Teeth From Homo Sapiens Older Than Accepted History Of Homo Sapiens

Qesem Cave, Israel. Source: Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University

Qesem Cave, Israel. Source: Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University

In keeping with Disinfo’s tradition of challenging accepted boundaries in all things, as well as in the spirit of the disinformation book Underground!, here’s a little jewel of a discovery written by Daniel Estrin for AP via Yahoo News. Homo Sapiens teeth … potentially 400,000 years old. So much for the old timeline of human history!

Israeli archaeologists said Monday they may have found the earliest evidence yet for the existence of modern man, and if so, it could upset theories of the origin of humans.

A Tel Aviv University team excavating a cave in central Israel said teeth found in the cave are about 400,000 years old and resemble those of other remains of modern man, known scientifically as Homo sapiens, found in Israel. The earliest Homo sapiens remains found until now are half as old.

“It’s very exciting to come to this conclusion,” said archaeologist Avi Gopher, whose team examined the teeth with X-rays and CT scans and dated them according to the layers of earth where they were found.

He stressed that further research is needed to solidify the claim. If it does, he says, “this changes the whole picture of evolution.”

The accepted scientific theory is that Homo sapiens originated in Africa and migrated out of the continent. Gopher said if the remains are definitively linked to modern human’s ancestors, it could mean that modern man in fact originated in what is now Israel.

Sir Paul Mellars, a prehistory expert at Cambridge University, said the study is reputable, and the find is “important” because remains from that critical time period are scarce, but it is premature to say the remains are human…

[continues at AP via Yahoo News]

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  • Liam_McGonagle

    I’d hold on a minute there, Jim. They most certainly did NOT date the teeth–only the geological formations in the area the teeth were found.

    From this article:

    ” . . . [the] team examined the teeth with X-rays and CT scans and dated them according to the layers of earth where they were found.”

    From another Yahoo article apparently originating from AFP:

    “. . . testing of stalagmites, stalactites and other material found in a cave east of Tel Aviv indicates that eight teeth uncovered there could be the earliest traces so far of our species.”

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20101229/ts_afp/israelafricaarchaeology

    Why couldn’t the teeth be from 100 CE or even 2005 CE? They could easily have gotten knocked out of some dude’s skull–or even carried to the cave site–and got washed into some deep recess of the cave during rainfalls.

    Also curious is the fact, referenced only in my second article linked here, that GOPHER FOUND THIS SHIT NEARLY 5 YEARS AGO–IN 2006. So in 5 fucking years they haven’t even been able to verify that the teeth are actually human? Remember, from this article:

    “A Tel Aviv University team excavating a cave in central Israel said teeth found in the cave are about 400,000 years old and RESEMBLE those of other remains of modern man . . . ”

    And further in the article, Sir Paul Mellars–just after it’s cut off here–goes on to cite the unreliability of using teeth alone to identify species or perform dating analysis. Says the teeth could even be Neanderthal rather than human.

    And I’m left even more uncomfortable with the ra-ra Israel-Is-The-Center-of-The-Universe talk by Avi Gopher jumping to the conclusion that “. . . it could mean that modern man in fact originated in what is now Israel.”

    The location of some ‘possibly primate’ teeth, unaccompanied by skulls or other verifiably human remains, after 5 years of active digging, means that humanity originated there? BULL-SHIT. When they dig up my carcass they could, with equal veracity say, “Did the Ho Chunk nation originate in Ireland? The Y chromosome haplotype of a man buried in traditional Ho Chunk tribal lands suggests ancestors from Iron Age Ireland.”

    Yeah, I have a strong hunch that what we’re seeing here is either a desparate bid for tenure/funding at an Israeli university or another chapter of “True Tales from The Bible”.

    • Liam_McGonagle

      Sorry. Got my lather up rather more than I usually like to.

      Just meant to express some skepticism.

      • GoodDoktorBad

        Anger is not the problem. Its completly normal considering all the misleading interpretations of things that are passed as truth. Keep it up Liam……please don’t kill me …..LOL!

    • IAMB

      Couldn’t agree more. Anything I’ve read says nothing whatsoever about any type of official dating (eg C-14) or what not. I have no idea why the AP found this worthy of a news story considering the lack of certainty. This type of science – though I use the term science loosely – that you’ll find Creationists spouting. I have to support Liam’s hunch that this is another chapter in “True Tales from the Bible” – Chapter 1: God’s Chosen Ones.

      • Liam_McGonagle

        Thanks.

        I should be more careful in my choice of words, though. Sometimes I can come off with some angry dick moves. Stuff just needs careful consideration is all.

        • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

          No worries man…we’re all prey to the same dangers :-)

      • Ironaddict06

        Right. THere needs to be alot more testing done espically Carbon 14. This would be a great find if all the evidence turns out to be true.

    • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

      Expecting that the teeth, if found to be dated to match the rest of the site, mean that man originated at that site is spurious as best, and not really the thrust of the article. Likewise, creationism would balk at any such evidence…since it would still flatly debunk any claim that man existed only after gods creation of him some 8-10 thousand years ago.

      Note that I entered the word potentially at the top…exactly because the site of the dig has been dated geologically…and that isn’t sufficient evidence to close any case yet. However, as for the shape of the teeth…Neanderthal teeth do have some characteristics that these teeth lack…so there’s more than just total wild speculation at work here…either its a Neanderthal with the finest teeth known among his/her kind…or its Homo Sapiens and yet another piece of evidence piles up indicating that out timeline is incomplete and inaccurate…which really shouldn’t have to be argued…since most of our knowledge of the ancient and prehistoric past is built on tiny fragments from sites around the world…a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of what lived and transpired in those times.

      • Liam_McGonagle

        I take your point.

        The language of my response was more than a little intemperate. But I think there is a strong danger of rhetorical manipulation here on the part of Avi Gopher. Let’s really boil down the facts:

        After 5 years (i.e., these teeth were discovered in 2006) and zero direct dating tests of the teeth we still don’t even know if the teeth are human or how they got to the site.

        That’s it. Point blank.

        In these circumstances, for Gopher to go out of his way and start hypothesizing that this means that humanity may have originated in Israel (remember his quote–he most assuredly did hypothesis this), is more than a little suspicious.

        Yes, I agree the 6,000 year old earth is the typical creationist trope, but those fellahs are getting more and more “creative” all the time. They’re past masters at creating alternate scenarious, weaving a tissue of bullshit into the historical record. Typical strategies: 1 day in God’s time is equivalent to 20,000 years of human time, etc., etc., etc. All creationists really need is a simple, easy-to-understand, and not necessarily factually accurate, association of early man with the ‘Holy Land’; bullshit can fill out the rest.

        And I’m not necessarily saying that has to be Gopher’s sole motivation. Probably only a subsidiary one. Quartz99 touched on the lust of many anthropologists / archaeologists to claim some paradigm altering discovery. In fact, I kinda touched on this myself in the original post.

        I think the actual scenario is that Gopher is merely playing up the significance of this extremely ambiguous find to get funding and boost his academic creds, and part of that, no doubt, is catering to wealthy Religious Wing Nuts eager to seize on anything with a vague whiff of “True Tales from The Bible”.

        Again, I apologize for the unnecessarily caustic tone of my commentary. I haven’t had much success in toning that down. To date that’s just something I’ve had to live with and hope that my apologies will be accepted. But I do still think there are some real grounds for suspicion.

        • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

          I can’t deny the timing…which seriously smacks of a press release to drive up the chances for keeping the dig site funded. My archaeology pal in South America spends most of her time teaching to pay the bills…site work is incredibly hard to keep funded. You’re right that Gopher is pandering directly to a Western audiences belief that life originated in that area…but again, his wasn’t the only voice to prevail in the article.

          Its already accepted that modern humans emerged out of Africa…so now we’re just quibbling over which neighborhood…based on a slender thread of evidence at that. My contention would go further and say that we can’t gauge such a thing at all…since we haven’t dug up even a fraction of the evidence needed to to offer anything better than a hypothesis. We’ve already projected the desire for ‘the Holy Land’ to be the origin of all civilization…which is pretty much bunk as we discover older sites around the world…but we’ve clung to that fallacy in the face all obstacles ever since.

          On the credence side…caves and undisturbed areas with the conditions to preserve formerly organic matter and with something really significant under them are hard to come by…unless a major structure was involved so that we know where to start looking. Prehistoric sites, other than mounds, stonework, etc, that involved human remains and tools but no buildings are pretty much guesswork and blind luck when you find them. Even to find teeth after a few hundred thousand years is a windfall.

    • quartz99

      Actually, it’s not that surprising that they haven’t verified the species of the teeth. Teeth alone are hard to identify with certainty. They found the first of the 8 teeth in a layer at 200,000 years and were waiting to do tests on the artifacts and remains because they were still digging and presumably were looking for more remains to go with the tooth to make identification surer, like a skull. As they went down, they went back in time to the 400,000 year layer. I assume now they’ve decided they have enough of them for credible testing, and the 400,000 year layer is what would make them remarkable — though if they think the teeth are all from the same individual (I didn’t see anything to say yes or no to that) I’d say it’s more likely to be from the youngest layer and have been displaced downward than to have been displaced upward. Still, hominid dating and placement is being revised all the time. With any luck they’ll be able to do a little dna testing with their dating of the teeth.

