Author Topic: The Boskop Hominids  (Read 10072 times)

Offline Arctodus

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The Boskop Hominids
« on: January 03, 2010, 07:16:03 AM »

"What Happened to the Hominids Who Were Smarter Than Us?

The Boskops had big eyes, child-like faces, and an average intelligence of around 150, making them geniuses among Homo sapiens.

by Gary Lynch and Richard Granger

 In the autumn of 1913, two farmers were arguing about hominid skull fragments they had uncovered while digging a drainage ditch. The location was Boskop, a small town about 200 miles inland from the east coast of South Africa.

These Afrikaner farmers, to their lasting credit, had the presence of mind to notice that there was something distinctly odd about the bones. They brought the find to Frederick W. Fitz­Simons, director of the Port Elizabeth Museum, in a small town at the tip of South Africa. The scientific community of South Africa was small, and before long the skull came to the attention of S. H. Haughton, one of the country’s few formally trained paleontologists. He reported his findings at a 1915 meeting of the Royal Society of South Africa. “The cranial capacity must have been very large,” he said, and “calculation by the method of Broca gives a minimum figure of 1,832 cc [cubic centimeters].” The Boskop skull, it would seem, housed a brain perhaps 25 percent or more larger than our own.

The idea that giant-brained people were not so long ago walking the dusty plains of South Africa was sufficiently shocking to draw in the luminaries back in England. Two of the most prominent anatomists of the day, both experts in the reconstruction of skulls, weighed in with opinions generally supportive of Haughton’s conclusions.

The Scottish scientist Robert Broom reported that “we get for the corrected cranial capacity of the Boskop skull the very remarkable figure of 1,980 cc.” Remarkable indeed: These measures say that the distance from Boskop to humans is greater than the distance between humans and their Homo erectus predecessors.

Might the very large Boskop skull be an aberration? Might it have been caused by hydrocephalus or some other disease? These questions were quickly preempted by new discoveries of more of these skulls.

As if the Boskop story were not already strange enough, the accumulation of additional remains revealed another bizarre feature: These people had small, childlike faces. Physical anthropologists use the term pedomorphosis to describe the retention of juvenile features into adulthood. This phenomenon is sometimes used to explain rapid evolutionary changes. For example, certain amphibians retain fishlike gills even when fully mature and past their water-inhabiting period. Humans are said by some to be pedomorphic compared with other primates.Our facial structure bears some resemblance to that of an immature ape. Boskop’s appearance may be described in terms of this trait. A typical current European adult, for instance, has a face that takes up roughly one-third of his overall cranium size. Boskop has a face that takes up only about one-fifth of his cranium size, closer to the proportions of a child. Examination of individual bones confirmed that the nose, cheeks, and jaw were all childlike.

The combination of a large cranium and immature face would look decidedly unusual to modern eyes, but not entirely unfamiliar. Such faces peer out from the covers of countless science fiction books and are often attached to “alien abductors” in movies. The naturalist Loren Eiseley made exactly this point in a lyrical and chilling passage from his popular book, The Immense Journey, describing a Boskop fossil:

“There’s just one thing we haven’t quite dared to mention. It’s this, and you won’t believe it. It’s all happened already. Back there in the past, ten thousand years ago. The man of the future, with the big brain, the small teeth. He lived in Africa. His brain was bigger than your brain. His face was straight and small, almost a child’s face.”

Boskops, then, were much talked and written about, by many of the most prominent figures in the fields of paleontology and anthropology.

Yet today, although Neanderthals and Homo erectus are widely known, Boskops are almost entirely forgotten. Some of our ancestors are clearly inferior to us, with smaller brains and apelike countenances. They’re easy to make fun of and easy to accept as our precursors. In contrast, the very fact of an ancient ancestor like Boskop, who appears un-apelike and in fact in most ways seems to have had characteristics superior to ours, was destined never to be popular.

The history of evolutionary studies has been dogged by the intuitively attractive, almost irresistible idea that the whole great process leads to greater complexity, to animals that are more advanced than their predecessors. The pre-Darwin theories of evolution were built around this idea; in fact, Darwin’s (and Wallace’s) great and radical contribution was to throw out the notion of “progress” and replace it with selection from among a set of random variations. But people do not easily escape from the idea of progress. We’re drawn to the idea that we are the end point, the pinnacle not only of the hominids but of all animal life.

