Making Stone Tools / A Non-verbal Process

A super group of videos…

Not a single word is needed to do this or to teach someone else to do this. The “tips” at the end would be demonstrated during the process. Children would see tools and other objects made day in and day out and would naturally copy their elders.

Archaeologists go on and on about how it takes “advanced cognitive skills” (like those needed to push around a shopping cart and swipe a credit card) to create stone tools. I have yet to hear a single researcher mention visual thinking. You can babble at a pile of stones, or another human, all day long, but all that yack-yacking will not produce one stone tool. The earliest stone tools are millions of years old; sophisticated flaked tools (Acheulean) were invented by Homo erectus, not Homo sapiens. Some research indicates that ‘language’ structure had its beginnings in sign language and not in vocalization. Pre and early humans were visual observers,  inventors and communicators – and not at all like modern social humans, who are a very recent “neotenic” variation of Homo sapiens.

All it takes is A FEW adept individuals to preserve techniques and to pass on skills. If a group were lucky, one “genius” might come up with improvements and refinements so that technical advancement could occur – which would probably be forgotten and reinvented many times. And critically, resources in one’s environment dictated solutions: nomadism provided exposure to new raw materials and new people, so “itchy feet” were likely more advantageous than staying in one place too long.



New Experience / Academic insanity meltdown

I’m feeling physically ill this morning; stayed up late subjecting myself to the content of  a “scientific” paper that is the worst pile of crap I’ve ever encountered – published in a serious British journal. The subject: Social evolution of humans. The “line of thinking” is so outrageous, so intellectually offensive, that I would call it pornographic: intellectual porn.

A criminal use of the human brain.

I intended to expose this paper, but it had such a disturbing effect that I couldn’t continue with a critique. My point is, that I’ve discovered this “feeling” in myself of “insult by intellectual attack” and I have no word for it. (I bet the Germans do)Something like a meltdown; an attack on sanity delivered by “thought pollution” and not by sensory overload. And I don’t mean a personal attack, but that the assumptions and assertions made and represented as “scientific” work were published by a top journal, as if no one noticed the absurdities.

I even thought momentarily that the paper was an intentional monstrosity, “planted” to test the (corrupt?) review process of some science publishers…so went looking for more papers using search words that were “ungoof- upable” even by google. OMG! The paper was not a “fluke”.

I did encounter a review of the paper and its ideas by a scientist in the same field and it was “politely” scathing – about as close to a tirade as a review can get. It should have made me feel better. It didn’t, because the paper’s writers are established “prestigious” academics, not “ancient alien” conspiracy crackpots – but crackpots within the sciences.

Am I overreacting? I would say not, because this paper served as the “trigger” for the cumulative response to a lifetime of encounters with “nonsense” as the prevailing trend in modern thought. That is, it is the difference between “studying” earthquakes and being in the zone of destruction when the earth “slips” violently – and suddenly, physically, viscerally one experiences the full meaning of danger.

It’s a “Bhuddist” moment for me.



Intuition as an Analytical Tool / It’s not “magic”

As an intuitive thinker, I have my own ideas about ‘what it is” and “how it works” and I agree with the author that the “split” between “analysis by logic” and “analysis by intuition” is imaginary; a product of the “neurotypical” fixation on black OR white, left OR right, male OR female, good OR evil, normal OR abnormal.

Complexity simply cannot be “grasped” by the polarized “social” brain. Hence, the insistence that “complexity” cannot be organized, analyzed or comprehended. “Intuition” is vital to dealing with complexity, but it is typically thought of as akin to “magic” – something that “happens” in the stomach or intestines (how gross and ridiculous) with bright ideas (usually signified by a lightbulb) – is there a lightbulb in one’s stomach or intestines?

This is how I arrange “thinking” –

Visual thinking is the primary “intuitive-instinctive” brain function. Images are the “units” of thinking; patterns and connections are the style. We can think of intuition as visual language. Humans “share” visual thinking with other animals. Some animals are “olfactory” thinkers or “acoustic thinkers” or “name the sensory apparatus the animal relies on most” thinkers. These are “instinctive” languages.

Verbal thinking is a recent function that is specific to humans: it is the “conscious” brain function. “Conscious” thinking IS USING WORDS TO THINK. Try thinking without words. Word thinking is generalized – social, and cultural. Structure for verbal language is present as “potential” in the brain, but word language must be learned.

Abstract thinking is “math and symbol systems language”. Are “maths” a human invention, or the fundamental code that “writes the universe into existence”?

I wanted to see what people in unrelated fields think about intuition – this article is from a business perspective.

One comment: In my experience, intuition is “naturally” necessary in “emergency” situations – like deadlines – when “automatic” (instinctive) analysis is by far the fastest – split second, result-producing function. For me, verbal thinking is a “dull, plodding chore” in comparison. The result is that I’m at my best (thinking-wise) in the “critical present” and useless in linear “planning”.  Business is simply “a bore” so let’s see what a business person has to say…

Forum: Intuition-based decision-making: The other side of analytics

March/April 2015

By Jay Liebowitz

In the fall 2014 issue of Johns Hopkins Magazine, Aneesh Chopra (the first U.S. chief technology officer) said, “When it comes to making major decisions, there are two camps. One consists of people who believe intuition trumps analysis – go with your gut. The other rejects intuition in favor of careful data analysis – where there is enough data, there’s no need for intuition. The ideal is a marriage of the two.”

