Universal grammar and the Bantu expansion in Africa

Allan Krill

Linguists are tracing the origins and evolutions of languages. The evidence they use is independent of genetics, but the methodology is quite similar. As with the human genome, they are certain that human language originated in Africa, where they find the greatest diversity of phonemes.

A widespread language family in Africa is Bantu. Its origins can be traced to the highlands between Cameroon and Nigeria, right near Bioko.

But before that time, all humans had apparently evolved ‘universal grammar’ and an innate facility for language. The evolution of this facility must have required selection pressures in which sophisticated language was important. This facility was selected for in babies and children, just as physical features such as furless bodies and subcutaneous fat (blubber) were selected for. In the process of natural selection, babies and children with better language abilities were more likely to have many offspring when they became adults.

If humans were scattered around Africa as small groups of 'Hunter-gatherers', there would have been no selection pressures to evolve universal grammar. However, if thousands of humans were living for millions of years along the shores of Bioko as ‘Free-sharing floaters’, with their main activities being singing and talking, a facility for language would have been an important factor in their reproductive success.

As groups of humans left the island, mainly between 200,000 and 50,000 years ago, they invented vocabularies for new activities and situations. Each group developed its own language. They had already evolved the facility for universal grammar. 

Maps from:


No one wants a ‘Garden of Eden model’ for human evolution

Allan Krill

Human evolution in a special place is a model that scientists try to avoid. It’s like thinking that humans came from another planet. 

But all the evidence points to that. Humans have weaker muscle fiber than any ape or monkey, and are born with blubber instead of muscle. Humans cannot run fast, swim fast, or climb well. They have no fur for defense against cold, sun, or insects, and no sharp teeth or claws for defense against predators. 

Without their big brains, fire, tools, water-containers, and weapons, humans could not survive today anywhere in mainland Africa. They would only have a chance on a warm isolated island where there happens to be plenty of food and fresh water, and no crocodiles, leopards, wolves, or other predators. This is actually a common setting for remarkable evolution, and is known as 'the Island Syndrome'. Galapagos islands provide good examples, and there are many more.

Bioko reminds scientists of the Garden of Eden. For the past century, scientists have been trying to get away from that model — of humans being specially created in a specific place and time. Scientists never want to go back to long-rejected models. But if compelling DNA evidence comes along, we will have no choice. 

Try to think of Bioko as a Galapagos model, rather than a Garden of Eden model.



Paleoanthropologists ‘pull their punches’ to get published

Allan Krill

As a geologist with much experience finding fossils, I am certain that Lucy is a hoax, analogous to Piltdown Man: Graduate student Tom Gray planted fake Lucy fossils, playing the role of Charles Dawson. Professor Don Johanson played the role of Arthur Keith — thrilled to discover these important fossils, and then keeping the hoax hidden from public view for decades. This is an example of kayfabe among key participants.

By reading Johanson's popular books, geologists will realize that his story of this fossil discovery is not believable. But no one in paleoanthropology (except geologist Jon Kalb in his memoir) will challenge it. The Lucy story helps to discredit the alternative story  that humans were created by divine intervention. 

The behaviour of scientists and the media with regard to Lucy is known as 'suspension of disbelief' (Wikipedia): People willingly suspend their inclination to disbelieve. We want to enjoy a good story, and don't want to spoil it.

In 2015, Marc Meyer noticed that the bones of Lucy included a neck bone from a baboon. Many of Lucy's bones are less distinctive, and they should now be chemically analyzed, to test the claim that they really came from the same location and belong to the same creature. It was a simple fluorine analysis that showed Piltdown bones to belong to two modern creatures, a human and an orangutan. That method can reliably show if bones are modern and not fossils. Fossil bones will have absorbed fluorine after thousands of years of burial. Fluorine analysis can also show if the Lucy bones are from different sedimentary rocks than the 3-million-year-old ground where they were found. No one has ever requested a chemical test of Lucy bones.

Meyer could have followed up his baboon-discovery with a 'knock-out punch' to Lucy. He could have pointed out the need for chemical tests of the other bones. But following the practice of kayfabe in paleoanthropology, he 'pulled his punches'. He did not demand chemical testing of the Lucy bones, or point out that such testing would have exposed this mistake decades ago.

