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Personal Summary Of The Calpe Conference 2015



Personal Summary Of The Calpe Conference 2015
Personal Summary Of The Calpe Conference 2015
Redefining The Neanderthals
This is a personal summary of my experience of the Calpe 2015 conference.
Redefining The Neanderthals. I make no claims to being very knowlegeable on
anthropology and the reason for this write up is to conclusively consolidate ideas so I
may formulate new ones, especially to ask more questions that when answered will
take me a stage further, or in another direction. Despite being written in first person,
I am trying to be as objective as possible in presenting the conclusions and
questions posited here by referring to what source originally backs or gave me the
idea, if there has been one. If there has been, reference is made after each block of
text it is consecutively relevant to, to allow for an easier read with an unobstructed
flow of text, unlike the constant cluttered referential interruptions which is a very
common standard I find in presented papers. Understandably, giving references is
the proper thing to do, but as long as they are given as standard, should not perhaps
functionalism support easier reading whilst improving text aesthetics along the way?
The initial 5 paragraphs are presented as they happened, temporally parallel to when
events actually occurred, but towards the end is more of an non successive
amalgamation of different points and instances.
The first morning of the conference, Thursday the 24th, could not have started
better, with Chris Stringer giving the opening lecture and mentioning the possible
introgression of modern humans into neanderthals. I'd already typed a question on
my tablet before the conference asking whether the high adult survivorship of west
asian neanderthals could have anything to do with the introgresssion of moderns into
neanderthals? I'd asked myself that question whilst reading Milford Wolpoff's and
Rachel Caspari's paper, The Origin Of Modern Humans (1) in preparation for Calpe
2015, where mention is made of the documented fossil evidence for higher
neanderthal survivorship. Neanderthal life spans are known to have lasted as long
as modern humans (2), so the latter seemed like a discrepancy of some
determinable originating period of a better quality of life being had, that could have
been alternatively borne out of cultural convergence, cultural assimilation or cultural
inheritance from exogamous interbreeding. Answers that might help prove or
disprove the latter would be if we could prove that longer life spans were due to
either cultural or biological evolution (also convergently or not), or both. Seeing as
Chris brought up the subject of introgression into neanderthals and with no idea if the
topic would be brought up again, I passed the question over to him. He
constructively answered that we would need more work done gathering fossil
evidence than what we have at present to corroborate any such idea. I saw him later
and talking in agreement added that we need a strong increase in financed
archaeological activity around the world.
(2) Mentioning findings by Eric Trinkaus, one of the delegates attending
Christoph Zollikofer mentioned that in reality fixed species don't exist in the sense
that they are human "conveniences" used for interpretation, subjective intra-specific
taxonomical categorisations to suit our outlook on biology. I had gone through the
same thought processes a few years back and told him later, just after his
presentation, that I thought that species were temporal approximations (actually, I'd
worked out the term, self replicating biochemical temporal approximations, which you
can find on a single Google search page 5 rows down) and he thought that was a
good idea. Queried by John Hawks, he answered that there is an enormous
difference in characteristics in present day human populations compared to those of
the past. I thought that supported multiregionalism, because it encompasses a
single potentially breeding population that had been found to have interbred with
regional archaic populations such as Denisovans and Neanderthals. It begs the
question, are there more undiscovered ancient human groups that form part of the
modern human genome? (3) On the theme of what makes a species, Erik Trinkhaus
during his lecture gave several examples of how anthropologists tend to over
emphasise the dissimilarity between neanderthals and moderns, an argumentation
that also supports multiregional theory.
Carles Lalueza-Fox, whilst explaining the genetic results of neanderthal fossil
individuals mentioned a discrepancy in the results that seemed to him anomalously
determine the parentage of one of them, that of a grandparent/child conception. He
explained further concluding that neanderthals did not live long enough for a
grandparent to have an incestous conception with grandchildren. I had doubts
about his conclusion, asides for the possible evidence there is of neanderthal
precociousness relative to comparable maturation in moderns. Given the known
longest life spans of the adult survivorship of neanderthals (4) and known
contemporary cases of early pregnancies (5) it is conceivable that an incestuos
pregnancy between a neanderthal granparent/child could have taken place. I did
ask him during the next tea break to reconsider whether is was just about possible,
just not at all probable, that such a pregnancy had taken place, especially because
incestous relationships abound in paedophilic settings. (6) I don't know much about
genetics, but despite the results and the available evidence supporting the possibility
of an incestuous grandparent child conception, it might be some other thing. In the
once common avunculate marriages (7), the marriage between an uncle and a niece
or between an aunt and a nephew, partners have the same genetic relationship as
half-siblings or a grandparent and grandchild, sharing on average 25% of their
genetic material. Could that possibly be the anomalous result that was obtained?
