russian/english

Anthropogeny

 

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 Afarensis.

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 link.

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.

 


 

  

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