ASU team detects earliest modern humans | ASU NewsFrom the press release alone it seems the significant observations were that early Homo Sapiens may have evolved by the ocean. Hard to know if that explains why we are, for a primate, terrific swimmers . The study also moves a key cognitive task, bladelet creation, back another 60,000 years.
After decades of debate, paleoanthropologists now agree the genetic and fossil evidence suggests that the modern human species – Homo sapiens – evolved in Africa between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago...
... “Generally speaking, coastal areas were of no use to early humans – unless they knew how to use the sea as a food source” says Marean. “For millions of years, our earliest hunter-gatherer relatives only ate terrestrial plants and animals. Shellfish was one of the last additions to the human diet before domesticated plants and animals were introduced.”
Before, the earliest evidence for human use of marine resources and coastal habitats was dated about 125,000 years ago. “Our research shows that humans started doing this at least 40,000 years earlier. This could have very well been a response to the extreme environmental conditions they were experiencing,” he says.
“We also found what archaeologists call bladelets – little blades less than 10 millimeters in width, about the size of your little finger,” Marean says. “These could be attached to the end of a stick to form a point for a spear, or lined up like barbs on a dart – which shows they were already using complex compound tools. And, we found evidence that they were using pigments, especially red ochre, in ways that we believe were symbolic,” he describes.
Archaeologists view symbolic behavior as one of the clues that modern language may have been present. The earliest bladelet technology was previously dated to 70,000 years ago, near the end of the Middle Stone Age, and the modified pigments are the earliest securely dated and published evidence for pigment use.
“Coastlines generally make great migration routes,” Marean says. “Knowing how to exploit the sea for food meant these early humans could now use coastlines as productive home ranges and move long distances.”..
So if humans could manufacture bladelets 125, 000 years ago, what the heck were they doing for 115,000 years prior to conquest of the planet? That's a heck of a long time in the context of human evolution
We have a lot in common with those early Homo sapiens, but I suspect our minds are pretty different.
Update 10/20/07: I remembered this was called the "aquatic ape theory". It may have been popular in the 1970s. It's suffered from some eccentric proponents over the years.