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Scientists find 7.2M-year-old pre-human remains in the Balkans (phys.org)
215 points by vixen99 on May 23, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 111 comments

I'm not remotely an anthropologist, but my very-simple take on this is that it has no impact on the out-of-africa hypothesis which happened relatively recently (~60k years ago) -- this just suggests that ~7mm years ago, earlier human hominids were found in Europe.

(think, maybe Lucy's ancestors came from Bulgaria. or had a dead family tree which lived in Bulgaria.)

Rather than disputing the out of Africa theory, it seems to propose an earlier "into africa" stage. It may lend some credence to the multi-regional hypothesis though.

7m years ago there already was Bulgaria? Didn't know!

This is a good take which, IMHO, fits the dominant out-of-Africa data

Quote: >I think we should take seriously that Graecopithecus premolar root morphology may be yet another demonstration that supposed “hominin” characters actually evolved in other branches of apes during the Miocene. This feature is far from alone. Many other features that supposedly link Ardipithecus or Sahelanthropus with hominins are also found in other Miocene fossils. My colleagues and I documented some of these Miocene ape-like features in Sahelanthropus in 2006.

So the tooth-form that appears only in hominins could not be a marker, but a very similar tooth-form could have developed in non-hominins

The human evolutionary 'tree' is very tangled, and evidence exists for the emergence of homonim from Africa, some of which moved into Europe, and some of which could have then possibly migrated back to Africa. As sea levels rose and fell, new routes were forged or land disappeared, enabling all this back and forth.

Homo Sapiens is a descendant of this tree, and emerged from Africa. So that has not changed. What they find is that a hominim in Europe could have been an ancestor to Homo Sapiens way back in the tree. So the potential explanation is that this or a descendant found its way to Africa, and then gave rise eventually to Homo Sapiens.

>So the potential explanation is that this or a descendant found its way to Africa, and then gave rise eventually to Homo Sapiens.

given that Mediterranean dried out completely about 1M years later, back then there weren't 2 different things - Europe and Africa - like today, just a huge valley where may be a large part of our ancestors' evolution took place.

Wow, did not know that. The idea that the Mediterranean was a huge valley with some areas more than a mile below sea level is crazy.


This article goes into the supporters and detractors of the research


Could someone "explain like I'm five" the article?

They found two really old skeletons in Europe that are older than other skeletons. They are skeletons of a "modern"-ish human. They know because the teeth of the skeletons have a specific thing that the teeth of humans have but not the teeth of other primates.

The older skeleton is 1 million years older than old skeletons found in Africa. So now the oldest skeletons that we know about come from Europe not Africa, raising the possibility that humans evolved in Europe.

They weren't skeletons of "modern-ish" humans, they were primitive hominin, i.e. a group that includes Chimps, humans, and Australopithecus.

> They know because the teeth of the skeletons have a specific thing that the teeth of humans have but not the teeth of other primates.

What is the "specific thing"?

I don't care to explain like to a five year old, but the authors of the paper propose that only the modern human lineage have a total of four premolars in the lower jaw with a single root each. They claim these were never present in other hominid species.

I was under the impression that it was because humans learned to control fire, meaning we could eat softer food which altered the human teeth. However, 7.2m years massively predates our current understanding of when fire was first utilised..

We have chimps, and we have humans. But both of us share a common ancestor. At some point, we split into two different evolutionary lines. And it's _where_, geographically, we split that is under some investigation.

Current school of thought, we think that man originated in Africa. But this recent finding (based off of a partial skull fragment) shows that non-chimp pre-humans existed in Europe, possibly hundreds of thousands of years earlier than previously theorised.

This means the split may have happened in Europe, as that is now the earliest evidence of pre-human remains.

(that's how I understand it, at least)

How do they know it's an ancestor instead of just a node that has a common ancestor with Homo sapiens?

I don't think they do, and I didn't see a claim in the article that this species is a direct ancestor of homo sapiens - only that we are very closely related and that they were found where we didn't expect them to be.

Fossils belonging to a species found in Greece showed similar features to the earliest known hominins (human species lineage), but were even older, shifting the "birthplace" of the modern human species from Africa to Europe.

They did fancy 3D imaging of a jaw found in Greece and a tooth found in Bulgaria. The roots and interior structures of the teeth resemble human teeth more than it appears from the outside, so maybe these belong to early humans. The fossils are pretty old, from right around the time humans split from chimps and other apes.

They found some fossils, including jawbones and teeth, in Greece belonging to an evolutionary ancestor of homo sapiens sapiens that seem to be older than those found elsewhere.