(5) One of many known cases, not probable but possible.
(6) Google search for child incestuous abuse
Clive Gamble's piece quite caught my attention even though I did not contribute
during question time, already instructing myself to reference his work further after the
conference. I must admit that I have a strong penchant for the primatologist Richard
Wrangham, whom he mentioned a few times during his discourse and whom I find
an utter realist after reading his book Sexual Coercion in Primate and Humans. (8)
Clive had not read that particular book himself, he said, and after thanking him on
what he'd put forward on the evolution of the male control of resources, I mentioned
that I'd been using for some time a term I'd coined, male physical strength power
sharing, which he said was accurate enough. It's a subject I am very interested in,
especially because I believe that the human species has literally become a totally
different life form ever since women got the right to vote. Before, when males totally
controlled resources, rape and pillage was ubiquitously a mode for reproduction
and resource acquisition (7). Ever since women got the same right to vote and to
make complete autonomous decisions about their lives, we have evolved to be a
psychologically distinguishable organism. I'd mentioned that latter to Milford Wolpoff
on the second day of the conference, who corrected me on my saying that we had
evolved to being a different species, taking the standard definition of the word into
account. Having thanked him then, replying that I'd made note of his better word
power (he is after all a world renowned paleoanthropologist) and not pressing him, I
mulled about the issue later. I could only agree with Milford, resolved to refer to
post- women getting the vote as a different life form, informed him in gratitude of my
decision the next day and haven't looked back. That would better give expression to
situations where unwanted pregnancies occur against the will of women that have
been raped. After the conference I was left with an afterthought, that if rape and
pillage has indeed been a mode of reproduction for our species and possibly their
archaic descendants, could that be traced relative to the Y chromosome and Mtdna
constituting populations? If the directionality of population gene flow was through
male conquest and usurpation of territories, taking into account the females living in
those areas, that might be reflected in the Y chromosome make up of the males
relative to the Mtdna lineages surviving. Can we technologically obtain precise
genetic profiles which can differentiate whether Y chromosomes temporally match
some particular Mtdna in geographical provenance or not? If exogamy through the
forceful acquisition of females were part and parcel of being Homo, would that
temporal matching only be constant in being necessarily male forwardly directed in
evolving populations, so any geographical provenance determined would also be
male forwardly directed outbreeding? In terms of gene flow of evolving populations,
that would make the female population as a settled non migratory influence relative
to the impetus of male exogamous acquisition through migratory warfare. If such a
thing were discernable by genetic analysis it would prove that Homo has always
been, prior women getting the vote, an aggressive lifeform and multiplied in numbers
like so.
(8) The Dark Side Of Man (Helix Books) April 4, 2000, an eye opener
by Michael Ghiglieri
John Hawks gave the closing lecture and having looked up the title of it on the
conference program, I prepared the following question beforehand as he talked. "I
keep feeling a great conflict between saying that neanderthals went extinct and that
most people on this world today carry in them to some extent neanderthal genes. In
terms of comparison in numbers with people with no neanderthal genes, were
neanderthals the more successful in producing offspring?" John said he liked
answering that sort of question and that he did not know what the ratio of
neanderthals that had ever existed was, when compared to anybody introgressively
carrying neanderthal genes, in the past or at present. Because of the known African
populations that do not have discernable neanderthal genes, as I'd written that
question down, I'd had a very, very rough look during the lecture at the present day
population numbers of Africa compared to the rest of the world. Without discounting
those without slightly discernable neanderthal genes, and the population numbers of
the rest of the world, that's roughly about 1.1 billion Africans to 6.2 billion rest of the
world. Pure blood neanderthals weren't populous when they existed, throughout
their whole approximate population life span, nor at any one moment during that time
(9). So at least when summing up the contemporary human global population
comparing people carrying Neanderthal Dna with those than do not, people who are
genetically discernable as being partially the offspring of neanderthal ancestors by
far outnumber those who are not. It's a quite neanderthal world out there in terms of
an inclusive majority.
