Row erupts over intelligence of early small-brained humans
By T.K. Randall
July 23, 2023 · 17 comments
Image Credit: CC BY 4.0 Cicero Moraes (Arc-Team) et alii
Whether or not some of the ancestors of modern humans were as brainy as believed remains a matter of contention.
The field of anthropology was turned somewhat upside-down last month when it was revealed that Homo naledi
- an early human ancestor with a brain no bigger than that of a chimpanzee - had seemingly been capable of sophisticated burial practices, tool carving and artwork some 250,000 years before modern humans.
"We now face the prospect that a creature before humans was contemplating an afterlife," said anthropologist Lee Berger. "It completely changes how we have to think about human evolution."
Indeed it does, because it suggests that seemingly primitive hominids were capable of many of the same skills we tend to associate with the larger brains and greater intelligence of Homo sapiens
Suffice to say, not everyone in the anthropological community has been willing to accept such a revolutionary discovery, leading to some heated debate and with some experts now calling the research into question and arguing that there is insufficient evidence to reach these conclusions.
Particularly vocal critics have argued that the findings are "inadequate, incomplete and largely assumption-based - rather than evidence-based".
"I have no issue with the idea that non-Homo sapiens species disposed of their dead, but I do have an expectation that there is robust scientific evidence to support such statements before scientists go on massive media campaigns regarding these ideas," said palaeoanthropologist Andy Herries.
As things stand, it doesn't seem as though the debate will be settled anytime soon.
Source: The Guardian
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