Hmm. Isn't Mesopotamia like the "cradle of civilization," and Greece is far but not terribly far from Mesopotamia. While shocking news, maybe the first civilizations came from Mesopotamia/Mediterranean Sea area because people had been there the longest?

Judging from all the existing fossils, one can assume that the prehumans started shifting into humans somewhere around East Mediterranean, but still got to Africa first and evolved there. Somewhere much later, after some migration waves of other species of humans, came the Homo Sapiens Sapiens' turn - they left Africa and only then presumably got into that final continuous settlements around Mesopotamia.

Civilization happened long after humans came about

Good point. I didn't think through this terribly much to be honest.

Easy mistake to make, there is a reason they call it 'pre-history' :-)

>Hmm. Isn't Mesopotamia like the "cradle of civilization," and Greece is far but not terribly far from Mesopotamia.

That's not really relevant, as the Mesopotamian civilizations are still millions of years after the era of the skeletons found here.

The delta between these fossils and "civilization" is almost ten million years.

an idea: Early humans walked a lot. We might have been season movers.

TL;DR: They found some fossils in Greece and Bulgaria, the jaws and teeth of which suggest they belonged to an evolutionary ancestor of Homo sapiens sapiens, and which seem to be older than any other such fossil records.

"If this status is confirmed by additional fossil evidence, Graecopithecus would be the oldest known hominin..." where hominin is defined in the paper to mean "humans and their non-ape ancestors".

EDIT: phrasing and clarity.

it's weird to find just one fossil, with all the excavations going on and around in Europe.

There are roughly about 200 Neanderthal/Denisovan/older skeletons (whole or partially) found. Or, according to 'A short history of nearly everything', the amount of bones of our ancient ancestors fit in the back of a small pickup truck.

Let that sink in: over 4 million years of human history, and all remains we have found fit in the back of a pickup truck.

Scientists draw conclusions based on evidence found, but truth is, we really don't know that much about our ancestors. The vast majority of bones don't fossilize and just decay. You can excavate all you want, but it takes very specific circumstances for organic material to be preserved over a course of hundreds of thousands or even millions of years. Most of it is just gone.

Add that that humans millions years ago were not in billions as today. They were actually in very small numbers, like tens of thousands on the entire planet.

>Most of it is just gone.

Ive wondered if over a very long period of time it might be possible for our descendants to build a simulation which can aproximate the entropy difference b/w now and our past on earth. Or if such calculations would be forever practically impossible, even given enormous power, i.e. a computer harnessing the power of the sun

You could argue the contrary. When some construction is going on in Europe, if something is found in the ground, there is a high chance it will result in a scientific excavation. When construction goes on in Africa (when it even does) I doubt the project will be interrupted often to call scientists. So there should be a selection bias toward developped countries in finding remains in the ground.

Isn't that exactly the point the parent comment made? I think you misinterpreted his "excavation" (as in archeological excavation) as "excavation for the purpose of construction". But maybe I am the one who misunderstood.

that was my point, sorry if it wasn't clear can't edit now: that there should be more finds in Europe due all the construction going on

But what I mean is slightly different. That the fact that we find these rare bones in Europe but not in Africa may have more to do with less scientific excavations going on in Africa than with the species not being present in Africa at that period.

ah sorry, now I get you

The title on this needs to be corrected to match the article.

I need an article written in plain English which interprets this article.

Here, try this article:


Edit: created a separate HN thread.

"Potential hominin affinities of Graecopithecus from the Late Miocene of Europe"

I have no idea what that even says :(

But on the plus side I've got a lot of great words to use in Scrabble now

It means they found an ancestor species to homonids in Europe. The title is wrong because it says Europe was a birthplace of mankind instead of a place an ancestor species of Humans evolved.

If I had to guess, I'd say it's being suggested that Graecopithecus is a species that modern humans are descended from. Late Miocene sounds like an era in the history of the world.

I'll take a stab

"Evolutionary Ancestors of Modern Humans Originate from Greece Instead of Africa"

Some people may read it as immediate ancestors. But I don't know how we can clarify that in a succinct manner.

"Potential Avolutionary Ancestors of Modern Humans Theorized outside of Africa"

This is #1 on the front page right now. 41 people have voted for it.

Please, someone explain this article; I like others have noted, have no idea what is going on and the title is a fairly large claim (at least from my understanding which is that of a high schooler's).

While there's little doubt of a "recent" spread of humanity out of Africa, 100 000 years ago or so and also development of earlier humans there. This is perhaps what you've learned. But this article talks about an earlier period of time, it discusses some fossils in Greece / Bulgaria that are some 7 million year old and are more human than ape. It's possible that the well known and documented development of humanity in Africa was preceded by a migration of these into Africa perhaps seeking warmer places during a cooler period millions of years ago. We simple do not know much about the transition from ape to human and this might be an important step. An emphasis on might. We know little.

