Radioactive decay dating game

“I was really quite blown away when the paper was published in Nature,” says George Washington University paleoanthropologist Alison Brooks.

Although there’s no way to know whether the zigzag was communicative or mere doodling, she marvels at the inventiveness of our distant ancestors.

After four years of searching, he uncovered a skullcap with a simian-like brow ridge and a large brain case, along with other fragmentary fossils, buried near the Solo River on the Indonesian island of Java.

Dubois’ “Java Man” became a lightning rod for debate at a time when many in the scientific community still resisted the idea that humans evolved from anything.

Dubois’ missing-link claim was eventually disproven. Java Man was reclassified in the 1950s as Homo erectus and is now called Trinil 2, in reference to the excavation site. Found with the fossils by Dubois, but not studied closely until recently, were artifacts that could help rewrite the story of human cognitive development. candidate named Stephen Munro was studying prehistoric hominin habitats by examining fossil mollusks. Munro’s first thought was that the engraving must be human.

The evidence was stashed away at Leiden’s natural history museum in the Netherlands, where the Dubois Collection has been stored for more than a century. Passing through Leiden, he photographed some ancient shells that Dubois had collected with the H. His second thought: Some rogue curator might have done it as a practical joke.

She and a colleague had already noticed another strange quality: Many of the shells had small holes near their hinges.

The holes seemed to have been made with shark teeth, a number of which were found with the fossils.

“There was a long time when people thought Africans had nothing to do with the rest of the world after the first human ancestors left Africa 2 [million] to 1.8 million years ago,” Brooks explains.

The fact that Europe is not uniquely the seat of the earliest art “argues very strongly that the humans who left Africa had the capacity to make images and to make symbols,” she says, “and they probably had it for a while.” Anthropologist Paul Taçon — a Griffith University colleague of Aubert and Brumm who was not involved in their study — concurs, connecting the Sulawesi paintings to the Javanese shell engraving.

Because cave paintings deteriorate quickly in island humidity, scientists always assumed the paintings must be less than 10,000 years old.

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