I also feel that we need a complementary set of both analytics and intuition, and I would like to focus on the latter part, which hasn’t been discussed much in the analytics community and conferences.

According to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, “Intuition is something that occurs in the moment, and if you are open to it, if you listen to it, it has the potential to direct or redirect you in a way that is best for you.”

Said Albert Einstein: “The really valuable thing is intuition.”

According to Betsch (2008), intuition is a process of thinking whereby the input is processed automatically and without conscious awareness, resulting in a feeling that can serve as a basis for judgments and decisions. In experiments with shares in the stock market, Betsch (2008) found that most of the participants said they relied on their “gut reaction” or “intuitive feeling” when judging the shares. Similar conclusions were also reached in political judgment and other domains.

Many people believe intuition is an instinctive “knowing” without the support of logic, analysis or actual evidence (Liebowitz, 2014b; Dorfler and Ackermann, 2012; Greengard, 2012; Heskett, 2013; Hensman and Sadler-Smith, 2011; Williams, 2012; Woiceshyn, 2009). But in reality, intuition is founded upon the scrutinizing of failures and lessons learned. So, to characterize intuition, it typically is: experience-driven, holistic, affective, quick and non-conscious (meaning that it is difficult to trace a logic trail to the decision). (Meaning that it is non-verbal)

Intuitive decision-making is one’s ability to recognize patterns at lightning speed – a process that often happens unconsciously (Matzler et al., 2007). In an experiment to reposition 25 pieces in chess after examining them for a few seconds, the inexperienced chess players located an average of only six of the original positions. However, the chess master correctly replaced all 25 pieces. (Visual thinking)

According to Dane and Pratt (2012), intuition may be just as effective in decision-making as an analytical approach – and sometimes more efficient and effective, depending on the decision-maker’s level of expertise on the subject at hand. Dane and Pratt (2012) further state that if you’re working in an industry where you have risen through the ranks, your domain expertise will likely better serve an intuitive approach. If you gained your expertise in a different field, you may not have the background to rely as strongly on your intuition.

Perhaps those from MIT and Austria (Matzler et al., 2007) said it best: “For many complex decisions, all the data in the world can’t trump the lifetime’s worth of expertise that informs one’s gut feeling, instinct, or intuition.” In their research, they talk about honing an executive’s intuition. Specifically, cultivating instinct requires the following factors: experience, networks, curiosity, tolerance, emotional intelligence (from the leadership research, emotional intelligence is the key differentiator from successful leaders and those who are not) and limits (like any good thing, a reliance on intuition can be taken to extremes – executives should reflect on their intuitive decisions before they execute them).

According to Parkinson (2014), “We generally have good intuition about things that are similar to what we encounter every day, and are able to make ‘instinctive’ decisions (based on comparisons with our experience) that are generally correct. But we have poor intuition about things that are outside of everyday experience and very poor intuition about things that are totally alien.” (Instinct provides “evolutionary experience” – tremendous depth of time and testing go into “instincts” – packaged and “ready to work” for us. We tend to ignore this incredible resource)  

Certainly, intuition has its disadvantages. In speaking at the 2014 Canada’s Best Managed Companies Conference, Dr. Salman Mufti, executive education director at the Queen’s University School of Business in Canada, cautions us to perhaps start with your intuition, but validate or verify it. When I worked with some auditors, their credo was, “trust but verify” (sounds somewhat similar). Peter Drucker, one of the fathers of management, said that we shouldn’t be “hunch artists,” rather we should “believe in intuition only if you discipline it.”

Perhaps we should think of intuition being based on analysis and experience, and we should apply “rational intuition” (Heskett, 2010) to our management decision-making. I believe we need to educate “informed intuitants,” as I pointed out in a column in the SAS Exchange (Liebowitz, 2014a). The CEB (Corporate Executive Board)(2013) talks about the necessary skills as applied to analytics, such as problem-solving, intellectual curiosity, issue diagnosis, insight generation, synthesis of internal and external data, problem-framing, and synthesis of financial and qualitative data. But there are other skills integral to the informed intuitant (ouch!) (Liebowitz, 2014a), including:

§  collaboration abilities, such as team building, project management and interpersonal communications (oral and written);

§  creativity-enhancing skills to think outside the box;

§  business-speak, summarization and data visualization techniques for the analyst to explain their results to C-level executives; and

§  learning by doing or testing by learning methods to sharpen the analytical and decision-making skill sets.

In looking at some of the technical journal research, intuition plays a key role in decision-making worldwide. For example, Bocco and Merunka (2013) reported research of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa, where more than 300 managers and entrepreneurs at SMEs revealed that intuition is a key resource for managerial decision-making. Loechner (2014) reported a study where even people who think of themselves as data-driven decision-makers (i.e., “I collect and analyze data as much as possible before making a decision”), also place trust in their own intuition. According to the study, 73 percent of executives surveyed said they trust their own intuition when it comes to decision-making, and, even among the data-driven decision-makers, 68 percent agree with that statement. (Hmmm…this “self-analysis” can be faulty – if one “trusts one’s intuition” but doesn’t examine the results of one’s intuition-driven decisions, then intuition may not yield good outcomes) 

Interestingly, research from Dartmouth (Kyung and Thomas, 2013) showed that you couldn’t rely on your intuition if given negative feedback. In one of the experiments, the researchers gave false negative feedback to half the participants by telling them they were wrong even when their answers to some questions were correct. Subjects whose confidence had been disrupted by negative feedback lost the relative accuracy advantage from relying on their intuition (Kyung and Thomas, 2013). (Social typicals may therefore not be able to develop intuition, whereas “Asperger-types” are  not likely to be “swayed” by negative feedback and will stick to their answers or observations!) 