The title is misleading (as written on HN) because the meaning of "hominim" is more to do with what we, humans, and other hominim (like neanderthals etc) evolved from. See linked chart:


This isn't our specific species but rather whatever we and similar species evolved from.

I'm absolutely no expert on the subject.

I actually find the title offensive if I'm right but I'd happily be wrong. Mostly because I'm sensitive to how unlikely it is people are up voting this because they understand it and rather they want it to reflect their world views.

Edit: for those downvoting me, could you explain why? I'm happy to learn. It's just weird to see a sudden surge in down votes with no comments explaining how I am ignorant or wrong.

Adding on to this:

The human ancestors before this single instance were all from Africa. This title picks one particular definition of human and uses that as the basis for its claim. The ancestors of this species were certainly from Africa, and many later human descendants were also from Africa. Africa has much stronger ties to Human kind's birth than Europe does.

Also, it's very possible that this species died out and left no descendants. There are many examples of this at many stages in humanity's histories-- Paranthropus robustus, homo neanderthalensis, and Denisovans. If a common ancestor of Anatomically Modern Homo Sapiens really originated in Europe, we should be finding more evidence soon. Even if we find more evidence of that, we still can't say that Europe is the birthplace of mankind, because so much of Mankind's evolution (Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, etc) took place in Africa.

It's just silly to call Europe the birthplace of mankind.

Maybe it's silly to say that either Africa or the Mediterranean (or wherever) is "the birthplace of mankind". That is, maybe there was considerable migration and interbreeding throughout the process. We know now that both Neanderthals and Denisovans contributed to the modern human genome. So why not more backcrossing, going back further?

This is known as the multi-regional hypothesis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiregional_origin_of_modern...

If many Europeans have some Neanderthal DNA (which is what I've understood), then neanderthalensis hasn't entirely died out without descendants, right?

Your post itself is inciting, because you imply that those up-voting the post did so due to "their world views". I am sure you can think of other, less offensive reasons that are more likely explanations of the votes, like scientific curiosity.


Flamewar comments like this will eventually get your account banned, so please don't post any more of them.

People routinely describe HN as left-leaning or right-leaning depending on their own leanings. Since these descriptions are all contradictory they have little to do with HN.

> I actually find the title offensive [...] Mostly because I'm sensitive to how unlikely it is people are up voting this because they understand it and rather they want it to reflect their world views.

What if the title said "South America" or "New Zealand" was the birthplace and people upvoted would you have found the title just as offensive?

Or to put it as another thought experiment, what continent region being upvoted would you find least offensive.

I just upvoted the article for unearthing more hominim, no need for an ad hominem.

I don't see how the article being incorrectly titled is ad hominem. It does appear to reflect the world view as opposed to the science within the article.

Can you please explain further or qualify your statement so that I can learn. As I said in my comment I'm happy to be wrong but you provided nothing. I'd say your comment as it stands is ad hominem if anything.

It seemed like you suggested that upvoters just begrudge Hipster-Africa for having humans before they were cool. I think it's absolutely amazing how we are finding out how humans and almost-humans lived, met, invented the first things, developed culture...

I also like my little pun :)

Every conceptual viewpoint reflects a particular world view, whether an officially accepted world view or an alternative world view. To rest an objection or finding a fault on the basis of a generalized statement like you made anent "world view" is actually proof of nothing and possesses little meaning of any consequence - other than, of course, that we reflect an individual or a collective world view.

As for the origin and global point of emergence of the human species, this could be debated ad nauseam. I would contend that no current view would be entirely correct.

How on earth this title could be offensive? Why does it make you offended?

For several years we were tracing the beginnings of mankind to Africa. Now there is another source in Europe. In the future other sources might be discovered. How is it offensive? What does it change for you?

This news being offensive to him might mean he is a racist. No sane person would take this title as offensive.

Please don't take HN threads in uncivil or personal directions. It can only make things worse.

How is it offensive?

Could you elaborate on why exactly do you find it offensive, and what are the world views you think upvoters have that they want to support?

I'm very curious to hear an answer to that question, too.

You mean "hominin", not "hominim". Yes, the title on HN is sensationalism.

I did not downvote you myself (pinkie swear?) but since you asked, it's a little strange that you would immediately assume that the article was upvoted because of an ideological viewpoint.