Boskops argue otherwise. They say that humans with big brains, and perhaps great intelligence, occupied a substantial piece of southern Africa in the not very distant past, and that they eventually gave way to smaller-brained, possibly less advanced Homo sapiens—that is, ourselves.

We have seen reports of Boskop brain size ranging from 1,650 to 1,900 cc. Let’s assume that an average Boskop brain was around 1,750 cc. What does this mean in terms of function? How would a person with such a brain differ from us? Our brains are roughly 25 percent larger than those of the late Homo erectus. We might say that the functional difference between us and them is about the same as between ourselves and Boskops.

Expanding the brain changes its internal proportions in highly predictable ways. From ape to human, the brain grows about fourfold, but most of that increase occurs in the cortex, not in more ancient structures. Moreover, even within the cortex, the areas that grow by far the most are the association areas, while cortical structures such as those controlling sensory and motor mechanisms stay unchanged.

Going from human to Boskop, these association zones are even more disproportionately expanded. Boskop’s brain size is about 30 percent larger than our own—that is, a 1,750-cc brain to our average of 1,350 cc. And that leads to an increase in the prefrontal cortex of a staggering 53 percent. If these principled relations among brain parts hold true, then Boskops would have had not only an impressively large brain but an inconceivably large prefrontal cortex.

The prefrontal cortex is closely linked to our highest cognitive functions. It makes sense out of the complex stream of events flowing into the brain; it places mental contents into appropriate sequences and hierarchies; and it plays a critical role in planning our future actions. Put simply, the prefrontal cortex is at the heart of our most flexible and forward-looking thoughts.

While your own prefrontal area might link a sequence of visual material to form an episodic memory, the Boskop may have added additional material from sounds, smells, and so on. Where your memory of a walk down a Parisian street may include the mental visual image of the street vendor, the bistro, and the charming little church, the Boskop may also have had the music coming from the bistro, the conversations from other strollers, and the peculiar window over the door of the church. Alas, if only the Boskop had had the chance to stroll a Parisian boulevard!

Expansion of the association regions is accompanied by corresponding increases in the thickness of those great bundles of axons, the cable pathways, linking the front and back of the cortex. These not only process inputs but, in our larger brains, organize inputs into episodes. The Boskops may have gone further still. Just as a quantitative increase from apes to humans may have generated our qualitatively different language abilities, possibly the jump from ourselves to Boskops generated new, qualitatively different mental capacities.

We internally activate many thoughts at once, but we can retrieve only one at a time. Could the Boskop brain have achieved the ability to retrieve one memory while effortlessly processing others in the background, a split-screen effect enabling far more power of attention?

Each of us balances the world that is actually out there against our mind’s own internally constructed version of it. Maintaining this balance is one of life’s daily challenges. We occasionally act on our imagined view of the world, sometimes thoroughly startling those around us. (“Why are you yelling at me? I wasn’t angry with you—you only thought I was.”) Our big brains give us such powers of extrapolation that we may extrapolate straight out of reality, into worlds that are possible but that never actually happened. Boskop’s greater brains and extended internal representations may have made it easier for them to accurately predict and interpret the world, to match their internal representations with real external events.

Perhaps, though, it also made the Boskops excessively internal and self-reflective. With their perhaps astonishing insights, they may have become a species of dreamers with an internal mental life literally beyond anything we can imagine.

Even if brain size accounts for just 10 to 20 percent of an IQ test score, it is possible to conjecture what kind of average scores would be made by a group of people with 30 percent larger brains. We can readily calculate that a population with a mean brain size of 1,750 cc would be expected to have an average IQ of 149.

This is a score that would be labeled at the genius level. And if there was normal variability among Boskops, as among the rest of us, then perhaps 15 to 20 percent of them would be expected to score over 180. In a classroom with 35 big-headed, baby-faced Boskop kids, you would likely encounter five or six with IQ scores at the upper range of what has ever been recorded in human history. The Boskops coexisted with our Homo sapiens forebears. Just as we see the ancient Homo erectus as a savage primitive, Boskop may have viewed us in somewhat the same way.

They died and we lived, and we can’t answer the question why. Why didn’t they outthink the smaller-brained hominids like ourselves and spread across the planet? Perhaps they didn’t want to.

