ANTHROPOGENY (The theory of a man's origin and formation). As it often happens
in science, accumulation of new facts and observations does not by all means
serve to clarification of this or that problem. As far back as 40 years ago it
was written in all the text-books wrote that our most ancient ancestor had lived
about 500.000 years before on the island of Java. He was a Javanese
Pithecanthropus (top figure, in the middle), his fossil bones were found and
studied by Dutch physician and anthropologist E. Duboi. There were other
discoveries as well. In China, in the Choukoutien cave a skull and some bones
of a Sinanthropus with some signs of advanced evolution in comparison with a
Pithecanthropus were found. The Homo erectus from Heidelberg and the
Neanderthal man, found in
Germany, were still more advanced. Basing on these observations a simple and
consistent scheme of a man's evolution was formed.
Though professional anthropologists never spoke directly but it was somehow
generally accepted that every preceding species gradually evolved into a
subsequent one and at last a Neanderthal man turned into Homo sapiens.
In the sixties there came a series of discoveries by the Leakey family (Louis,
Mary and their son Robert, anthropologists from South Africa). They had
found in the Eastern Africa a lot of bones and in some cases almost complete
skeletons of an evolved ancestor of a Pithecanthropus - an Australopithecus
Strictly speaking, an Australopithecus had already been known since 1924 but
only separate bones had been found then and the Leackey's excavations gave a
lot of finds.
Together with the Australopithecus bones there were splintered bones of
animals and roughly worked stone tools. Surprising and sensational in Leakey's
works was the discovery of a chain of footprints of an adult Australopithecus
and of a baby. The anthropogenetic scheme had acquired one more, the initial
But this scheme also did not existed for a long time. Genetic studies of the
last years in the United States
and in Germany showed that, first of all, "Mother-progenitress" of the
mankind was an African and, secondly, a Neanderthal man could not be an
ancestor of a modern man. It was a blind branch of the evolution, died out
(or destroyed by frost) about 40 thousands years ago, during the strongest
fall in temperature and icing.
The Leakeys and their followers successfully used radioisotopic methods of
the absolute age determination. According to the results of these methods
the most ancient Australopithecus lived about 3,7 billions of years ago.
It turned out that there were some species of the Neanderthal man and
Australopithecus, and Homo Sapience appeared in Africa about 200000 years ago.
The modern ideas, concerning the anthropogeny
have become much more complicated and sometimes put more questions than give answers (see diargam).
Here is how the hominide family looks like in the light of
our modent notions. A Neanderthal woman is the second on the right.