Neanderthal Ancestry Becomes More Convoluted
Reports from a Spanish Cave are producing a welter of opinions about what evolved into whom, and when.
Neanderthals evolved separately from modern humans over hundreds of thousands of years on different continents, but both evolved large brains independently and were able to interbreed. That’s just a taste of unlikely opinions coming from the Sima de los Huesos (cave of the bones) in the Atapuerca Mountains in northern Spain, a pit that has yielded the biggest cache of hominin fossils to date. Researchers claim the bones of some of the 28 individuals are 430,000 years old. In the evolutionary story, that’s about the time Neanderthals were evolving as a separate line from the one that led to modern humans 200,000 years ago. The paper by Arsuaga et al. in ScienceMagazine led to a variety of news headlines by puzzled reporters trying to be supportive:
- How to Build a Neanderthal (Perspective article in Science Magazine by Jean-Jaques Hublin)
- Fossils put a new face on the ancestors of Neanderthals (Ann Gibbons in Science Magazine Latest News)
- ‘Pit of bones’ catches Neanderthal evolution in the act (Ewen Callaway in Nature)
- Ancient Skulls Reveal ‘Mixed’ Neanderthal-Like Lineage (Charles Q. Choi in Live Science)
- Bonanza of Skulls in ‘Pit of Bones’ Changes View of Neanderthals: A Spanish cave reveals that Neanderthal faces evolved ahead of their braincases (National Geographic)
- Neanderthals evolved their teeth before big brains (New Scientist)
- Skulls with mix of Neandertal and primitive traits illuminate human evolution (Science Daily)
- ‘Game of Thrones’ scenario seen in Neandertal ancestors (PhysOrg)
Some are saying the skull evidence shows that Neanderthal traits began in the face and teeth, and that their large brains and stocky bodies came later. No one seems sure how to integrate the Spanish fossils with the Denisovan individuals farther east in Georgia. Some invoke a “Game of Thrones” scenario, in which separate houses rather than tribes competed for resources. Since many of the bones are fragmented, some think the pit was where conquerors tossed bones of their victims.
One thing is clear: Darwinian gradualism is dead. Lead author J. Arsuaga is quoted on PhysOrg saying, “Human evolution was not a gradual and slow evolution of the whole population at the same rate across the continent.” Despite the differences in some of the skulls, Arsuaga claims they are all members of the same species. Then there is the issue that Denisovans, Neanderthals and modern humans all share DNA, limiting how strong the divisions in taxons can be made. One paleoanthropologist not involved in the dig asked, “How do we deal with distinct evolutionary lineages that retain reproductive capabilities with other lineages?” Maybe they represent natural variation within a single species; if so, dividing them with different names could imply evolutionary divergence when nothing of significance differed all that much.
This is the tangled web they weave when they first begin to deceive, teaching that humans, with their unique minds and bodies, are mere glorified apes rising out of the darkness over millions of years. The millions of years only make things worse, requiring their disciples to believe that fully-qualified, brainy adults who could migrate across continents could not dream of horseback riding, farming, or civilization for over 400,000 years. Now, the convolutions in the story are multiplying with each new bone fragment. Evolutionists’ stories do not hang together. They should all hang separately.