Longer brain pathways lead to larger and deeper memory hierarchies. These confer a greater ability to examine and discard more blind alleys, to see more consequences of a plan before enacting it. In general this enables us to think things through. If Boskops had longer chains of cortical networks—longer mental assembly lines—they would have created longer and more complex classification chains. When they looked down a road as far as they could, before choosing a path, they would have seen farther than we can: more potential outcomes, more possible downstream costs and benefits.

As more possible outcomes of a plan become visible, the variance among judgments between individuals will likely lessen. There are far fewer correct paths—intelligent paths—than there are paths. It is sometimes argued that the illusion of free will arises from the fact that we can’t adequately judge all p ossible moves, with the result that our choices are based on imperfect, sometimes impoverished, information.

Perhaps the Boskops were trapped by their ability to see clearly where things would head. Perhaps they were prisoners of those majestic brains.

There is another, again poignant, possible explanation for the disappearance of the big-brained people. Maybe all that thoughtfulness was of no particular survival value in 10,000 B.C. The great genius of civilization is that it allows individuals to store memory and operating rules outside of their brains, in the world that surrounds them. The human brain is a sort of central processing unit operating on multiple memory disks, some stored in the head, some in the culture. Lacking the external hard drive of a literate society, the Boskops were unable to exploit the vast potential locked up in their expanded cortex. They were born just a few millennia too soon.

In any event, Boskops are gone, and the more we learn about them, the more we miss them. Their demise is likely to have been gradual. A big skull was not conducive to easy births, and thus a within-group pressure toward smaller heads was probably always present, as it still is in present-day humans, who have an unusually high infant mortality rate due to big-headed babies. This pressure, together with possible interbreeding with migrating groups of smaller-brained peoples, may have led to a gradual decrease in the frequency of the Boskop genes in the growing population of what is now South Africa.

Then again, as is all too evident, human history has often been a history of savagery. Genocide and oppression seem primitive, whereas modern institutions from schools to hospices seem enlightened. Surely, we like to think, our future portends more of the latter than the former. If learning and gentility are signs of civilization, perhaps our almost-big brains are straining against their residual atavism, struggling to expand. Perhaps the preternaturally civilized Boskops had no chance against our barbarous ancestors, but could be leaders of society if they were among us today.

Maybe traces of Boskops, and their unusual nature, linger on in isolated corners of the world. Physical anthropologists report that Boskop features still occasionally pop up in living populations of Bushmen, raising the possibility that the last of the race may have walked the dusty Transvaal in the not-too-distant past. Some genes stay around in a population, or mix themselves into surrounding populations via interbreeding. The genes may remain on the periphery, neither becoming widely fixed in the population at large nor being entirely eliminated from the gene pool.

Just about 100 miles from the original Boskop discovery site, further excavations were once carried out by Frederick FitzSimons. He knew what he had discovered and was eagerly seeking more of these skulls.

At his new dig site, FitzSimons came across a remarkable piece of construction. The site had been at one time a communal living center, perhaps tens of thousands of years ago. There were many collected rocks, leftover bones, and some casually interred skeletons of normal-looking humans. But to one side of the site, in a clearing, was a single, carefully constructed tomb, built for a single occupant—perhaps the tomb of a leader or of a revered wise man. His remains had been positioned to face the rising sun. In repose, he appeared unremarkable in every regard...except for a giant skull."

Offline MB

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Re: The Boskop Hominids
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2010, 08:49:58 AM »
...We can readily calculate that a population with a mean brain size of 1,750 cc would be expected to have an average IQ of 149...
How can you meaningfully calculate such a thing when you go beyond the bounds of known data? Brains are rather complex organs, are they not? It doesn't sound very easy to me.

How much energy would such a brain consume, assuming that it really is remarkably large? What would have been the available diet? Why think that this larger configuration would be advantageous?

...They died and we lived, and we can’t answer the question why. Why didn’t they outthink the smaller-brained hominids like ourselves and spread across the planet?...

I don't know, but I sense that the authors of the article may have begun with their conclusions and reasoned backwards from there.

Offline Laura

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Re: The Boskop Hominids
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2010, 09:56:56 AM »
Brain size does not necessarily equate to intelligence.  They say "not so long ago".  How long ago exactly?
He who learns must suffer
And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget
Falls drop by drop upon the heart,
And in our own despair, against our will,
Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
Agamemnon, Aeschylus

Offline Ottershrew

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Re: The Boskop Hominids
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2010, 11:28:00 PM »
...We can readily calculate that a population with a mean brain size of 1,750 cc would be expected to have an average IQ of 149...
How can you meaningfully calculate such a thing when you go beyond the bounds of known data? Brains are rather complex organs, are they not? It doesn't sound very easy to me.