Some research is being done now to assess one’s intuition, such as the CEB’s Insight IQ instrument (CEB, 2013). They found that 19 percent of more than 5,000 managers in major global companies are “visceral decision-makers” who rely almost exclusively on intuition.

So, what can be done to improve our decision-making from a business intuition perspective? Dimitrius and Mazzarella (2008) offer some suggestions:

§  Recognize and respect your intuition, not following it blindly or rejecting it outright. (Either – or again – I find it to be more like “surfing” a wave)

§  Identify what your intuition is telling you. Follow the hunch, asking what is it?

§  Review the evidence by playing back the events in order to become more conscious of the signs.

§  Prove or disprove your theory. Gather additional information to consciously test your theory.

For some reason, much of the intuition in management research is being done in Europe (United Kingdom) and Australia. Not much in the United States per se. If we want to improve this area of research, there are some recommendations for advancing the current state-of-the-art, as highlighted by Akinci and Sadler-Smith (2012) and Sinclair (2014):

§  careful conceptual framing;

§  greater cross-disciplinary collaboration and integration;

§  increased methodological rigor and pluralism; and

§  closer attention to levels of analysis issues.

Here are some guidelines (Sadler-Smith and Shefy, 2004) to help further develop your intuitive awareness:

§  open up the closet (be amenable to count on intuitive judgments);

§  don’t mix up your “I’s” (instinct, insight and intuition);

§  elicit good feedback;

§  get a feel for your batting average (benchmark your intuitions);

§  use imagery rather than words;

§  play devil’s advocate; and

§  capture and validate your intuitions.

Intuition may breed innovation. If you are tied only to statistics and analytics, you may miss new and better strategies, opportunities and methods for your business to be more efficient, effective and successful. Use your informed intuition, founded upon years in business and inspired by trends in big data, to navigate the future of your business.

Jay Liebowitz ( is the DiSanto Visiting Chair in Applied Business and Finance at the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

Archaic H. sapiens – H. sapiens sapiens / Testosterone

A composite image shows the facial differences between an ancient modern human (Archaic Homo Sapiens) with heavy brows and a large upper face and the more recent modern human (Homo sapiens) who has rounder features and a much less prominent brow. The prominence of these features can be directly traced to the influence (reduction) of the hormone testosterone. Photo Credit: Robert Cieri, University of Utah

2238323698Archaic vs Modern

Read more:

“It is important to note that lower testosterone is associated with tolerance and cooperation in bonobos and chimpanzees, and with less aggression in humans. It seems very plausible that as humans started to group up in larger and more interconnected settlements,

they needed to find less violent ways to sort out their problems – and in the long run, the non-violent path won.”






Cave Art in Indonesia as old as in Europe / 39,000 ya

Gee Whiz! Could it be that Archaic Humans, including H. erectus, H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens, were visual thinkers?


Eurocentric Archaeology and Anthropology take a hit:

Pleistocene cave art from Sulawesi, Indonesia

Aubert1, 2, 9, A. Brumm1, 10, 9, M. Ramli3, T. Sutikna1, 4, E. W. Saptomo4, B. Hakim5, .  Morwood11, G. D. van den Bergh1, L. Kinsley6, A. Dosseto7, 8,

Nature / Volume: 514; October 2014
Archaeologists have long been puzzled by the appearance in Europe ~40–35 thousand years (kyr) ago of a rich corpus of sophisticated artworks, including parietal art (that is, paintings, drawings and engravings on immobile rock surfaces)1, 2 and portable art (for example, carved figurines)3, 4, and the absence or scarcity of equivalent, well-dated evidence elsewhere, especially along early human migration routes in South Asia and the Far East, including Wallacea and Australia5, 6, 7, 8, where modern humans (Homo sapiens) were established by 50 kyr ago9, 10. Here, using uranium-series dating of coralloid speleothems directly associated with 12 human hand stencils and two figurative animal depictions from seven cave sites in the Maros karsts of Sulawesi, we show that rock art traditions on this Indonesian island are at least compatible in age with the oldest European art11. The earliest dated image from Maros, with a minimum age of 39.9 kyr, is now the oldest known hand stencil in the world. In addition, a painting of a babirusa (‘pig-deer’) made at least 35.4 kyr ago is among the earliest dated figurative depictions worldwide, if not the earliest one. Among the implications, it can now be demonstrated that humans were producing rock art by ~40 kyr ago at opposite ends of the Pleistocene Eurasian world.

“Ancient cave drawings found in Indonesia show that early Europeans weren’t the only ones creating art. Known as the Sulawesi paintings, the prehistoric images were discovered some years ago inside limestone caves in Indonesia’s Maros and Pangkep regions. The drawings, which include depictions of animals and hand stencils created by spraying red pigment on to the rock face, have been analyzed using sophisticated new dating techniques and are now believed to date back at least 40,000 years. The discovery is particularly important because it shows that primitive forms of artistic expression were not exclusive to the people living in Europe at the time.”