Instead, Meyer wrote in the abstract of his paper and again in the conclusions: "This work does not refute previous work on Lucy or its importance for human evolution, but rather highlights the importance of studying original fossils, as well as the efficacy of the scientific method."  I think he had to maintain kayfabe by including that sentence. Otherwise, his manuscript would not have been accepted for publication.  


Examples of kayfabe in paleoanthropology

Allan Krill

To better understand what goes on behind the scenes in paleoanthropology, read about kayfabe on Wikipedia.
Here I will point out some clear examples of kayfabe in this remarkable science.

Happisburgh footprints (before they were destroyed). Scientists maintain kayfabe by never publicly questioning the validity of these supposed footprints. Read about them on Wikipedia. Geologists know that such curious weathering patterns are found in many sedimentary rocks, and have nothing to do with footprints. 


Professional wrestling and paleoanthropology are unlike other sports and sciences

Allan Krill

Pro wrestling and paleoanthropology are designed and maintained for public consumption. They have rules and practices that ensure their continued existence and success. 

In 1989, due to a legal court case, pro wrestling was admitted to be entertainment, not competitive combat sport. I think that within the next few years, due to DNA, paleoanthropology will be understood to be entertainment, not testable reproducible science. The very word paleoanthropology will be an embarrassment to science, like Piltdown Man is an embarrassment. Scientists will prefer the word anthropogeny.

In the meantime, paleoanthropology has rules that must be followed. Authors are not allowed to seriously discuss the aquatic-ape theory. They are not allowed to mention the hypothesis of hoax or falsification of fossil evidence. They are not allowed to cast doubt on the scientific validity of hominin species or hypotheses. They are not allowed to study or chemically test competitors’ original fossil materials. 

Paleoanthropology has an agenda. Leaders continue to uphold traditional beliefs and practices to keep themselves relevant, for economic reasons and for the good of society. Teaching of false beliefs can be called a ‘noble lie.’


Transcript of Michel Odent's talk on Youtube: Selling the Marine Chimpanzee Concept

Allan Krill

Youtube video April 11, 2022:

Thank you [Algis] for this comment about Powerpoint. I reported it to say that I have age 92, and people my age don't like Powerpoints. We want to look at the faces of people, eye-to-eye contact and not to be distracted by pictures. So that's my way of talking to you today.

And as Algis said, a point of departure will be to discuss the term 'aquatic ape theory.' Then to wonder: how marketable, if I can say, how popular can this term be? This is not a new issue. We might say how mediatic this term is. It is not a new issue. And somebody, all of us, heard about our friend's issue a long time ago. She was Elaine Morgan. About 30 years ago, at San Rafael in California, Elaine Morgan had an interview with the editor of Mind Spirit Journal (or something like that.) And this clever man asked her, he said: "Why did you use... The title of your last book is Aquatic Ape. Why, after publishing The Descent of Woman, why did you publish a book title Aquatic Ape?" It was a clever question, and Elaine, immediately, without thinking, replied "Ah, yes, I wanted a [...] to stand on. Scientists didn't like my previous book The Descent of Woman, because it was a bestseller. So that's why I called this one Aquatic Ape." Which was a funny way to say: "I imagine, I assume that this term is not really attractive immediately." It was a clever answer, a long time ago, 30 years ago.

Since that time, we can observe that [...], people in the media never mention 'aquatic ape', even when they publish biographies of Elaine. Recently, [with the unveiling of] Elaine statues, and in the well known journal The Guardian biography of Elaine, you cannot find the term 'aquatic ape'. 

People in the media never mention 'aquatic ape'. They mention The Descent of Woman. They give details that always come back. For example, in her autobiography you will read that the first time Elaine went to Oxford University, people thought that she was a cleaning lady. It was the way she was talking. [...] always clear, at [...] level. So it means that we have good reasons to wonder, is this term marketable? Is it, can it become better known and popular, or should we replace it by another one? 