I don't know, but I sense that the authors of the article may have begun with their conclusions and reasoned backwards from there.

I think you're probably right, Megan. It looks as though Boskop Man was dropped as a meaningful palaeontological term way back in the 1950's. Lynch and Granger aren't paleoanthropologists, but rather experts in neuroscience - and it looks very like they lifted some of their ideas from an essay by Loren Eiseley in his very influential 1958 book "The Immense Journey".

John Hawks at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has some pretty useful things to say about Lynch and Granger's book "Big Brain: The Origins and Future of Human Intelligence", which might help to put the issue of Boskop Man into some paleoanthropological perspective:

I've gotten a couple of e-mail questions from readers about this new book, Big Brain: The Origins and Future of Human Intelligence. The authors are Gary Lynch and Richard Granger.

Both Lynch and Granger are experts in neuroscience, with a long list of publications on memory, cortical organization, and chemical regulation of brain activity. Neither of them is an anthropologist or archaeologist.

So I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to see what appears to be complete lunacy in the book description:

    Our big brains, our language ability, and our intelligence make us uniquely human. But barely 10,000 years ago--a mere blip in evolutionary time--human-like creatures called "Boskops" flourished in South Africa. They possessed extraordinary features: forebrains roughly 50% larger than ours, and estimated IQs to match--far surpassing our own. Many of these huge fossil skulls have been discovered over the last century, but most of us have never heard of this scientific marvel. Prominent neuroscientists Gary Lynch and Richard Granger compare the contents of the Boskop brain and our own brains today, and arrive at startling conclusions about our intelligence and creativity. Connecting cutting-edge theories of genetics, evolution, language, memory, learning, and intelligence, Lynch and Granger show the implications of large brains on a broad array of fields, from the current state of the art in Alzheimer's and other brain disorders, to new advances in brain-based robots that see and converse with us, and the means by which neural prosthetics-- replacement parts for the brain--are being designed and tested. The authors demystify the complexities of our brains in this fascinating and accessible book, and give us tantalizing insights into our humanity--its past, and its future.

Now, I haven't read the book, and this is not a review. I think a book that puts together the state of the art in neuroscience and tries to relate that to many aspects of human evolution would be a great book. Maybe this book has some of that stuff in it.

But it seems pretty evident from the description that there has been a major misfire. If the description of the book is accurate then they have the evolutionary biology almost entirely wrong. I assume the description is at least in the ballpark, since it is the publisher's description, and it's borne out by this Discover magazine review:

    Judging from fossil remains, scientists say the Boskops were similar to modern humans but had small, childlike faces and huge melon heads that held brains about 30 percent larger than our own.

    That's what fascinates psychiatrist Gary Lynch and cognitive scientist Richard Granger. "Just as we're smarter than apes, they were probably smarter than us," they speculate. More insightful and self-reflective than modern humans, with fantastic memories and a penchant for dreaming, the Boskops may have had "an internal mental life literally beyond anything we can imagine."

OK, that's a pretty surprising story: an ancient race with unique mental endowments, living in an exotic part of the world. It sounds uncannily like the Atlantis myth. What is the reality here?

First, if you do a simple Google Scholar search for "Boskop", you will discover that this has not been a going topic in human evolution for nearly fifty years. Most intellectual effort on the topic of "Boskopoids" happened between 1915 and 1930. I want to emphasize how easy it is to discover these things by a simple Google search. This is obscure knowledge, but for a good reason -- it's obsolete and has been for fifty years!

The supposed "Boskop race" was named after a South African skull -- consisting of frontal and parietal bones, with a partial occiput, one temporal and a fragment of mandible -- found on a Transvaal farm in 1913. The skull is a large one, with an estimated endocranial volume of 1800 ml. But it is hardly complete, and arguments about its overall size -- exacerbated by its thickness, which confuses estimates based on regression from external measurements -- have ranged from 1700 to 2000 ml. It is large, but well within the range of sizes found in recent males.

Robert Broom named the skull Homo capensis, emphasizing its differences from recent peoples of the region, and proposing a close relationship with European Cro-Magnons. Other remains found later were also attributed to this "type," and so the "Boskop race" became a category of paleoanthropology. Few people know that before Raymond Dart made his name by analyzing and reporting on the Taung skull, he had written in to Nature with a description of "Boskopoid" crania (Dart 1923).