“Cave painting and related forms of artistic expression were most likely part of the cultural traditions of the first modern humans to spread out of Africa and into Asia and Australia, long before they reached Europe,” said study co-author Adam Brunn. – See more at:


“Until now, we’ve always believed that cave painting was part of a suite of complex symbolic behavior that humans invented in Europe,” says archaeologist Alistair Pike of the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom. “This is actually showing that it’s highly unlikely that the origin of painting caves was in Europe.”


“What this suggests is that this whole ability to make these things and possibly the tradition of making them is part of the cultural repertoire of the people who left Africa. ” Alison Brooks, archaeologist, George Washington University

John Hawks Blog / Neanderthal – Sapiens Sex


Neanderthal sex acts are beyond counting

I’ve given a lot of thought over the years to the genetic ties between today’s people and ancient populations. Just last month, I wrote a lot about the relationships of Neanderthal and modern human populations (“Earlier mixture from modern humans into Neanderthal populations”). Last week, three new papers came out that bear heavily on this topic, and I’ve been writing quite a lot more.

I’ve seen a widespread misconception about Neanderthal sex. I follow many professional colleagues on Facebook, some of whom are highly respected for their work but maybe not so up-to-date on genetic methods. I have seen a few of them taking up this misconception and spreading it through their professional networks. I won’t point to those social media posts here, because their authors did not intend them for widespread distribution, but I do want to address the misconception.

Their idea is that geneticists are trying to count the number of sexual encounters between modern humans and Neanderthals. Not the number of contacts between populations, but an actual coital count. Like they are reading the credits of a porno movie.

Neandertal sex scene
Image by Elisabeth Daynes, via Illustreret Videnskab


Where did they get such a kooky idea?

Unfortunately, when writers have discussed Neanderthal and Denisovan introgression, it is common to see them refer to a “distinct number of matings” or some similar phrasing. For example, in Science last week, the excellent Ann Gibbons wrote:

By developing powerful new statistical methods, an international team has identified how often and on which continents modern humans, Neanderthals, and a second kind of archaic human called Denisovans met and mated. The researchers conclude that if you’re an East Asian, you have three Neanderthals in your family tree; Europeans and South Asians have two, and Melanesians only one.

“Three Neanderthals in your family tree” makes it sound as if only three Neanderthal individuals were part of the ancestry of any human populations today. The message is unfortunately reinforced by the headline (and I know writers do not usually choose their headlines):

Five matings for moderns, Neanderthals

Again, that emphasizes the idea that somebody is counting marriages, or couplings, or some discrete number of coital episodes.

This is a misconception. Nobody is counting the “matings” between Neanderthals and modern human populations.

Gibbons elsewhere refers to a “rich sexual history” of humans and Neanderthals, which is a phrase I like quite a lot. But some anthropologists, confused by the misconception about counting the matings, noted that five matings is hardly a rich history!

In fact, we do not know how many sex acts are represented by the Neanderthal ancestry within human genomes. The question itself reflects a kind of biblical, pre-evolutionary thinking. The underlying assumption is that races spring from individuals, like Ham, Shem and Japheth, and so the sex acts of a few individuals can explain the phylogenetic patterns of later populations. This is false, three episodes of Neanderthal coitus cannot account for the present distribution of Neanderthal genes in living populations.

We have a fairly clear idea of what fraction of the ancestry of today’s people came from Neanderthals; this fraction was around about 2% for most people worldwide, a bit more for many of the populations of East Asia, and very little for most populations of sub-Saharan Africa today.
Vernot and colleagues’ new paper (Science 10.1126/science.aad9416) helps to confirm that the elevation of Neanderthal genetic similarity among East Asian populations is the result of additional mixture that does not characterize the ancestry of today’s western Eurasian populations. The authors further infer that all of today’s Eurasian samples share evidence of Neanderthal mixture above and beyond that present in today’s Melanesian populations. By showing that there are at least three different levels of Neanderthal ancestry in different populations, with partially non-overlapping haplotype distributions, they have demonstrated that admixture must have occurred at a minimum of three places and times, among ancestors of three different subsets of today’s people.

How many hybrids?

I’m going to do some napkin calculations about the number of individuals necessary to deliver our Neanderthal ancestry. How many hybrids do we need? The exercise is unrealistic because we have to make some assumptions that I find to be unjustifiable. But it’s easy to show that the answer is a lot more than three, and probably is more than a few thousand.

Who were hybrids? First, let’s assume that Neanderthal genes came into the modern population only through the vehicle of Neanderthal-modern F1 hybrids who were uniformly 50% Neanderthal. This corresponds to the minimum possible amount of interbreeding between the two varieties, and the assumption rules out staged admixture, substantial modern gene flow into Neanderthals, and long-term gene flow between African and Neanderthal populations as they originated. I’m unwilling to rule out these alternative scenarios. All of these alternatives would tend to increase the amount of interbreeding necessary to account for today’s ancestry fraction from Neanderthals. I also recognize that many people wouldn’t use the term “hybrid” at all for these individuals.