Your meaning is not clear but based on the context it seems likely that you are implying that a group of caucasians have upvoted the article because they desperately want humanity to have come from Europe. If this is the sentiment that led you to post, then it is more than a little ironic.

For the record, I did upvote the story simply because it was interesting.


This breaks the HN guidelines, and we've hard to warn you before.

If you continue to post uncivil and/or unsubstantive comments to HN, we are going to ban your account.


> hundreds of people upvoting it

At the time of this comment, there are 101 up-votes on the article. Making no other judgement of your critique, engaging in exaggeration like this weakens it, especially given the volatility of the topic.

My bad. I saw it on the front page and made an off the cuff remark.

I upvoted because I wanted to know the real story.

There some incredibly interesting comments about human history here now.

Article title: Potential hominin affinities of Graecopithecus from the Late Miocene of Europe

What is up with the resurgence of euro-pride among young white guys? I'm genuinely curious were it's coming from, it definitely feels like a new phenomenon in the last 2-3 years.

All: most comments in this subthread are breaking the HN guidelines. Flamewars on this site result in accounts getting penalized and/or banned. If you're determined to step into these minefields, please take extra care to do so respectfully and thoughtfully.

Note: lobbing explosives is not doing so respectfully and thoughtfully.

The internet happened.

It allows all sorts of people to gather in their own echo chambers, and feed off of their emotions. Echo chambers consume information that matches their biases, discards other information, and treats any source which argues differently as the enemy.

Rinse repeat for any and all causes. (Some causes may have inherent dampeners in extreme behavior, others will not.)

At least that's my understanding of the current dynamic.

(related reading: The spreading of misinformation on social media - http://www.pnas.org/content/113/3/554.full)

It's push back against the toxic strands of SJW culture that have gone from "diversity is good" to "white culure is bad".

It's a small but very vocal branch of SJWs against a small and very vocal branch of counter SJWs, but both sides of it are in a meme war (using the scientific definition of meme: a mechanism to transfer ideas and culture) and the effects of their culture clashes are large enough for you and I to notice.

Is it really so toxic to point out that the average white male in American society enjoys certain privileges that are unavailable to the average member of any other class? Or that the average black male is subject to multiple disadvantages that members of other classes don't usually experience?

Also, the use of the term SJW might appear 'edgy' but its overuse has turned it into a marker of nothing but intellectual vapidity.

See it like this: You know how the other side has those incredibly stupid people who can't even make a coherent argument, tout a blog post as a credible source and react to rational argument with insults and threats?

Well, your side has them, too. If you care about social issues, they are toxic SJWs. If you are a patriot, they are white supremacists. If you are a Muslim, they are Islamist terrorists.

Arguments are not soldiers [0]. Don't let a disagreement turn into a war. If you see someone support a cause you care about, but for the wrong reasons; and do so in a manner that alienates anyone who disagrees, you should call them out on it.

[0] http://lesswrong.com/lw/gz/policy_debates_should_not_appear_...

There is a significant number of people who vehemently disagree with what you (rightly) suggest should be an obvious truth. For them, the only racism is against white people, and that "minorities" (for whichever subgroup they care to categorize) have it easy.

Well, there's two issues I would have with your statement.

The first is that "pointing out" is not where the story ends; like parent said, there is a small minority of people who use this "average man"(an amalgamation of features that doesn't actually exist in reality) to shame specific individuals(e.g. calling out novel authors for being "privileged" and thus shouldn't write characters with a different skin colour). This usage opens you up to an obvious reciprocal attack you would probably object to - one could point out that the average black person is much more likely to be arrested(https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2015/crime-in-the-u.s.-...) and use this to call specific black people "dangerous". In both cases, you are prejudging based on a stereotype.

The second objection is that once you start to delve into the "privileges", the label just doesn't seem to fit the actual things being described. Actually searching for "white male privileges" leads me to articles that are so easy to fight that I feel like I'd be addressing a strawman[0][1][2], so if possible, could you provide a list? My general contention is that the lists of "privileges" end up being a mix of: significant outcome benefits which have controversial correlation-not-causation interpretations(e.g. is blacks being arrested more "white privilege" or simply the amalgamated effect of high poverty, low education and latent racism?); things you would not really describe as "privileges" but simply different choices(e.g. men having longer careers due to spending less family time); things that are incredibly petty("I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time." from [0])

[0] - http://www.winnipeg.ca/clerks/boards/citizenequity/pdfs/whit...

[1] - http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/11/lessons-white-privilege-...

[2] - http://www.care2.com/causes/what-exactly-is-white-privilege-...


It's factually accurate, and recognizing that fact helps lots of people.