      Anthropologists are always hoping to be one of the scientists who get to redraw the timeline and geographical record yet again. No need to throw in “true tales of the bible” aspersions for that to be so. If they turn out to be homo sapiens and not a near ancestor/cousin species, it _does_ call into question the earliest waves of settlement and their direction. Since our records are so patchy, that happens from time to time. It’s ok. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

      • Liam_McGonagle

        I think get your point. Which I feel in no way contradicts anything I’ve written int he original comment.

        But I think you must also admit that Gopher’s statements are still way out of proportion to the actual findings to date.

        My own perhaps obnoxious language was a gut-level response to what I feel is overt rhetorical manipulation of the findings by Gopher. I kind of elaborate in my response to Vox Magi earlier this morning, so I’d just refer to that.

        • quartz99

          I think it’s more likely that the reporter was looking to make what felt to them like a dull story into something that the public would find worth reading. Most of these kinds of stories are only interesting to other anthropologists, and considering the other major anthro story of the week is the confirmation of an entirely new species, well, how do you top that? I don’t see any quotes from him that are out of line, just a little reaching by the reporter. If their initial dating is correct, it would in fact require a reordering of our current theoretical timelines and regardless of what the final date ends up being, it will in fact enhance our understanding of the evolution of humans, so neither is an out-of-line claim. We have so little in terms of remains that it can’t possibly NOT do so.

          All that said, I agree with Mellars that it’s likely a relative species (or misdated, which Mellars doesn’t suggest) and the odds of them actually being homo sapiens at that age are pretty remote. I hope they find some skulls. That would make the whole thing much more certain.

          Oh and I mean to hit reply and hit like. Not that I particularly DISlike anything you said, just didn’t mean to click like…

        • quartz99

          http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101231/full/news.2010.700.html

          You might find the interview at that link a little more revealing. It’s common practice among reporters to elicit a quote you can slice to support whatever you want to say to make a story “pop” more. One of the reasons I’m not a reporter still, actually. Too disgusted with what I had to do to sell a story. Usually it’s benign in the sense that it’s about making the story seems bigger and more dramatic, rather than about pushing a particular agenda (in more or less credible news sources that is, which seem to get fewer and farther between every day). I think that’s what you were reacting to so strongly here. I don’t see any political agenda, just a story that a writer tried to make more interesting to non-anthropologists by making it seem bigger than it was.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    I’d hold on a minute there, Jim. They most certainly did NOT date the teeth–only the geological formations in the area the teeth were found.

    From this article:

    ” . . . [the] team examined the teeth with X-rays and CT scans and dated them according to the layers of earth where they were found.”

    From another Yahoo article apparently originating from AFP:

    “. . . testing of stalagmites, stalactites and other material found in a cave east of Tel Aviv indicates that eight teeth uncovered there could be the earliest traces so far of our species.”

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20101229/ts_afp/israelafricaarchaeology

    Why couldn’t the teeth be from 100 CE or even 2005 CE? They could easily have gotten knocked out of some dude’s skull–or even carried to the cave site–and got washed into some deep recess of the cave during rainfalls.

    Also curious is the fact, referenced only in my second article linked here, that GOPHER FOUND THIS SHIT NEARLY 5 YEARS AGO–IN 2006. So in 5 fucking years they haven’t even been able to verify that the teeth are actually human? Remember, from this article:

    “A Tel Aviv University team excavating a cave in central Israel said teeth found in the cave are about 400,000 years old and RESEMBLE those of other remains of modern man . . . ”

    And further in the article, Sir Paul Mellars–just after it’s cut off here–goes on to cite the unreliability of using teeth alone to identify species or perform dating analysis. Says the teeth could even be Neanderthal rather than human.

    And I’m left even more uncomfortable with the ra-ra Israel-Is-The-Center-of-The-Universe talk by Avi Gopher jumping to the conclusion that “. . . it could mean that modern man in fact originated in what is now Israel.”

    The location of some ‘possibly primate’ teeth, unaccompanied by skulls or other verifiably human remains, after 5 years of active digging, means that humanity originated there? BULL-SHIT. When they dig up my carcass they could, with equal veracity say, “Did the Ho Chunk nation originate in Ireland? The Y chromosome haplotype of a man buried in traditional Ho Chunk tribal lands suggests ancestors from Iron Age Ireland.”