But this concept of a "Boskop race" did not emerge from any clear understanding of the South African past. In fact, MSA, LSA, and recent archaeological-associated remains were lumped indiscriminately into the category. What provoked the racial category was a confusion about the relationships of recent and historical southern African remains. Anthropologists had attempted to apply primary racial categories such as "Negroid," "Bushman," "Hottentot" and "Strandloper," corresponding to extant or recent tribes or other groups. But the distinctions between these categories did not appear to extend far into the prehistoric past. So anthropologists looked for the origins of these racial types within the sample of prehistoric crania -- constructing a "Boskopoid" type for those with later "Bush" or "Strandloper" resemblances.

This category became untenable as further information about the archaeology of South Africa came to light. Ronald Singer (1958) reviewed the "Boskop race" evidence as it existed by the 1950's. He concluded that there was no reason to maintain that any "big-headed, small-faced group" had existed in prehistory, separate from the current biological variability of "Bushman, Hottentot and Negro." But that view is unsupportable -- in fact, what happened is that a small set of large crania were taken from a much larger sample of varied crania, and given the name, "Boskopoid." This selection was initially done almost without any regard for archaeological or cultural associations -- any old, large skull was a "Boskop". Later, when a more systematic inventory of archaeological associations was entered into evidence, it became clear that the "Boskop race" was entirely a figment of anthropologists' imaginations. Instead, the MSA-to-LSA population of South Africa had a varied array of features, within the last 20,000 years trending toward those present in historic southern African peoples. Singer ends his paper thusly:

    It is now obvious that what was justifiable speculation (because of paucity of data) in 1923, and was apparent as speculation in 1947, is inexcusable to maintain in 1958.

That is pretty much where matters have stood ever since. "Boskopoid" is used only in this historical sense; it is has not been an active unit of analysis since the 1950's. By 1963, Brothwell could claim that Boskop itself was nothing more than a large skull of Khoisan type, leaving the concept of a "Boskop race" far behind.

Today, skeletal remains from South African LSA are generally believed to be ancestral to historic peoples in the region, including the Khoikhoi and San. The ancient people did not mysteriously disappear: they are still with us! The artistic legacy of the ancient peoples, clearly evidenced in rock art, is impressive but no more so than that of the European Upper Paleolithic or that of indigenous Australians.

And their brains were not all that big. Boskop itself is a large skull, but it is a clear standout in the sample of ancient South African crania; other males range from 1350 to 1600 ml (these are documented by Henneberg and Steyn 1993). That is around the same as Upper Paleolithic Europeans and pre-Neolithic Chinese. LSA South Africans fit in with their contemporaries around the world.

To be sure, there has been a reduction in the average brain size in South Africa during the last 10,000 years, and there have been parallel reductions in Europe and China -- pretty much everywhere we have decent samples of skeletons, it looks like brains have been shrinking. This is something I've done quite a bit of research on, and will continue to do so, because it's interesting. But it is hardly a sign that ancient humans had mysterious mental powers -- it is probably a matter of energetic efficiency (brains are expensive), developmental time (brains take a long time to mature) and diet (brains require high protein and fat consumption, less and less available to Holocene populations).

So, how did this idea of ancient Boskops make it into a book by two neuroscientists in 2008?

If not through science, then possibly from science fiction. The "Boskop race" was immortalized in popular writing by Loren Eiseley, who included an essay on Boskop Man in his collection, The Immense Journey, first published in 1958. As you can see, by this time the entire concept of a "Boskop race" had fallen into scientific disrepute. But Eiseley was undeterred: he conjured the idea that the Boskopoids were advanced in their large brains and small faces -- the apex of a trend toward paedomorphism, the retention of juvenile characteristics. In this state, they resembled what Eiseley suggested would be the "Future Man":

    We can, of course, repeat the final, unanswerable question: What did this tremendous brain mean to the Boskop people? We can marvel over their curious and exotic anatomy. We can wonder at the mysterious powers hidden in the human body, so potent that once unleashed they brought this more than modern being into existence on the very threshold of the Ice Age.

