Re: Wolpoff v. Swisher

Dan Barnes (
Mon, 13 Jan 1997 17:09:51 GMT

In article <>,
>I have just finished reading a new article by Milford Wolpoff at
> in which Prof.
>Wolpoff declines to criticize the new dates proposed by Swisher, et al
>for the Ngandong fossils and the Sambungmachan skullcap. Instead, he
>questions the assignment of the aforementioned specimens to H. erectus
>when it should be clear (according to him) that they bear far more
>resemblance to nearby H. sapiens. Here, quoted, is the initial summary
>of his position:
>>.......there are a number of reasons why Ngandong and
>>Sambungmachan must be regarded as Homo sapiens and not "Homo
>>1.Ngandong and Sambungmachan show notable similarities to Late
>>Native Australians;

This has been refuted by Lahr's multivariate analysis of the relevant hominids
(see: Foley & Lahr, 1992; Lahr, 1994; 1996; Lahr & Foley, 1992; Lahr & Wright,
1996) although I notice Wolpoff criticises this work in his article.

>>2.The Kabuh Indonesians are among the ancestors of Holocene and living
>>Native Australians and Ngandong and Sambungmachan are temporally and
>>anatomically intermediate between them. If they were both "Homo erectus"
>>and dated as recently as suggested, it would suggest the interpretation of
>>polygenism - different populations became Homo sapiens at different times -
>>and this is unacceptable;

Unacceptable only to Multiregionalists - it is an interesting comment as it shows
the 'agenda' most palaeoanthropologists bring to the interpretation of the fossil
record i.e. if the evidence doesn't suit my theory then it must be flawed.

>>3.The evolutionary trends in a Kabuh to Ngandong lineage are the same as
>>trends in other evolving Homo sapiens populations and it is unlikely these
>>changes reflect parallelisms between species.

Lahr again deals with this and again see Wolpoff's response.

>While the article goes on to make some cogent points, I find some of
>Wolpoff's reasoning to be convoluted at best. I do, however, feel very
>uncomfortable with the new dates. Has anyone with a better knowledge
>than I of the Java specimens read the article? Where does the argument
>fall down? Or does it?
I have spoken to the people at McMasters who've done the dates and they are
confident in them. I can't find a likely scenario to explain the dates if they are
wrong - except if the teeth are not associated with the hominids - but they have
done the best they can to establish they are of a similar age. However, even
though no-one can criticise the dates from the geochemistry angle it is known
that teeth with similar chemical characteristics have produced ages that are too
low - I know there is a paper in production that may deal with this phemomenon
(but don't hold your breath) - but there is no explanation as to why it occurs.