A theme that seemed to repeat itself throughout the conference was the need for
increasing the number of archaeological digs. Erik Trinkhaus said that we could only
gauge more accurate conclusions from the maximum available fossil samples,
echoing Chris Stringer when he answered my question in the opening lecture on
moderns' introgression into neanderthals. Consulting with John Hawks at another
coffee break on the common prevalence of australopithecus/hominid finds in
subterranean sites, be they incidental, or related to usage, I queried him on the
existence of present day technology so as find more sites with. I reasoned that if
someone can be trained to look for fossils on the ground surface they could also be
trained to look for the surface signs of subterranean fossil sites aided by the latest
upgraded ground and underground mapping technology. John clarified the situation
informing me that such mapping technology has existed for some time and potential
fossil yielding sites are already located, but financing was the only impasse to
searching at new sites. At the Calpe conference 2001 years back I fondly
remembered Chris nodding and agreeing over a pint of lager to me telling him that
the study of anthropology was beneficial to the psychology of this world's inhabitants
because of all human backwardness there is, is expressed as primate based
violence. With the same stance but with only video snippets of the violence of
chimpanzees to guide me then, I had no idea how much I was going to further evolve
this mindset, reinforced later on by the writings of Richard Wrangham with his Sexual
Coercion Of Primates And Humans, Anna Motz with her The Psychology of Female
Violence, and Michael Ghielieri's The Dark Side Of Man. The fact is that the self
predatory but still gregarious human primate species is very violent and, until the last
metaphorical second of the eleventh hour, has only been socially cohesive due to
male physical strength power sharing which necessarily means using aggression for
social order and status. Whereas before a tribe of hunter gatherers after an attack
could get away with the booty and females of another tribe without greatly affecting
an ecology, today whole ecosystems can be laid to waste with technologies that
devastate unintentionally, or intentionally applying a scorched Earth policy. The
realisation that our home planet Earth has a finite surface area bears with it the
responsibility of proper management and, despite the usual prophecy of global
annihilation by some token scientist, human extinction would certainly loom only if
we tried to do nothing about it. In these circumstances it is the responsibility of any
educational system to inform people of the facts because without facts to guide us
we are nothing but aggressive primates ruled by natural egotism. Pychological
sublimation, that is the modifying of behaviour to that of one that is socially
acceptable, can only be effected with the masses if there are facts to relate to. The
aggressive primate in humans, without knowing facts essentially lives a lie,
egotistically expresssed in bluff as a means to survive until the restless younger
grow up to dare usurp them, breeding reckless organised anarchy in the process.
Therefore it is imperative that all education be evolutionary based because without
understanding what we evolved from, we would not be able to perceive and find
solutions to everything that is unjustly wrong with the world. Ancestor observance is
intrinsic to the human phenomenon even in this modern day and age. If we teach
the masses factual anthropological information about their evolutionary ancestors we
are not only respecting their traditions on ancestry, but agreeing that it is logical thing
for them to have practiced. Any culture that is still incompatibly mired in the non
acceptance of the anthropologically verifiable ancestral evidence available, is
unfortunately still expressing itself, within itself, and externally to evolutionists, in
terms of aggressive primates. All governments ought to prioritize financing human
fossil finding to obtain the knowledge we need to reach reasoned peace of mind as a
species. To know ourselves is to have the ability to change our behaviour.
Another recurring theme was the discussion of what exactly defines the modern
human species, interlinked with the purported incompatibility between multiregional
and recent african origins hypotheses. Erik Trinkaus had during his lecture repeated
several times that we tend to overemphasize the anatomical dissimilarity between
neanderthals and moderns, pointing out the cases he found there was evidence to
back his argumentation. Christophs prior lecture in which he said that species were
no certain fixed entity had added weight to this these thoughts. After reading
Milford's and Rachel Caspari's paper, The Origin Of Modern Humans and noticing
that he did not deny population movements stemming from Africa, I asked him during
another break that if he thought, as I already did from reading his paper that
multiregional theory incorporated out of Africa theory. He immediately answered
yes. Also, when I'd asked during one of the discussion sessions whether from a
multiregional view did human anatomical and technological evolution evolve to a
point that rendered allopatric speciation impossible, Milford was the only one who
answered. He initially said that the answer to that question was worth a lot of money
and when I pressed him for a more definite answer he just said " I don't know'. As an
afterthought, if human anatomical and technological evolution did make allopatric
speciation impossible, from my limited knowledge of anthropology, I would hazard to
guess, that might have occurred ever since H heidelbergensis, because of their
comparable cranial volume to humans and their population spread. I'd also asked
Milford during a coffee break, another idea I'd had reading the paper The Origin Of
Modern Humans, which was if relative to the out of africa hypothesis, from the
results obtained that indicated a bottleneck population because of Mtdna mutation
rates, whether that could be adaptive genes instead? He said possibly yes, think of
the advantages. As soon as he started explaining the role of Mtdna as fuel cells in
energy production (I already knew what Mtdna did but had not made the connection)
and how would a beneficial mutation in that direction affect a population, my mind hit
a jackpot as I suddenly realised the importance of his answer. Also, whilst writing
this summary and doing a bit of quick research I found several articles on mtdna and
its theorised interrelationship with longevity (10). Would a mutation in mtdna
augmenting longevity or energy production, related to the out of africa population
movements, have a discernable signature in the mtdna of the human species
today? Is there any other way such a hypothesis could be proved or disproved?