    We can debate for days whether that magnificent cranial endowment actually represented a superior brain. We can smile pityingly at his miserable shell heaps, point to the mute stones that were his only tools. We can do this, but in doing it we are mocking our own rude forefathers of a similar day and time. We are forgetting the high artistic sensitivity which flowered in the closing Ice Age of Europe and which, oddly, blossomed here as well, lingering on even among the dwarfed Bushmen of the Kalahari.

    What we can say is that perhaps the unloosed mechanism ran too fast, that the biological clock had speeded them out of their time and place -- a time which ten thousand years later has still not arrived. This, then, was the logical end of complete foetalization: a desperate struggle to survive among a welter of more prolific and aggressive stocks.

For Eiseley, Boskop served as a kind of memento mori -- the so-called advanced race had succumbed to "more prolific and aggressive stocks." A theme of the essay is that the entire idea of "Future Man" is anti-evolutionary -- there are no ineluctible trends of progress in evolution, because such progressive populations may always be endangered by their own direction of change.

I hate to think that the theme of a 2008 book was pulled straight from a 1958 essay, but I don't know where else they would have gotten the idea. No anthropologists have written much about the so-called "Boskopoids" since 1958. There is no such thing as an "IQ estimate" for a fossil human; that's entirely nonsensical. There's no question that there have been massive cultural changes in the last 10,000 years. But the idea that our brains' functions have atrophied from some Pleistocene state has been left long behind in the dust of nineteenth-century race studies.

So I'm left wondering: Why would two neuroscientists, after going to all the trouble to write a book about the evolution of the human brain, use completely obsolete anthropological information without doing a simple Google search to see if the facts have stayed the same as in 1923?

I don't have an answer, but I'm interested in reading the book to see if it lives up to its billing.

Broom R. 1918. The evidence afforded by the Boskop skull of a new species of primitive man (Homo capensis). Anthropol Pap Am Mus Nat Hist 23 (2):63-79.
Brothwell DR. 1963. Evidence of early population change in central and southern Africa: Doubts and problems. Man 63:101-104.
Dart R. 1923. Boskop remains from the south-east African coast. Nature 112:623-625.
Henneberg M, Steyn M. 1993. Trends in cranial capacity and cranial index in Subsaharan Africa during the Holocene. Am J Hum Biol 5:473-479.
Singer R. The Boskop "race" problem. Man 58:173-178.

"Intelligence" of course is itself an interesting term. We might ask about large-brained ancient members of Homo, "What specific kind of intelligence did they have?" This is a constant theme running through James Shreeve's book "The Neandertal Enigma" (1995). Shreeve's careful work in teasing out the threads of current understandings and research in this area - often quite explosive and contentious - makes Lynch and Granger's speculations look a little clumsy, imho.

Here he is on Neandertal intelligence:

Quote from: Shreeve, pp.340-341
The purpose of knowledge, to a Neandertal, would not be to gain control, but to increase intimacy, not just between individuals but between the individual mind and whatever it sees, touches, smells, and remembers.

To this end, I imagine Neandertals possessing a different kind of consciousness. The plurality of "selves" we invent to negotiate our guarded social encounters would be a waste of psychic energy for Neandertals. Instead, let's give them a single but infinitely graded ego, an analog self, as opposed to our own digitized identities. The borders between the Neandertal and the Neandertal world are fuzzy. For us, consciousness seems like an inner "I" resting somewhere deep in the mind, eavesdropping on our stream of thoughts and perceptions. This, of course, is neuro-fiction; there is no special center of the brain where consciousness resides. I would give the Neandertals a fictive inner voice, too, but move it out, away from the center, so that it speaks from nearer to that fuzzy border with the world. A Neandertal thought would be much harder to abstract from the thing or circumstance that the thought is about. The perception of a tree in a Neandertal mind feels like the tree; grief over a lost companion is the absence and the loss. Neandertal psyche floats on the surface of the moment, where the metaphor of consciousness as a moving stream is perfect, the motion serene and unimpeded by countercurrents of re-think, counter-think, and double-think. I picture two Neandertals sitting side by side, their intimacy so exact that their interior voices cross and coalesce, like two streams merging into a river, their waters indistinguishable.

I know it's all speculation on Shreeve's part - but it absolutely crumbled my cookies when I read all this. :shock: :)

Offline Dawn

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Re: The Boskop Hominids
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2010, 12:57:19 AM »
Quote from: Gary Lynch and Richard Granger
Then again, as is all too evident, human history has often been a history of savagery. Genocide and oppression seem primitive, whereas modern institutions from schools to hospices seem enlightened. Surely, we like to think, our future portends more of the latter than the former. If learning and gentility are signs of civilization, perhaps our almost-big brains are straining against their residual atavism, struggling to expand. Perhaps the preternaturally civilized Boskops had no chance against our barbarous ancestors, but could be leaders of society if they were among us today.

