Thursday, March 27, 2008

What a comedian!

Wow. You know that God fundagelicals worship? He must be a comedian. Why else would he put a 1.2 million year old concestor of modern human in Europe? And, in a cave in Spain no less! I wonder how long it took the anthropologists to roll back the rock covering the entrance?

The exceptional fossil strengthens the theory that humans, after emerging from
their African home, struck out towards western Europe far earlier than thought,
they said.

I *knew* they didn't pack up the truck and move to Beverly...but, I agree with the article and the anthropologists: it's kind of cool to know that they may have been in Europe so early. Those were some hardy mammals.

The site, called the Sima del Elefante, comprises a cave 18m deep and 15m wide,
with sediment and debris from ancient human settlement, bats and other animals
forming layers many metres thick deep.

Too cool.

The soil layer at which the fossil was found has been dated to around 1.1-1.2
million years ago, using carbon isotope decay and palaeo-magnetism, in which reversals in Earth's magnetic field
leave a weak signal in rocks, providing a timetable of the past.

Suck on that CSE! TWO independent methods of dating a find. Shocking, huh? My only concern is that they seem to be drawing a conclusion that the fossilized "human" remains are 1.2 million years old, but really...they're dating the earth around it? I'm not trying to rain on the parade because I think this is hella' cool, but...I think we need to dot that "i" and cross that "t".

Until now, many anthropologists have believed that the westwards migration into
Europe was slow and cautious, as humans tentatively entered unknown, virgin
territory. Until 1995, there was no direct evidence that hominids had walked in
Europe earlier than 500,000 years ago. That changed with the discovery of
remains of H. antecessor at nearby caves in Atapuerca, also by Carbonell, that
were were dated to around 800,000 years old.

You mean, scientists are willing to accept evidence directly in contrast to their original hypothesis and submit to peer critique and review? Shocking. Has someone gone to see if Ben Stein and Mark Mathis like their crow rare or medium-well, yet?

I did a bit more digging and it appears that the fossil consists of a jawbone and some teeth. There were also animal bones (with demarcations indicating pounding and cutting with primitive tools), dating to roughly the same period, scattered throughout the same level of strata in the cave...I would think it reasonable to assume that this may present evidence that not only was a human ancestor in Europe, but that this group thrived in the environment.

If I'm not mistaken, then I believe this cave isn't too far away from where they discovered Homo antecessor. This hominid was said to be 800,000 years old. Also found in the region were specimens of Homo heidelbergensis. Although it's my understanding that some of these species might be dead ends on the evolutionary chain, it still indicates, to me, that this area might be a significant area of study for anthropologists. I wonder what it is about this part of Spain which makes it so perfect for fossil preservation?


Karen said...

With fossils older than 40,000 years, they must be dated by the earth around them. There are lots of cool ways of doing that, including (and this really gets the creationists going) dating the earth with fossils. Not the same fossils, of course!

Amy said...

Silly Pmomma, don't you know that when god created the earth he created a mature earth? Just like when he created Adam, Adam was a grown man, when he created the earth he created it with fossils already in the ground and made it all appear to be old to us.

(I swear, this is what I was actually taught)