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Homo's early-Pleistocene littoral dispersal
on April 10, 2015
Beautiful book, not expensive, full of data, tables and illustrations. Unfortunately it misses what human evolution is about. Professor Klein does discuss late-Pleistocene shellfish collection by H.sapiens (e.g. Blombos), but misses the early-Pleistocene intercontinental dispersal along coasts and rivers, which made us different from apes-australopiths, and shaped us to what we are: fat and furless, large-brained, long-nosed, small-mouthed, flat-footed creatures who can voluntarily hold their breath, dive for shellfish, and open shells and coconuts with stone tools.
The traditional idea that human ancestors in Africa went from the forests to the plains (e.g. the "savanna hypothesis") rests on a logical error (post hoc, ergo propter hoc) which confuses "because" and "since": since non-human primates in the trees are quadrupedal, and humans on the ground are bipedal, we became bipedal when we left the forest, it is thought. Some paleo-anthropologists rightly realize that this cannot be the whole truth (e.g. savanna monkeys are less bipedal than forest monkeys: the so-called “baboon paradox”) and believe that our ancestors already "stood up" in the branches, possibly not unlike gibbons, who walk bipedally over branches and hang vertically from branches.
In any case, traditional paleo-anthropologists typically consider only living in or outside the (African) forests, neglecting the possibility that hominoids could have spent part of their time in forest swamps, rivers or coastal waters ("aquatic ape hypothesis" is a catchy, but incorrect term: it is not about apes-australopiths, but about waterside Pleistocene Homo).
Fossil, paleo-environmental, archeological, isotopic, and comparative data independently show that Pleistocene human ancestors did not run over the open plains as many traditional anthropologists claim (e.g. the "endurance running" fantasy: a just-so, cherry-picking "explanation" fitting in savanna preassumptions). The malacological data (on molluscs) show that virtually all archaic Homo fossils and tools were associated with shallow water habitats and edible shellfish (Munro 2010), and sites as far apart as England (e.g. Happisburgh, Boxgrove), Indonesia (e.g. Mojokerto, Flores) and southern Africa (e.g. Dungo V, the Cape) lay in coastal and estuarian sediments. Pleistocene Homo populations during the Ice Ages, instead of running over dry open plains, apparently followed the coasts and rivers, when they dispersed to different continents, beach-combing, diving and wading bipedally for littoral, shallow aquatic and waterside foods.
Recent papers more and more acknowledge that Homo evolved along the water, e.g.
-M.Gutierrez cs 2001 Exploitation d’un grand cétacé au Paléolithique ancien: le site de Dungo V à Baia Farta (Benguela, Angola), Compt.Rend.Acad.Sci.332:357-362,
-S.Cunnane 2005 Survival of the fattest: the key to human brain evolution, World Scient.Publ.Comp.,
-K.Choi, D.Driwantoro 2007 Shell tool use by early members of Homo erectus in Sangiran, central Java, Indonesia: cut mark evidence, J.archaeol.Sci.34:48-58,
-J.Joordens, S.Munro cs 2014 Homo erectus at Trinil on Java used shells for tool production and engraving, Nature doi 10.1038/nature13962,
-S.Munro 2010 Molluscs as ecological indicators in palaeoanthropological contexts, PhD thesis Univ.Canberra,
-J.Joordens cs 2009 Relevance of aquatic environments for hominins: a case study from Trinil (Java, Indonesia), J.hum.Evol.57:656-671,
-M.Vaneechoutte cs eds 2011 Was Man more aquatic in the past? eBook Bentham Sci.Publ.,
-P.Rhys Evans cs eds 2013-2014 Human Evolution conference London May 2013 proceedings, Hum.Evol.28-29 special editions
-M.Verhaegen 2013 The aquatic ape evolves: common misconceptions and unproven assumptions about the so-called Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, Hum.Evol.28:237-266 google researchGate marc verhaegen, or independent academia edu/marcverhaegen