Good-bye Heidelberg Man: You Never Existed
Is “Heidelberg Man” a non-person? Some anthropologists are now claiming that so-called Homo heidelbergensis is nothing more than “a paleoanthropologists’ construct.”
Artists loved to portray this guy as a a hairy, stocky, beetle-browed ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans that lived supposedly 800,000 to 200,000 years ago. Trouble is, he may never have existed. Homo heidelbergensis may have been little more than a paleoanthropologists’ invention, a report by Michael Balter states in Science Magazine. He attended a private meeting in southern France where researchers on both sides debated the status of this alleged human ancestor.
“If someone kills one person they go to jail,” anthropologist Zeresenay Alemseged of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco noted last month at a meeting here in France’s deep south. “But what happens if you kill off a whole species?” The answer soon became apparent: anguished debate. In the balance was Homo heidelbergensis, a big-brained human ancestor generally seen as a pivotal figure during a murky period of evolution. At the invitation-only meeting, researchers debated whether this species really was a major player—or no more than a paleoanthropologists’ construct.
The big-brained H. heidelbergensis has claimed an important perch in the human evolutionary tree: It’s regarded by many as the common ancestor of modern humans and our extinct closest cousins, the Neandertals. Dating to roughly half a million years ago, it is thought to link those species and the earlier H. erectus, which had spread across Africa, Asia, and Europe beginning 1.8 million years ago. But based on a new look at the incomplete fossil evidence, some scientists argue that the picture was much more complicated, and that the transition between small-brained H. erectus and larger brained hominins occurred multiple times. If so, the concept of a single, multicontinental, intermediary species could dissolve into a plethora of hominin specimens with no single name to unite them.
Balter is not claiming that no skulls of this creature existed: there are, after all, “11 potential H. heidelbergensis skulls” that Heidelberg defender Philip Rightmire of Harvard examined. At issue is whether a suite of characteristics can be defined for a single species, given all the diversity in human skulls in the record, and whether that species shows a transition between Homo erectus and later alleged ancestors. The history of the Heidelberg Man label appears arbitrary:
H. heidelbergensis has a history of controversy. The species is based on a single lower jaw found in 1907 at Mauer, near Heidelberg, in Germany. Estimated at about 600,000 years old, the jaw has an unusually thick ramus—the vertical projection that hinges to the skull—and nothing quite like it has been found since. For decades, the name failed to catch on, until anthropologists including Rightmire and Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London noted distinctive thick brow ridges and large faces in skulls of roughly similar age from sites including Arago; Petralona in Greece; Broken Hill in Zambia; Yunxian in China; and Bodo in Ethiopia. All of these skulls also housed much larger brains than H. erectus, about 1200 cubic centimeters, within range of modern human brains, which average about 1400 cc. (Neandertal brains may be slightly larger.)
In the 1970s, Stringer and others postulated a single species spanning Europe, Africa, and Asia, and resurrected the H. heidelbergensis name to describe it. The species’ larger brain was reflected in the complex tools attributed to it, such as wooden spears at Schöningen in Germany (Science, 6 June, p. 1080).
Balter seems to be saying that Stringer and his supporters lumped unconnected individuals from across the globe into the old Heidelberg designation based on just a few traits. Is that enough to call them a separate species? Some preferred Africa’s old “Rhodesia Man ” label better. But now, the champion of the Sima skulls in Spain doubts that the designation Homo heidelbergensis is useful any longer (see 2/03/14). Others argue that the Mauer skull from Heidelberg that started it all seems to be “one of a kind,” not a representative of a species, when all its traits are considered.
Not everybody at the meeting agreed. Some, like Ian Tattersall “fought vigorously to save both the species and the simpler, more straightforward view of human evolution that it represents.” Balter ends with mere hope, stating that “New fossils from this mysterious time period would help.” He makes no predictions about the upcoming publication of bones from Ethiopia dated from the 300,000-year-old period, other than to state the obvious, “Expect fresh debate when these key fossils make it into print.”
This is a good reminder that categories in science are human constructs. In historical evolutionary scenarios, the story comes first, then the data. Designations of ancestry are highly theory dependent. Did Heidelberg Man ever exist? Only in the imaginations of certain modern people with a particular world view to promote. They found a few bones to promote their imaginary world, then hired artists to put skin, hair and facial expressions on them, placing them in dioramas with caves, campfires and mammoth bones. Trouble is, the story is so convoluted and implausible, a number of upshots are doubting the usefulness of the label, while others are fighting “vigorously to save both the species and the simpler, more straightforward view of human evolution that it represents.” Translation: “It’s been such a useful myth! We can’t just let it go! What will the creationists say?” With the Neanderthal label slipping away (5/06/14, 6/14/12), they’re not about to let the Heidelberg label slide down the same trash chute.
It’s not just the ones who killed Heidelberg Man that need to go to jail; it’s the fakes who concocted the myth in the first place. Notice how “Heidelberg Man” was first proclaimed in 1907, when caveman ancestors were all the rage. But then, over time, the name fell out of favor. Then, Chris Stringer and Philip Rightmire decided that the good old label, with its publicity value, could be “resurrected” from obscurity. So they took bones from across the world and lumped into the old category to propose a simple story of progress from Homo erectus to Neanderthal and modern man. The whole enterprise is artificial. The bones didn’t talk; the storytellers did.
What’s tragic is to think of the millions of vulnerable students who, over the years, looked at the artwork of Heidelberg Man, and were influenced by their storytelling teachers to think that this diorama represented the true history of the world. Few of them thought how preposterous the story is. It requires fully-intelligent, upright-walking, world-traveling people to walk the earth for 30 to 80 times the documented history of mankind without ever learning to build a city, plant a farm, write a message, or even ride a horse. The story is ludicrous the more you think about it. The old dates given to the fossils are inextricably tied to the timeline of Darwinian evolution. They’re not that old. We also know the evolutionary story is preposterous because it changes every time a new skull turns up (e.g., 6/20/14, 4/01/14, etc.). This has been the sorry situation for the 14 years we have been covering it: with each new find, cries go up, “Everything you know is wrong!” (e.g., 10/18/13). You call that scientific progress?
The true record of human history is in Genesis, where the names given to tribes and peoples in the Table of Nations match what we know from documented history and from the uniform pattern of human behavior: people don’t sit in caves, they explore the world and invent technology. You can’t keep people in caves with spears for hundreds of thousands of years! Humans are restless. They are explorers and inventors. They will remake the environment for their comfort, amusement and power. They form tribes, city-states and nations. You can’t keep a good man down; that’s why so-called Heidelberg Man was fully human, a descendent of Noah, not an evolutionary wannabe. He deserves respect as Homo sapiens sapiens, even if his brows were a little odd. The bones found in caves could be those of outcasts because of peculiar looks. They could be the bones of pioneer families trying to eke out a living in harsh environments, while their contemporaries were starting farms and towns in the Fertile Crescent. By contrast, evolutionists have no answers for what sparked the sudden emergence of civilization and writing tens of thousands of years “after” modern man supposedly evolved.
The evolutionary species names (Java Man, Heidelberg Man, Peking Man, Piltdown Man) have done tremendous damage to recorded evidence of human history. They have misled millions of people. It’s all propaganda, propped up with bones that are not as old as the evolutionists need them to be. Baloney Detectors need to take the lead in shaming the storytellers into repentance for their sins of propaganda and historical racism (see 5/06/14). Evolutionary paleoanthropologists are the real cave men, in the Platonic sense. Don’t fall for the myths of these blind leaders of the blind.