And it hinders a lot more because it pre-supposes that race is the root cause for a lot of social ills when it's really things like lack of access to education, which hurts poor white, black and end everything in between people.

It also get's used to diminish the accomplishments of many white people that did not have privileged backgrounds.

Pointing out the uncontroversial fact that the average black man faces challenges which the average white man doesn't diminishes the white man's accomplishment's ... how, again?



Flamewar comments like this are not allowed on HN and will get your account banned if you continue to do it.


I'm not the precious snowflake worried about how acknowledging the reality of racism in society will hurt my feelings.


Flamewar comments like this are not allowed on HN and will get your account banned if you continue to do it.

> Black kids don't get to spend time with their fathers

All too often true, but...

> Feminists made sure of that.

I think you have the "war on some drugs, especially those in the possession of non-whites" confused with "feminists".


Then you need to read more history, because it's happened just about everywhere at various times.

More to the point though, a lot of white people didn't get in on that economic boom either, a lot of Balkan refugees during the 90's for instance, they don't like being told how privileged they are.



Sure, I have been searched through customs in different countries.

I have not been in a traffic stop ever but I had been under fire (from military, not quite police so maybe not as scary?), does it count?

>Please tell me about all the times your value as a human being has been determined solely based upon your appearance.

I imagine you did not think this one through, you are actually implying my value as a human being has been determined high based on my appearance.

PS. Seeing your edit, how is it related to being enslaved for generations and oppressed after that? I have all rights to be afraid of racist cops of different color. I am not a woman so my chances of assault and murder are way higher, check out statistic before repeating ignorance. And yes, I am not disabled, are you saying everyone else is???

> I have all rights to be afraid of racist cops of different color.

Especially if they're racist against you, of course you do. That's the point. Please see my reply to 'flukus's comment that is a sibling to yours.

> I am not a woman so my chances of assault and murder are way higher...

I was speaking primarily of domestic violence. If you give any kind of credence to the statistics about how under-reported that is, women get beat up a lot more often than men.

I am not sure I understand. Are you saying there is no racism against whites or it does not exist in the US so, in fact, I should not be afraid of anti-white racists?

I'm saying none of those things. I appreciate that you're not a native speaker of English, but I'm not sure how much clearer I can be, here.

> Please tell me about all the times you've had to fear for your life during spurious, random traffic stops.

This person or their parents probably had to deal with exactly that. They may even have first hand experience with genocide.

If you don't have to worry about all the shit that comes along with those things then you have privilege, regardless of your skin color.

> If you don't have to worry about all the shit that comes along with those things then you have privilege, regardless of your skin color.

Of course. Race and privilege are only joined insofar as their cultural context makes them. In a society that's virulently prejudiced against grey-eyed Slavs, 'pandaman is necessarily going to be "less privileged" than whoever that society favors.

That's exactly what the concept was created to indicate: how much of a given society's aggregate human mental garbage (racism, sexism, ableism, whatever-else-ism) a given person has to deal with, on the basis of who they happen to be, within that society.

No, but it is incredibly silly to believe that your notions of class and privilege are anything but extremely leaky abstractions that are insufficient to use to reason about the individuals they try to cover. It's the basic fallacy of the social theorist disciplines.


You could point out other advantages that acrew to tall people, fit people, athletic people, rich people, beautiful people, young people, edycated people, etc etc etc

And the disadvantages faced by short people, fat people, non athletic people, poor people, ugly people, old people, uneducated people, etc etc etc.

My point being that everyone faces a different set of advantages and disadvantages that other people and classes either can't benefit from or prosper from.

Where are you seeing it now? Doesn't seem to be any in these comments or in TFA.

identity politics is for everyone

I knew it!


Aside from that, this are just the oldest known fossils with human traits, how will your world view change if we find evidence of an even older ancestor outside Europe?

The problem with these scientists is they are far too young to have played Ultima II and thus missed out on the opportunity to learn about Pangea.

Look up Kumari Kandam for what (we) Tamils think as the origin of mankind.

Edit - Not sure why I am being downvoted. I didn't claim it to be true. It seemed relevant and a lot of folks around me believe it.

TLDR: It's Lemuria, the Atlantis of the subcontinent (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumari_Kandam). It has about as much relevance as the biblical garden of eden.

Haha, thanks. This is quite entertaining. A modern origin myth. Never thought I'd see something like that widespread uptake.

It says that textbooks as late as 1981 had this stuff in them. Fascinating. Boy am I glad they got rid of this stuff by the time I was in school in the '90s.

Just read about this, it's a pretty cool origin myth! I had never heard about the legend of Lemuria before.

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