Effective population size. We further have to assume something about the proportion of effective population size to census population size. The effective size of a population is a measure of the rate of genetic drift it experiences; this rate is determined in part by nonrandom mating within the population and in part by its size. The contribution of nonrandom mating means that the effective size is usually different from the number of breeding individuals, it may be quite a lot smaller. I have a great book chapter explaining this concept in more detail on, if you are interested in how we relate genetics to population sizes.

The concept of effective population size allows geneticists to use the “effective” number to talk about drift and loss of variation without needing to know the exact ratio of genetic variation to the true, or census, population size. But in the case of hybridization and introgression, drift may often have a different effect on the hybrids than it does on the population at large. This makes it difficult to estimate the ratio of hybrid to non-hybrid individuals even when we know the genetic effect of the hybrids. For simplicity, I’ll again go with an unrealistic assumption: that the ratio of effective to census numbers is the same for the hybrids as it is for the modern population as a whole.

Initial admixture. Let’s consider first the population that gave rise to all modern humans outside Africa today. If the mixing with Neanderthals had been instantaneous, in a single generation, that generation would have included approximately 4% F1 Neanderthal hybrids.

The effective size of the ancestral non-African modern population at the moment of such mixture was small relative to today’s populations. Indeed, our best models suggest that the effective size of this population may have been as small as 10,000 effective individuals at one point. This is what is usually termed the “genetic bottleneck” leading to the settlement of areas outside Africa. We do not know that this genetic bottleneck was really a single reduction in numbers, but clearly this ancestral population was separated from sub-Saharan African populations for some time and underwent substantial genetic drift, which may even reflect multiple events over time.

Importantly, there is no sign that the population was ever much smaller than 10,000 effective individuals, and that puts a lower limit on the number of hybrids that must have been introduced into this population to account for the Neanderthal ancestry of its descendants. If these ancestors mixed with Neanderthals during the minimum of such a bottleneck, then the effective number of F1 hybrids responsible for this mixture may have been as small as 400. But if mixture happened at some other time than the minimum, or if mixture happened over some longer period of time, then the effective number of F1 hybrids must have been larger, possibly more than an order of magnitude larger.

Later admixture. The same considerations apply to the ancestral populations that led to western Eurasian (south Asian and European) and East Asian population samples, each of which experienced additional admixture from Neanderthals. The additional Neanderthal ancestry present in today’s East Asian populations would have required another 1-2% F1 hybrid representation in their ancestral population.

Interestingly, the number of F1 hybrids underlying the small bump in Neanderthal ancestry in East Asians might actually be greater than the number underlying the initial mixture within the common ancestral population of all non-African populations. This is because the effective number of F1 hybrids necessary for this later admixture again depends on the effective sizes of these populations. The genetic data suggest that these ancestral populations experienced a lower level of drift when compared to their common out-of-Africa ancestor. This may mean a larger effective population size for these East Asian and other populations, a population in which 1-2% F1 Neanderthal hybrids may have actually been many hundreds or thousands of individuals, not the 100-200 that would correspond to a very small effective size.

But none of these effective numbers are actually known, and I have little confidence that we can estimate them from today’s simplistic population models. All of them almost certainly grew over time, so that the timing of mixture makes a large difference to how we estimate the number of hybrids that contributed to it. Early hybrids probably made a much larger relative difference than later ones.

We cannot talk about effective numbers of F1 hybrids without recognizing that the effective sizes of human populations are substantially smaller than their census sizes. If the relation is the same for Neanderthal-modern hybrids, then we may be looking at several true individuals for every “effective” individual. For a total effective number of 600-1000 F1 hybrid individuals, which is a bare minimum, this might mean upward of 2000-3000 actual F1 hybrids. But then all of my assumptions to this point have been unrealistic, all minimizing the extent of interbreeding between populations. In reality, many more individuals must have been mating, over a much longer span of time than a single generation.


Some of these hybrids were the products of Neanderthal love affairs. Many were the daughters and sons of Neanderthal wives or husbands who spent long passionate lives with modern mates. Some were likely the children of captured Neanderthal slaves. Some were siblings, so the number of Neanderthal mothers or fathers was to some extent smaller than the number of hybrids introduced into modern populations.

So if you ask me how many hybrid individuals may have been direct ancestors of today’s populations, I think the number is minimally close to a thousand and likely many thousands. And if you ask me how many Neanderthal sex acts took place, I suppose I’ll smile and ask, “Who wants to know?”


Gibbons A. 2016. Five matings for moderns, Neandertals. Science 351:1250-1251. doi:10.1126/science.351.6279.1250

Hawks J. 2008. From genes to numbers: Effective population sizes in human evolution. Pp. 9–30 in Bocquet-Appel J. ed., Recent Advances in Paleodemography Springer, New York. reprint

Vernot B et al. 2016. Excavating Neandertal and Denisovan DNA from the genomes of Melanesian individuals. Science (online) doi:10.1126/science.aad9416

Neanderthals kept H. sapiens out of Europe for 40,000 years

Neanderthal: general extent of occupation.

The discovery of a hoard of ancient human teeth in a Chinese cave has forced scientists to reconsider our species’ relations with our closest evolutionary cousins, the Neanderthals. The find, revealed in the science journal Nature, shows modern humans must have left their African homeland and reached southern China more than 80,000 years ago.

