Re: homo species

Ralph L Holloway (
Tue, 11 Jul 1995 16:41:29 -0400

On 11 Jul 1995, Alex Duncan wrote:

> In article <3ttnm1$> Pete Vincent, VINCENT@TRIUMF.CA
> writes:
> >I guess I must be getting out of date. Is there no longer any support
> >for these being
> > Homo sapiens sapiens
> > " " neandertalensis
> > " " heidelbergensis ?
> Not much.

There are still some holdouts amongst us older paleoanthropologists
that regard the differences between neandertals and modern Homo sapiens
as a matter of subspecific ("racial") variation rather at the level of
between-species variation. The original poster might be interested to
know that this is one of the 'pendular" problems in palaeoanthropology,
and that the pendulum is shifting toward the "splitting" end of the
spectrum. -Having studied the brain endocats of Neandertals, I still
cannot understand anything about the morphology that would lead me to
believe they were a different species than ourselves. As for the rest of
the morphology, I would expect differences as between Bushmen and
Australian aborigines, or Eskimos and Ituri forrest Pygmies, etc, to be
about of the same dimensionality.
I particularly don't buy into the position, now seemingly ascendent
that Neandertal behavior was so static and moribund (without innovation)
that they were a different species, and a dopey one at that. It's a
cultural bias, no doubt, on my part, that I tend to regard stability as
"good" and "change" as not necessarily 'adaptive'. I am willing to admit
this is partly a function of my own age...(grin). One thing about
palaeoanthropology, you can take a position, currently unpopular, and
expect to see your position become popular with time. Until the damn
things are discovered frozen in blocks of ice, and we can test the DNA
and perhaps experiment with the frozen sperm and eggs, we simply won't
ever know for sure. Ditto with language origins, sexual behavior, etc., etc.
As for H. heidelbergensis, remember that all we have is a jaw. Exact
dating is missing, and while the coracoid process is hugh as is the
breadth of the vertical ramus, it could well be included within Homo
Ralph Holloway.