima skulls don’t much resemble,” according to a report on the meeting by Michael Balter in Science.1  Here’s where the hush in the room revealed the fact that classification of bones into species and ancestors is an arbitrary process made by modern humans, not by the bones themselves:

Tattersall concludes that two or more hominin lineages must have existed side by side in Europe for several hundred thousand years before H. sapiens arrived from Africa.  One line led to the Neandertals and may have included the Sima fossils; another, rightly called H. heidelbergensis, went extinct while the Neandertals lived on until at least 30,000 years ago.
    Tattersall then looked at Arsuaga, who was sitting in the audience waiting to speak next: “My central plea is to the colleagues who assigned the Sima de los Huesos fossils to H. heidelbergensis.  They are clearly not Neandertals, but not being a Neandertal does not make them H. heidelbergensis.  They need another name.
    A hush fell over the room as Tattersall sat down and Arsuaga got up to speak.  To nearly everyone’s surprise, Arsuaga agreed that the Sima de los Huesos skulls looked nothing like other H. heidelbergensis specimens.  Nor, he said, do 13 other skulls his team had recently excavated there.  “We have always said that we put the Sima hominins under the H. heidelbergensis umbrella for convenience, for practical reasons,” Arsuaga said….

Yet Jean-Jacques Hublin (not present) argued that the Sima fossils contain some Neanderthal features.  His theory is that Neanderthal traits accumulated over time (the “accretion” model).  He sees no need to rename the Sima group.  Balter said his solution is “to scrap the species name H. heidelbergensis and lump all of these fossils, including those from Sima, together as H. neanderthalensis.”  That would certainly make the Neanderthals a morphologically diverse group covering a long span of time.  And what would come of all the textbooks and decades of stories about Heidelberg Man?
    Chris Stringer, “whose early research led to the recognition of H. heidelbergensis as a formal species,” had a little spat with Bischoff at the meeting.  A lot is riding on the 530,000 year date, he argued; “it would be evident that an early form of Neandertal was [in Europe] alongside of H. heidelbergensis.”  Bischoff defended the date as a “conservative” estimate.  The fossils could be even older, he said, but not younger.
    Tattersall seemed to recognize that a lot is at stake in what the scientists decide to call these groups:

“But Tattersall insists that names do matter, even if more of them are required to classify the fossil record.  “Species have an independent existence in nature,” he says.  “They are the basic actors in the evolutionary play, and if you don’t know who the cast is, you will never understand the plot.

More troubles come from this controversy.  According to the standard story, modern humans emerged from Africa 50,000 years ago and displaced the earlier hominins living there.  But there are complications.  In the Levant (Israel-Lebanon), “modern humans apparently lived alongside Neandertals between about 130,000 and 75,000 years ago, as part of what some scientists have called a ‘failed dispersal.’”  The story can tolerate one exception, perhaps.  “In recent years, however, some researchers have seen evidence for earlier dispersals, especially into southern Asia.”  These toolmakers have been called Homo sapiens.  “But not everyone was ready to jump on the early-dispersal bandwagon.”
    It’s clear from Balter’s report that the human evolution story involves much controversy and many arbitrary distinctions.  On one point, though, they are all agreed:

Charles Darwin was the man who did more than anyone else to crystallize the idea that life had changed over time and that, by implication, humankind had extinct relatives who could be found in the fossil record,” Ian Tattersall, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, told attendees of the meeting in one of many talks that began by paying homage to the great man.

According to Balter, “the nearly 100 scientists who gathered here last month to ponder the latest research on Neandertals and other ancient humans were happy to embrace him as their intellectual godfather.”


1.  Michael Balter, “New Work May Complicate History Of Neandertals and H. sapiens,” Science, 9 October 2009: Vol. 326. no. 5950, pp. 224-225, DOI: 10.1126/science.326_224.

12/22/2003 commentary).  The corrupt Storytellers, now fat and sassy, have usurped the noble institutions of science and ousted those who had committed themselves to the principle that science concerned things that were observable, testable and repeatable.  The usurpers may appear to struggle a bit with each other over details of the plot and characters, but the outcome is all determined in advance: Emperor Charles must be worshipped by all.  Bones are mere props in the “the evolutionary play” as Tattersall rightly called it.
    So now you have learned their dark secret.  Heidelberg Man and Neanderthal Man were all made-up names to give the illusion that humans have come up from the apes in Africa so that Darwin might be glorified.  Tattersall admitted, “if you don’t know who the cast is, you will never understand the plot.”  His truism needs to be turned against him.  It’s clear that he and his audience know neither (05/27/2009).
    Look at the illustration of the Sima people in the article.  They look as modern as any native tribe living today.  The differences between their skeletons, brains and proportions and ours pale in comparison to the similarities.  There is no reason in a creation context to deny that such variability between people groups was possible in a much shorter time.  There is more variation between a chihuahua and a St. Bernard (members of one species) than between these “hominins” as the evolutionists call them, and creationists believe all the vast array dog types are descended from one dog pair.  Since we have just seen the evolutionists act recklessly cavalier about species designations (with Hublin willing to lump a huge assortment under one species), there is no further reason to deny calling them all Homo sapiens – human beings (see more of Hublin’s fiction in the 05/13/2009 entry, bullet 4).
    To accept the Darwinian cultural myth, you have to sacrifice your own brain.  You have to believe hugely implausible fictions.  You are required to believe that people with bodies and brains comparable or superior to ours lived on this planet for 100 times all recorded human history and accomplished nothing but grunts and hunts.  They could make excellent superglues for attaching their axes to handles (05/12/2009), and they could use fire for technology (08/14/2009), but could not talk to each other, or build farms and cities, or invent the wheel, or ride horses for half a million years.  Then all of a sudden, bang!  Some mutation occurs, and language is born!  (Believe it or not, that is what Tattersall teaches: see 09/24/2009).  Another 40,000 years passes, with modern humans talking over the campfire.  Then bang!  Agriculture is born, and civilization, with clay tablets discussing trade and commerce.  What miracle story from pagan religion surpasses this in craziness?
    The gang of 100 in Gibraltar may call themselves scientists, but they are false scientists, and false prophets of a false religion.  Why do we listen to them?  The only reason left is for entertainment.

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Categories: Dumb Ideas, Early Man

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