This unexpectedly early date contrasts with our ancestors’ far more recent arrival in Europe – about 45,000 years ago – and suggests Homo sapiens was prevented, for some reason, from moving there for tens of thousands of years. Anthropologist María Martinón-Torres, from University College London – a member of the team that made the discovery – is confident of the reason. She blames the Neanderthals.

Homo sapiens evolved in Africa and emerged from the continent about 100,000 years ago and swept eastward with little apparent resistance from other hominid species they encountered. But when they headed north, they reached the Levant and met the Neanderthals at the southern edge of their European domain. And there they stopped our spread. Essentially Europe was too small for the both of us.”

Neanderthals were experienced hunters and gifted foragers, and had controlled Europe for hundreds of thousands of years. They were therefore able to keep us at the edge of Europe for 40,000 years, added Martinón-Torres. “It was not a matter of physical confrontation, however. It was a matter of who was best able to exploit resources. They had much more experience of the harsher, colder conditions that existed in Europe. I think we have underestimated them. They were not grunting, ignorant cavemen. They were our equals.”

The discovery of the teeth – 47 found at Fuyan cave in Daoxian, in southern China – was made by a team led by Wu Liu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing. The teeth were beneath rocks over which stalagmites had grown. Dating techniques indicate the stalagmites are at least 80,000 years old. And so everything below that layer must be older. (Teeth are made of dentine and enamel and the latter is the body’s hardest tissue. As a result, teeth are often preserved at prehistoric sites while other body parts decay and leave no trace.) In fact, the teeth could be up to 125,000 years old, researchers suggest. Nevertheless they closely resemble those of modern Europeans. “The Fuyan teeth indicate that modern humans were present in southern China between 30,000 to 60,000 years earlier than in the eastern Mediterranean and Europe,” states archaeologist Robin Dennell in a commentary article about the find in Nature.

The difference in timescale is remarkable. Modern humans were thought to have left their African homeland about 60,000 to 70,000 years ago, eventually reaching Europe about 45,000 years ago, the earliest date that scientists have established for the presence of Homo sapiens there. It then took a further 15,000 to 25,000 years to complete our conquest of Europe. However, the new study suggests the real figure is far higher and modern humans had to wait between 40,000 and 50,000 years before they got into Europe.

In contrast to our progress northward, modern humanity’s progress eastward was unexpectedly rapid. However, not every scientist blames the Neanderthals for blocking our progress in Europe. “One possibility is that an early dispersal headed eastwards through Arabia away from Europe and that the colonisation of Europe through the Levant occurred via a later dispersal,” said Professor Chris Stringer, of the Natural History Museum, London.

“In addition, the climate in Europe was relatively cold and inhospitable then,” he said. “We were not properly adapted to conditions and couldn’t get a toehold – and, of course, the Neanderthals were there already.”

However, when modern humans did arrive in Europe, they made remarkable progress. Within a few thousand years, they had settled across the continent while the Neanderthals had disappeared. As to the causes for this rapid extinction, researchers point to the harsh climate Neanderthals had endured in Europe for the previous 200,000 years, when the continent was swept by ice ages and intense cold. Conditions eventually took their toll and numbers of Neanderthals dwindled. Tribes got smaller and smaller and their genetic diversity was compromised. (Novel-writing)

“Essentially, Neanderthals were eventually left in a genetically exhausted state,” said Martinón-Torres. “When we did get into Europe there were hardly any of them left. The rest went quickly after that.”


Science of Brow Ridge / Primate Torus CARTA

Morphology of the Brow Ridge

Not to be confused with the backward baseball cap tan

from CARTA /

Considerable variation exists between hominoid species in the morphology of the supraorbital region. Gorillas and chimpanzees (and most fossil hominins) possess a prominent supraorbital torus, or brow ridge, presenting as a continuous projecting ridge above the orbits and nose (although continuous, the torus is anatomically divisible into three regions: laterally positioned supraorbital trigones, medially positioned supercillary arches, and a midline glabellar prominence). In these species with prominent brow ridges, a supratoral sulcus is generally present as a shallow groove just posterior to the torus. (Modern) Humans and orangutans lack prominent brow ridges. Brow ridges may develop as an architectural or biomechanical by-product of hafting a prognathic (projecting) face onto the low frontal bone characteristic of apes and earlier humans, such that the lack of a brow ridge in modern humans is a consequence of their having an orthognathic (vertical) face and vertical frontal (high forehead). Orangutans possess a supraorbital rim (a thin, non-projecting ridge across the orbits) rather than a torus, which may be a function of the airorynchy (backwards rotation of the face towards the neurocranium) that characterizes these apes.
Seemingly thousands of scientific papers, popular musings and other articles focus on TESTOSTERONE / low-high, male-female and the implications in morphology, human variation, attractiveness, social status, etc. So I won’t go into all that here.
But I did notice something about primates, while looking at images under “brow ridge” and related searches.
Nature is “in love with” built-in architectural protection for eyes:
And often combines this feature with other defensive-offensive skull features.
In most primates, male and female skulls have a “torus” that reinforces the eye sockets and provides protection and sun shade – glare reduction for the eyes. 
The vegetarian, mostly docile gorilla, has a significant brow that actually makes it difficult to see its eyes…
which are visible from a certain head position. We might call this the primate dominance gaze. Not overtly aggressive, but perfectly clear as a statement of power.
And, in fact, this “gaze” has been utilized by Hollywood to great effect: it is a standard publicity pose for leading male actors.