Quote from: John Hawks
So I'm left wondering: Why would two neuroscientists, after going to all the trouble to write a book about the evolution of the human brain, use completely obsolete anthropological information without doing a simple Google search to see if the facts have stayed the same as in 1923?

My bet is this book is following the same line of thinking as 'Global Warming' caused by humans, the "Life After People" specials on the Discovery Channel, and the general attitude that humans are not good for the planet. Now the general population interested in anthropology and human history can feel guilty too. I mean wow, our evil war-like intellectually inferior  predecessors killed the smartest most peaceful, possibly god-like creatures that ever existed on Mother Earth.  :cry:

Obviously I'm speculating because I haven't read the book, just the excerpt.

Love possesses not nor will it be possessed, for love is sufficient unto love.

- Kahlil Gibran

Offline MB

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Re: The Boskop Hominids
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2010, 01:36:20 AM »
Most of us love a good story, and some people love to tell stories that other people will enjoy. I enjoyed this one, unbelievable as it was.

The brain is a huge energy consumer (see, for example, _, and any major increase in size would come at a cost that might outweigh the benefit. I can see where these neuroscientists might try to dabble outside their field and run into problems, but I am surprised that they did not consider the energy consumption and heat removal issues up front. Where are the cooling fins on these skulls?  :)
« Last Edit: January 04, 2010, 01:38:07 AM by Megan »

Offline Potamus

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Re: The Boskop Hominids
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2010, 01:00:35 AM »
You mean like the blood vessels in my cat's ears??  Hmmm, maybe that's why they can be so smart at such a small size!  Cooling fins that double as ears!!!  (teehee)

Back on topic: 

Back there in the past, ten thousand years ago. The man of the future, with the big brain, the small teeth. He lived in Africa. His brain was bigger than your brain. His face was straight and small, almost a child’s face.”

Compared with those squashed Mayan heads, similar or not?  Deliberate organism deformity is well known in Africa, and the squashed Mayan head is arguably similar.
One other thought, does the book mention any connection with the Dogon, purported worshippers of Sirius-B?  I don't know if they are in proximity enough or synched
in time?
Were you born all-knowing or did you go through being an idiot first?

Offline Arctodus

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Re: The Boskop Hominids
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2010, 08:41:28 AM »
Thank you all for this information, it helps to see different perspectives and "sniffing" in action.

Offline katesisco

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Re: The Boskop Hominids
« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2013, 03:51:03 AM »
We should consider that the ancient Egyptian royals evidenced this sloped brain case and mysteriously the foundation myths indicate knowledge of our universe which is being proven. 
In fact, if you consider 'gods' as founders of ancient civilizations, you can go back to the Boskop appearance.  If their intelligence was profound, then they would have constructed a false flag about space so as not to encourage their subjects to think that their history was everyones. 

There are the newly discovered European pyramids in Bosnia.  Consider that the much improved version with what has been described as a functional water maser was built in Egypt--Giza.  Then there is the Balbek platform.  Thin evidence I know but perhaps 3 separate efforts to master what we do with rockets, expose ourselves to space with enough protection to stop cosmic rays. 

This outcome would seem to be logical if they were as intelligent as projected. 

50,000 years ago humans got smarter, after 200,000 years of Neanders.  What made the CroMagnons smarter?  I don't think it was other worldly visitors; I think it was a solar ejection.  Perhaps a magnetic blob, which impacted Earth.  Their creation was an accident much like the CroMagnon upgrade.  Science has found other points in history where our advance was a big step forward.  This implies a local source, Sol. 

Did they manage to survive?  If they did they would have nothing in common with us.  They would consider themselves related to us in the same way we do gorillas and chimpanzees.  If they died out could the intelligence reoccur?  Possibly.  But there is the Second Law. 

Science has discovered that sponges which we think are the base of the tree of life are not.  Even below sponges are more advanced life--below sponges is a more advanced life.  Science has held that life originated only once but this may not be true.  Did it start twice?  Did it die out and restart? 

Either way, it holds out hope for an intelligence to reoccur but as science tells us, in a different form.