New Chinese Hominid

Alex Duncan (
17 Nov 1995 02:52:09 GMT

>The teeth are claimed to be more primitive than any known Asian Homo
>erectus finds. Homo ergaster or another species of early Homo (possibly
>habilis) are suggested. the premolar has a double root like H. ergaster.
>There is supposed to be a report in today's Nature (journal). Given the
>new dates from Indonesian reported last year and the Dmanisi jaw and
>tools from Georgia at 1.8 million years ago, there is surely growing
>support for an early out of Africa scenario...
>Ralph Holloway

I saw the article as well, and was somewhat disturbed by Wilford's (the
author) use of the term H. ergaster. At one time this nomen was applied
to the smaller "species" of "H. habilis" sensu lato, and is now being
applied to specimens such as ER 3733, ER 3883 & WT 15000 that arguably
belong to H. erectus.

In other words, it's not clear to me what Wilford meant by H. ergaster.
If he meant specimens similar to early African "H. erectus" then the find
is a little less significant than claimed, as it extends the range of
Asian H. erectus from ~1.8 Myr to close to 2.0 Myr. (Note my bias here
-- I don't buy that the early African H. erectus should be placed in a
different species than Asian H. erectus). I don't deny the significance
of extending the temporal range of H. erectus...

If on the other hand, Wilford meant "the smaller habiline taxon" when he
said "H. ergaster" ... well, that seems problematic as well. The article
I saw had a picture of someone's hand holding some of the teeth. The
hand was either VERY small, or the teeth were quite large. Obviously,
it's dangerous to attempt scaling from such a photo, but the impression I
got was that the teeth were far too large to have belonged to the smaller
habiline taxon, and were more likely to have belonged to the larger one,
to which current consensus applies the taxon label "H. rudolfensis".

If this is the case, then WOW! It's pretty exciting. Do the
"Meganthropus" remains need to be re-evaluated in view of these findings?

Alex Duncan
Dept. of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX 78712-1086