Rudolph Valentino

And it is effective in male dominance: Eyes shaded to “hide” information as to one’s mental-emotional state from a possible opponent…
 which increases the visual effectiveness of the true dominance stare. 
which is a lot like the pan-species “predator” stare:

which in modern western cultures is interpreted to be a “sociopath-psychopath” stare.
So be careful…
Military helmets are often designed to amplify the brow ridge effect, especially if it’s missing. And how can we ignore the ultra-male Klingons?
Sunglasses might be considered to be an artificial enhancement or prosthetic “brow ridge”.

H. Erectus Potpourri / Videos + paper

Homo erectus: Why can’t I get no respect!

Brain size? Some weaseling here! Late erectus up to 1250cc. Modern human range is 950cc – 1500cc.

It’s also “cheating” to compare H. erectus skulls to contemporary homo sapiens skulls, as if archaic Homo sapiens didn’t have a whopping big brow ridge and robust skull!

The fossilized remains of Homo sapiens idaltu were discovered in 1997 by Tim White at Herto Bouri near the Middle Awash site of Ethiopia’s Afar Triangle. Dating took place by the radioisotope method which analysed the volcanic layers containing the 3 cranial fossils [White 2003].

 The morphology of the skulls display archaic features not found in the later Homo sapiens, but are still seen as the direct ancestors of modern Homo sapiens sapiens.  The remains discovered at Herto Bouri have been named ‘Herto Man’. Experts claim the finds are complete enough to be identified as early modern humans, since they show the characteristic globular shape of the braincase and the facial features of our species. However, both the adult skulls are huge and robust, and also show resemblances to more primitive African skulls.
Homo sapiens by Kennis & Kennis / Based off of Jebel Irhoud 1, one of the oldest remains of anatomically modern humans, an adult male at 160,000 years old, from Jebel Irhoud cave in Morocco:


PMID: 18191986 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2007.11.003

Taxonomic implications of cranial shape variation in Homo erectus.

Baab KL1., Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University


The taxonomic status of Homo erectus sensu lato has been a source of debate since the early 1980s, when a series of publications suggested that the early African fossils may represent a separate species, H. ergaster. To gain further resolution regarding this debate, 3D geometric morphometric data were used to quantify overall shape variation in the cranial vault within H. erectus using a new metric, the sum of squared pairwise Procrustes distances (SSD). Bootstrapping methods were used to compare the H. erectus SSD to a broad range of human and nonhuman primate samples in order to ascertain whether variation in H. erectus most clearly resembles that seen in one or more species. The reference taxa included relevant phylogenetic, ecological, and temporal analogs including humans, apes, and both extant and extinct papionin monkeys. The mean cranial shapes of different temporogeographic subsets of H. erectus fossils were then tested for significance using exact randomization tests and compared to the distances between regional groups of modern humans and subspecies/species of the ape and papionin monkey taxa. To gauge the influence of sexual dimorphism on levels of variation, comparisons were also made between the mean cranial shapes of single-sex samples for the reference taxa. Results indicate that variation in H. erectus is most comparable to single species of papionin monkeys and the genus Pan, which included two species. However, H. erectus encompasses a limited range of variation given its extensive geographic and temporal range, leading to the conclusion that only one species should be recognized. In addition, there are significant differences between the African/Georgian and Asian H. erectus samples, but not between H. ergaster (Georgia+Africa, excluding OH 9 and Daka) and H. erectus sensu stricto. This finding is in line with expectations for intraspecific variation in a long-lived species with a wide, but probably discontinuous, geographic distribution.

PMID: 18191986 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2007.11.003

New! DNA / Common ancestor Neanderthal – Denisovan – “Us”

Schematic representation of the evolutionary scenario for mitochondrial and nuclear DNA in archaic and modern humans. Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA recovered in this study suggests an intermediate migration out of Africa before 220,000 years ago. Credit: Annette Günzel, © Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

Read more at:


In Neanderthal DNA, Signs of a Mysterious Human Migration

by Carl Zimmer / New York Times / MATTER JULY 4, 2017

With fossils and DNA, scientists are piecing together a picture of humanity’s beginnings, an origin story with more twists than anything you would find at the movie theater.

The expert consensus now is that Homo sapiens evolved at least 300,000 years ago in Africa. Only much later — roughly 70,000 years ago — did a small group of Africans establish themselves on other continents, giving rise to other populations of people today.

To Johannes Krause, the director of the Max Planck Institute for Human History in Germany, that gap seems peculiar. “Why did people not leave Africa before?” he asked in an interview. After all, he observed, the continent is physically linked to the Near East. “You could have just walked out.”

In a study published Tuesday in Nature Communications, Dr. Krause and his colleagues report that Africans did indeed walk out — over 270,000 years ago.

Based on newly discovered DNA in fossils, the researchers conclude that a wave of early Homo sapiens, or close relatives of our species, made their way from Africa to Europe. There, they interbred with Neanderthals.

Then the ancient African migrants disappeared. But some of their DNA endured in later generations of Neanderthals.

“This is now a comprehensive picture,” Dr. Krause said. “It brings everything together.”