On the last day when John Hawks had given his closing lecture, he passed around a
reconstruction of the skull of recently discovered Homo naledi. I'd been lucky to see
a documentary of the discovery of Homo naledi a week before the conference which
had just aired in USA in which John had appeared. The evolutionary metaphor of
the braided stream was introduced to the public to bring them up to date with human
evolution during that documentary, with what we now know from evidential finds. We
were told to compare human evolution to a braided stream that kept dividing and
joining up again. Because it was not mentioned during the documentary, I
personally asked John Hawks between lectures whether he thought that, as I did, the
braided stream was appropriately synonymous with the multiregional hypothesis and
he said yes, as a metaphor. Just to check whether anyone else had thought of the
braided stream (11) as multiregional theory I did a Google Search for, "the braided
stream is multiregional evolution," and the first result that luckily came out was a
nicely detailed article (12) written by Chris Stringer entitled " Why we are not all
multiregionalists now." In it he argues that, " models and data still validates a recent
African origin model for modern humans," and quotes John Hawks as saying,
relative to switching from phylogenetic trees to braids,"I admit that the braided
stream is not a perfect analogy. Diverging rivulets within a valley almost always
come together again, forming a complicated network as they form sandbars and
islets. None of them flow into a cul-de-sac." Compared to what John answered to
me as to the braided stream being an apppropiate metaphor, I guess that he meant
that literally it it did not describe human evolutionary pathways accurately enough.
Luckily again, on the same day listening to the BBC World Service radio, an
announcement (13) was made as to "scientists working in Daoxian, south China, had
discovered teeth belonging to modern humans that date to at least 80,000 years
ago. This is 20,000 years earlier than the widely accepted "Out of Africa" migration
that led to the successful peopling of the globe by our species." In the article Chris
Stinger validated the dating methods and "said the new study was "a game-changer"
in the debate about the spread of modern humans."
(11) Clive Finlayson
With all the new fossil finds cropping out, backed by genetic evidence, everybody in
anthropological circles seems to have no option but to have to adopt multiregional
theory to a greater or lesser extent, or face reputable extinction. The general
disagreement of what makes Homo a human, modern or archaic, was not settled at
the conference but at least definitions were being actively sought or rejected. I
personally am quite happy in describing say, neanderthals in the bionomial
nomenclature that is normally reserved for species and not interbreeding
populations. On the other hand, we still ought give reference to documented
evolved differences because they are facts that are verifiable. If a subspecies is a
differentiated population of more than one populations of a species that are capable
of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring, but they do not interbreed in nature
due to geographic isolation or other factors, then all the different populations of
Homo that have interbred or have been capable of are just subspecies. If the
problem in categorising subspecies of Homo is to elucidate that what are normally
presented as species are not, then the problem lies in the naming system. If
consensus were given to labelling monotypic tendancies within the subspecies of a
polytypic species then the taxonomical classification of Homo that is presently in use
will stand the test of time, but a formal agreement would have to be reached. The
problem lies in classifying the variation in our genus, because of the fast rate of
evolution acheived ever since we split from chimpanzee like hominoids and so much
attention that by necessity has to be given to variety of fossils found that encompass
such a short period of time.
All the delegates at the start of the conference
All faces visible are those of hominids. At the end of the conference John Hawks
and his very well performed exit out of the Gibraltar University with the reconstruction
of the Homo naledi skull in his left hand I'm improvising walking backwards looking
forwards, taking as many photographs as I can to later on select the one that comes
out best. On my following the group's passage from infront, with John purposefully
holding the Homo naledi skull face front, John jokingly told everyone that I, the
beholder, am "the paparazzi." That's exactly how I felt. In fact I have a penchant for
taking photographs of local newpaper photographers taking photos at event.
Gibraltar being a small place, I know a number of them.
Multiregional incorporates out of Africa, both work together.
Milford and Rachel chilling out
Selfie with a reconstruction of Homo naledi
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