Re: 30,000 year old Homo erectus

Ralph L Holloway (
Wed, 18 Dec 1996 11:16:26 -0500

On Wed, 18 Dec 1996, Dan Barnes wrote:

> The archaic Homo sapiens designation is the one I'd always assumed but the
> Science article quotes Rightmire (when examining them this March) as saying
> they are definetly H.e. and after his examination of the earliest archaic H.s. for
> his paper this year I would assume he can spot the difference.
> However, I'm not an anatomist but I am a U-series dater and I cannot fault the
> dates (other than the simple 'they must be wrong') or the associations. Other
> dates are problematic esp. the gamma U-series that have never been
> published. I think time (and 14C dates) will tell.
I still haven't seen the Science article so I should withhold criticism
until I do. I have the greatest respect for Philip Rightmire, and have
worked with him in Kenya. But the Solo specimens are not a clear-cut case
for either Homo erectus or archaic Homo sapiens, and calling them archaic
Homo sapiens retaining some earlier Homo erectus features would still be
my choice, and that of Santa Luca also, who did the most recent study of
those specimens. One of my points that didn't get expressed well was that
when I visited the solo river sites (back in 1971-72 I think), it was very
difficult to tell exactly where the specimens had come from, i.e.,
precisely. I am not an expert on dating methods so can't comment on that
issue. What I am concerned about, however, is the apparent belief that a
late dating of 27,000 BP suddenly converts archaic Homo sapiens into Homo
erectus (sensu strictu), and claims to solve the thorny problem of "out of
Africa" vs "multiregionalism". These Solo crania, whether 27,000 or
127,000 years old could still be descended from a regional form of earlier
H. erectus, evolving slightly larger cranial capacities,and retaining
large brow ridges, sagittal keels, hlarge nuchal palnes, etc, etc, and
still have more modern Homo sapiens come later with the former either
suddenly or gradualy dying out. I think we paleoanthropologists try to
read too much evolutionary biology into our pathetic samples, and it is
well to remember that for the whole of Indonesia, there are but 11-12
fragmentary specimens for the whole of what we call "Solo". Late dates for
this stuff are intriguing, but surely not some isolated piece of
evidence that sinks the multiregional ship entirely.