Since the 1800s, paleontologists have struggled to understand how Neanderthals are related to us. Fossils show that they were anatomically distinct, with a heavy brow, a stout body and a number of subtler features that we lack. The oldest bones of Neanderthal-like individuals, found in a Spanish cave called Sima de los Huesos, date back 430,000 years. More recent Neanderthal remains, dating to about 100,000 years ago, can be found across Europe and all the way to southern Siberia.

Then, 40,000 years ago, Neanderthals vanish from the fossil record.

As a graduate student in the mid-2000s, Dr. Krause traveled to museums to drill bits of bone from Neanderthal fossils. In some of them, he and his colleagues managed to find fragments of DNA that they could study.

Scientists who study ancient genes search for two kinds of genetic material. The vast majority of our genes are in a pouch in each cell called the nucleus. We inherit so-called nuclear DNA from both parents. But we also carry a small amount of DNA in the fuel-generating factories of our cells, called mitochondria. We inherit mitochondrial DNA only from our mothers, because a father’s sperm destroys its own mitochondrial DNA during fertilization.

Years ago, Dr. Krause and his colleagues started their search for ancient Neanderthal genes in a fossil by looking for mitochondrial DNA. After discovering mitochondrial DNA in some fossils, they later managed to find nuclear DNA. The genes held some surprises. For example, bits of DNA in living people of non-African ancestry come from Neanderthals. When modern humans expanded out of Africa, they seem to have interbred several times with Neanderthals.

Those children became part of human society, passing on their genes.

But a finger bone and a tooth from a Siberian cave called Denisova left Dr. Krause and his colleagues with a baffling puzzle. Inside those fossils, the scientists found sequences of mitochondrial DNA that were not human or Neanderthal, but something else — a distant branch of the family tree. The Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA was much closer to our own.

Later, the researchers managed to recover the nuclear DNA from the Denisovan finger bone, which showed Denisovans and Neanderthals were more closely related to each other.

As scientists found ancient DNA in more fossils, our history has come into sharper focus. Scientists now estimate that the common ancestor of modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans, lived between 765,000 and 550,000 years ago.

About 445,000 to 473,000 years ago, that common ancestor’s descendants split into two lineages. One eventually led to modern humans, while the other led to Neanderthals and Denisovans.

After years of investigation, however, Dr. Krause still did not understand why the nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA of Neanderthals seemed to have different histories. The mystery only deepened in 2013. Another team of researchers retrieved mitochondrial DNA from a Neanderthal-like fossil at Sima de los Huesos, dating back 430,000 years.

The researchers had expected the DNA to resemble that of later Neanderthals in Europe. Instead, the mitochondrial DNA looked like it belonged to Denisovans — even though the Denisova cave was 4,000 miles away in Siberia. Last year, the researchers announced they had gathered a small fraction of the nuclear DNA from the same Sima de los Huesos fossil. That genetic material looked like it belonged to a Neanderthal, not a Denisovan.

Dr. Krause and his colleagues have now discovered new Neanderthal DNA that they believe can solve the mystery of this genetic mismatch. In 2013, one of Dr. Krause’s graduate students, Cosimo Posth, examined a Neanderthal fossil from a German cave called Hohlenstein-Stadel. He was able to reconstruct all of its mitochondrial DNA.

Dr. Posth estimated that the Neanderthal fossil was 120,000 years old and, more important, that it belonged to a branch of the Neanderthal family tree with a long history. He and his colleagues determined that all known Neanderthals inherited their mitochondrial DNA from an ancestor who lived 270,000 years ago.

All the data pointed to a sequence of events that could solve the puzzle that had bedeviled Dr. Krause for so long. The common ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans spread across Europe and Asia over half a million years ago. Gradually the eastern and western populations parted ways, genetically speaking. In the east, they became Denisovans. In the west, they became Neanderthals.

Over many generations, most of that new DNA disappeared. But the mitochondrial DNA survived, passed down from mothers to their children. In fact, eventually all the Neanderthals inherited it, for some reason discarding the mitochondrial DNA that the species once had.

Dr. Posth said it was possible that early members of our own species moved from North Africa into Europe. Supporting this idea was the discovery reported last month of fossils of Homo sapiens in Morocco dating back 300,000 years. But Dr. Posth said it was too soon to rule out another possibility: that these migrants belonged to another species in Africa closely related to us that scientists have yet to document.

“I feel uncomfortable to give a name to these humans,” Dr. Posth said.

The new study raises a host of tantalizing implications about human history.

It is not possible to know just how many times these early Africans interbred with Neanderthals. But somewhere in prehistory, at least one female human from Africa must have carried the child of a male Neanderthal.

“Now you have this hybrid child, which is probably pretty unusual-looking,” Dr. Siepel said. “One way or another, this hybrid individual was absorbed into Neanderthal society.”

Dr. Siepel warned that the hypothesis hinges on the new DNA found in the Hohlenstein-Stadel fossil. Dr. Krause and his colleagues are now trying to retrieve nuclear DNA from the fossil.

The research at Sima de los Huesos shows just how far back in time scientists can now search for genes. The most revealing DNA might come from the mountains of Morocco. There, scientists may be able to find genes from the earliest Homo sapiens, which they can then compare to Neanderthals’.

“These are things that I never thought possible five years ago,” Dr. Krause said.

Follow Carl Zimmer on Twitter @carlzimmer