May 25, 2017 | Jerry Bergman

Yet Another Revolution in Human Evolution

by Dr Jerry Bergman

An artist’s rendering of Graecopithecus freybergi. (Velizar Simeonovsky)

The CBC News headline “7.2-million-year-old pre-human fossils challenge evolutionary theory[1] tells it all. Another headline at The Telegraph was more confident, exclaiming that “the history of human evolution has been rewritten after scientists discovered that Europe was the birthplace of mankind, not Africa” as previously thought. [2] The source of these and many other reports was an article published in PLoS One that was far more modest than the frequent headlines that were very confident of the conclusions. [3]

Yes, another challenge to human evolution! [4] This one would be, indeed, a major challenge—if true. In short, it would scream a revolution in paleontology, namely that “Researchers believe split between chimps and humans occurred in eastern Europe, not Africa” as widely accepted for decades by scientists. The conclusion is based on only two fossil fragments, a single skull fragment jawbone named Graecopithecus freybergi found in Greece and now stored in a German museum, and an upper premolar stored in a fossil collection in Bulgaria. It seems like the Piltdown fiasco all over again! The evolutionists have concluded their ages to be roughly 7.2 million years, and belong to a pre-human.

The researcher’s conclusions were based mostly on their analysis of the teeth roots that were preserved in G. freybergi. The authors explain that the “great apes typically have two or three separate and diverging roots, the roots of Graecopithecus converge and are partially fused — a feature that is characteristic of modern humans, early humans and even several pre-humans, including Ardipithecus and Australopithecus.” [5]

It seems like the Piltdown fiasco all over again

The researchers used computer tomography to examine the jaw’s teeth root’s interior, which they claim were in pristine condition, a fact that argues for a much younger age. Not unexpectedly, skepticism of the conclusions soon surfaced for good reasons. A main problem is ape-human divergence is widely believed to have occurred in Africa, not Europe. To explain the results, some experts even argue that G. freybergi separately co-evolved along with human evolution in Africa, a view called ‘convergent evolution’ (see Darwin Flubber in the Darwin Dictionary).

A Few Problems with the Revolution

The jawbone was discovered in 1944 by German troops in Athens during World War II. It is speculated that this provides evidence that apes and humans diverged fully 200,000 years earlier than the current theory, which postulates that the split occurred between five and seven million years ago.

Other problems include Graecopithecus’ great age, very poor condition, and the fact that no limb bones were found. Thus, it cannot be determined if it was bipedal. Nor is there much evidence that the fossils found all belonged to the same person, or even the same tribe. To help answer these questions, excavation of the site has not yet occurred because the site’s land owner has since then built a swimming pool on the location where the fossil was found.

In the end no doubt this find will be superseded by another and we may be back to Africa, or even Asia, as the birthplace of humans.


[1] http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/7-2-million-year-old-pre-human-1.4124407

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/05/22/europe-birthplace-mankind-not-africa-scientists-find/

[3] Jochen Fuss, Jochen, Nikolai Spassov, David R. Begun, and Madelaine Bohme. 2017. Potential hominin affinities of Graecopithecus from the Late Miocene of Europe. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0177127. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0177127. May 22.

[4] See http://crev.info/2017/05/human-evolution-textbook-rewritten/ for yet another example.

[5] Ref 3.

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