    Yeah, I have a strong hunch that what we’re seeing here is either a desparate bid for tenure/funding at an Israeli university or another chapter of “True Tales from The Bible”.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Sorry. Got my lather up rather more than I usually like to.

    Just meant to express some skepticism.

  • IAMB

    Couldn’t agree more. Anything I’ve read says nothing whatsoever about any type of official dating (eg C-14) or what not. I have no idea why the AP found this worthy of a news story considering the lack of certainty. This type of science – though I use the term science loosely – that you’ll find Creationists spouting. I have to support Liam’s hunch that this is another chapter in “True Tales from the Bible” – Chapter 1: God’s Chosen Ones.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Thanks.

    I should be more careful in my choice of words, though. Sometimes I can come off with some angry dick moves. Stuff just needs careful consideration is all.

  • Anonymous

    Anger is not the problem. Its completly normal considering all the misleading interpretations of things that are passed as truth. Keep it up Liam……please don’t kill me …..LOL!

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Expecting that the teeth, if found to be dated to match the rest of the site, mean that man originated at that site is spurious as best, and not really the thrust of the article. Likewise, creationism would balk at any such evidence…since it would still flatly debunk any claim that man existed only after gods creation of him some 8-10 thousand years ago.

    Note that I entered the word potentially at the top…exactly because the site of the dig has been dated geologically…and that isn’t sufficient evidence to close any case yet. However, as for the shape of the teeth…Neanderthal teeth do have some characteristics that these teeth lack…so there’s more than just total wild speculation at work here…either its a Neanderthal with the finest teeth known among his/her kind…or its Homo Sapiens and yet another piece of evidence piles up indicating that out timeline is incomplete and inaccurate…which really shouldn’t have to be argued…since most of our knowledge of the ancient and prehistoric past is built on tiny fragments from sites around the world…a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of what lived and transpired in those times.

  • Alturn

    When science catches up with the folks preserving the entire history of humanity on the planet – the Masters of the Wisdom – they will find that man has been here around 18.5 million years, give or take a few thousand years.

  • Alturn

    When science catches up with the folks preserving the entire history of humanity on the planet – the Masters of the Wisdom – they will find that man has been here around 18.5 million years, give or take a few thousand years.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, it’s not that surprising that they haven’t verified the species of the teeth. Teeth alone are hard to identify with certainty. They found the first of the 8 teeth in a layer at 200,000 years and were waiting to do tests on the artifacts and remains because they were still digging and presumably were looking for more remains to go with the tooth to make identification surer, like a skull. As they went down, they went back in time to the 400,000 year layer. I assume now they’ve decided they have enough of them for credible testing, and the 400,000 year layer is what would make them remarkable — though if they think the teeth are all from the same individual (I didn’t see anything to say yes or no to that) I’d say it’s more likely to be from the youngest layer and have been displaced downward than to have been displaced upward. Still, hominid dating and placement is being revised all the time. With any luck they’ll be able to do a little dna testing with their dating of the teeth.

    Anthropologists are always hoping to be one of the scientists who get to redraw the timeline and geographical record yet again. No need to throw in “true tales of the bible” aspersions for that to be so. If they turn out to be homo sapiens and not a near ancestor/cousin species, it _does_ call into question the earliest waves of settlement and their direction. Since our records are so patchy, that happens from time to time. It’s ok. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

  • Ironaddict06

    Right. THere needs to be alot more testing done espically Carbon 14. This would be a great find if all the evidence turns out to be true.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    I take your point.

    The language of my response was more than a little intemperate. But I think there is a strong danger of rhetorical manipulation here on the part of Avi Gopher. Let’s really boil down the facts:

    After 5 years (i.e., these teeth were discovered in 2006) and zero direct dating tests of the teeth we still don’t even know if the teeth are human or how they got to the site.

    That’s it. Point blank.

    In these circumstances, for Gopher to go out of his way and start hypothesizing that this means that humanity may have originated in Israel (remember his quote–he most assuredly did hypothesis this), is more than a little suspicious.

    Yes, I agree the 6,000 year old earth is the typical creationist trope, but those fellahs are getting more and more “creative” all the time. They’re past masters at creating alternate scenarious, weaving a tissue of bullshit into the historical record. Typical strategies: 1 day in God’s time is equivalent to 20,000 years of human time, etc., etc., etc. All creationists really need is a simple, easy-to-understand, and not necessarily factually accurate, association of early man with the ‘Holy Land’; bullshit can fill out the rest.

    And I’m not necessarily saying that has to be Gopher’s sole motivation. Probably only a subsidiary one. Quartz99 touched on the lust of many anthropologists / archaeologists to claim some paradigm altering discovery. In fact, I kinda touched on this myself in the original post.

