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Row erupts over intelligence of early small-brained humans

By T.K. Randall
July 23, 2023 · Comment icon 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 | Comments (17)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #8 Posted by openozy 4 months ago
I agree, people with small heads are usually not the brightest.
Comment icon #9 Posted by TripGun 4 months ago
We see this in chimps today, yeah no , we don't.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Nicolette 4 months ago
Required a vacuum and scissors.... and i agree. I mean big cranial not just ppl with fat heads. I assumed what you said about the folds after seeing how much more einstien and dolphins have, and if thats the case dolphins are probably smarter than us. And my son isnt ever bad he has always had very high intelligence and will to do right, no need to punish that in fact im pretty sure all the unnecessary over the top punishing is one way people inadvertantly damage thier kids brains. I just explain it if he needs to think differently, works so much better.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Alchopwn 4 months ago
Dolphins may well be smarter than us, but we combine intelligence with tool use, and that is probably the single biggest evolutionary hack any species can develop.  Why didn't dolphins think of that if they're so smart huh? 
Comment icon #12 Posted by Piney 4 months ago
Crows use tools as with chimps and octopuses.  It's the neuron count in the brain. The more, the smarter. 
Comment icon #13 Posted by Grim Reaper 6 4 months ago
Al, when dealing with a situation like this there is only one way to determine its level of intelligence and that can only be based upon its accomplishments or lack thereof. There is no way to examine a skull and say, that the individual is brilliant or stupid. It certainly appears that the researchers who made, also jumped to many unsubstantiated conclusions with any real evidence to back them up. The sad thing is that mistakes like those that were made here, can and often ruin the creditability of the discovery in some cases permanently or at least until the same species is discovered again ... [More]
Comment icon #14 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 4 months ago
  ― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Comment icon #15 Posted by Alchopwn 4 months ago
Agreed. Are they really the superior species when dolphins are a pack of rapists who the Japanese harvest for kids lunches tho?  I mean, the quote is funny, but at the end of the day... You know a tree by its fruit.
Comment icon #16 Posted by Grim Reaper 6 4 months ago
That’s certainly correct, and it’s about the only thing that applies in this situation!
Comment icon #17 Posted by quiXilver 3 months ago
Row erupts among non intelligent modern humans over the illusory, projected, conflicting assumptions they hold regarding the nature of their potential ancestor's intelligence.

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