    I think the actual scenario is that Gopher is merely playing up the significance of this extremely ambiguous find to get funding and boost his academic creds, and part of that, no doubt, is catering to wealthy Religious Wing Nuts eager to seize on anything with a vague whiff of “True Tales from The Bible”.

    Again, I apologize for the unnecessarily caustic tone of my commentary. I haven’t had much success in toning that down. To date that’s just something I’ve had to live with and hope that my apologies will be accepted. But I do still think there are some real grounds for suspicion.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    I think get your point. Which I feel in no way contradicts anything I’ve written int he original comment.

    But I think you must also admit that Gopher’s statements are still way out of proportion to the actual findings to date.

    My own perhaps obnoxious language was a gut-level response to what I feel is overt rhetorical manipulation of the findings by Gopher. I kind of elaborate in my response to Vox Magi earlier this morning, so I’d just refer to that.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    I can’t deny the timing…which seriously smacks of a press release to drive up the chances for keeping the dig site funded. My archaeology pal in South America spends most of her time teaching to pay the bills…site work is incredibly hard to keep funded. You’re right that Gopher is pandering directly to a Western audiences belief that life originated in that area…but again, his wasn’t the only voice to prevail in the article.

    Its already accepted that modern humans emerged out of Africa…so now we’re just quibbling over which neighborhood…based on a slender thread of evidence at that. My contention would go further and say that we can’t gauge such a thing at all…since we haven’t dug up even a fraction of the evidence needed to to offer anything better than a hypothesis. We’ve already projected the desire for ‘the Holy Land’ to be the origin of all civilization…which is pretty much bunk as we discover older sites around the world…but we’ve clung to that fallacy in the face all obstacles ever since.

    On the credence side…caves and undisturbed areas with the conditions to preserve formerly organic matter and with something really significant under them are hard to come by…unless a major structure was involved so that we know where to start looking. Prehistoric sites, other than mounds, stonework, etc, that involved human remains and tools but no buildings are pretty much guesswork and blind luck when you find them. Even to find teeth after a few hundred thousand years is a windfall.

  • Guest

    Don’t show some christian nutbag this… they’re under the belief the world is only 6000 years old. Idiots.

  • Guest

    Don’t show some christian nutbag this… they’re under the belief the world is only 6000 years old. Idiots.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s more likely that the reporter was looking to make what felt to them like a dull story into something that the public would find worth reading. Most of these kinds of stories are only interesting to other anthropologists, and considering the other major anthro story of the week is the confirmation of an entirely new species, well, how do you top that? I don’t see any quotes from him that are out of line, just a little reaching by the reporter. If their initial dating is correct, it would in fact require a reordering of our current theoretical timelines and regardless of what the final date ends up being, it will in fact enhance our understanding of the evolution of humans, so neither is an out-of-line claim. We have so little in terms of remains that it can’t possibly NOT do so.

    All that said, I agree with Mellars that it’s likely a relative species (or misdated, which Mellars doesn’t suggest) and the odds of them actually being homo sapiens at that age are pretty remote. I hope they find some skulls. That would make the whole thing much more certain.

    Oh and I mean to hit reply and hit like. Not that I particularly DISlike anything you said, just didn’t mean to click like…

  • Anonymous

    http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101231/full/news.2010.700.html

    You might find the interview at that link a little more revealing. It’s common practice among reporters to elicit a quote you can slice to support whatever you want to say to make a story “pop” more. One of the reasons I’m not a reporter still, actually. Too disgusted with what I had to do to sell a story. Usually it’s benign in the sense that it’s about making the story seems bigger and more dramatic, rather than about pushing a particular agenda (in more or less credible news sources that is, which seem to get fewer and farther between every day). I think that’s what you were reacting to so strongly here. I don’t see any political agenda, just a story that a writer tried to make more interesting to non-anthropologists by making it seem bigger than it was.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    No worries man…we’re all prey to the same dangers :-)

  • justagirl

    isn’t it cute when you have a puppy and as it gets older you start finding little puppy teeth all over the house? it takes a minute to know wtf you are looking at and then you realize it’s a tooth… and the puppy is missing one or more. then, he grows some big chompers and wants to chew you to shreads w/ lolz.(?)
    kitterz was/is the same way.
    i love my aminals.

  • justagirl

    isn’t it cute when you have a puppy and as it gets older you start finding little puppy teeth all over the house? it takes a minute to know wtf you are looking at and then you realize it’s a tooth… and the puppy is missing one or more. then, he grows some big chompers and wants to chew you to shreads w/ lolz.(?)
    kitterz was/is the same way.
    i love my aminals.