Personally, I must say that when I can, I avoid this term. Algis mentioned the title of one of my books, The Birth of Homo, the Marine Chimpanzee. So that's why I suggest today, that we contrast these two terms. How can we do it, we need a method. So I suggest that we choose a way of finding a solution to this issue. [...] what Stephen Munro said some months ago. It was in January, in his presentation, in this framework of lectures organized by Algis. He started by saying: "Don't lose time by listening to experts." What did he mean by that? He was suggesting that experts will never know [...] And he gave a list of people with whom we should communicate when we have to find a solution to a difficult issue. He gave a list, and the first kind of people he mentioned on this list was children. Children, ah, let's talk to children. 

So, I followed the advice of Stephen Munro. And I spoke with my good friend Lughan, age 12. And I started a conversation, a serious conversation, with a question. I said: "For your birthday, I'm thinking of giving you a present, a book. Can you choose between two titles? One book will be called 'the aquatic ape'rather We are Aquatic Apes. The other book will be titled We are Marine Chimpanzees." Within two seconds I had the reply: "We are chimpanzees. Marine chimpanzees." I ... know of the work of Jane Goodall, [...] fascinated [...] are cousins yes of course, [...]  [...] interesting because I immediately understood his point of view. There are some similarities between the way of thinking of nonagenarians and children. We have something in common, we dare to [...]. We understand each other.

So I had a series of conversations with my friend, Lughan. And gradually, I found some rational way to interpret the point of view expressed by Lughan. Taking into account my career as a medical practitioner, I found some reasons to clarify the nature of human beings, and to provide some, we might say, rational reasons, to suggest that, perhaps, we might contrast these two terms. That is to say contrast the term 'aquatic' with the term 'marine'. To contrast the term 'ape' with the term 'chimpanzee'. And to contrast the term 'theory' with the term 'concept'.

So let's start with the first one, aquatic. [...So, I reply, as I said, as a medical practitioner, known for the practice of obstetrics. By the way, I am not a physician, there was a [...] but I am not a physician. So let's start with the first word, aquatic. How, a vous ris danch to prefer aquatic to the word marine ou reverse. So, I reply, as I said, as a medical practitioner, artz known for the practice of obstetrics. By the way, I am not an obstetrician, I was a surgeon originally, but I am not a physician [?
]. And I mentioned some mysterious questions, that are related to obstetrics. A mysterious issue, the issue of vernix caseosa. Until the 21st century, there was no interest in general, in medical journals, about vernix caseosa. In textbooks, we could find two or three lines saying human babies, when they are born at term, their skin is covered with a kind of cream, vernix caseosa, it means like cheese. It was mentioned, and at that time, nothing exclusive to say, except that only human beings, only human babies are born with this cream and it was common just to wipe it away. When I was one of the medics in an obstetrical department in Paris 1953, they were wiping it away, the vernix caseosa. Nobody knew what it was for, no function. Nobody was curious about that.

So the turning point, we might say, many of you know that, took place during the 21st century, in 2005. And the turning point was not the result of a study published in an academic journal. It was a program on BBC4. A program presented by David Attenborough. And Attenborough, he had apparently conversations with Don Bowen, a marine biologist from Nova Scotia in Canada, an island. And he said in this program, the title had something to do with evolution, eh ... The Scars of Evolution -- that was the full title. In this program The Scars of Evolution, he mentions that according to Don Bowen, an expert in marine mammals, particularly seals, he had learned that baby seals are also born with their skin covered with vernix caseosa. So it was the first time, on the popular BBC radio program, not a medical or scientific journal, that we heard that vernix caseosa is not only human, it is also in this kind of sea mammals. It was a big turning point.

We must [...] previously, it's important to mention that before that, there had been missed opportunities to wonder in what other mammals besides human beings are also born with their skin covered with vernix caseosa. There had been in the country where Algis is living in 1979 and 1981 there have been studies measuring, evaluating, the amounts of squalene in the amniotic fluid as a way to detect fetuses that might be post-term. 
I must recall (it's useless for most of you) that squalenes are fatty substances in marine living creatures. In fact 'squalene' comes from squalus, it means shark in Latin. So it is typically marine. It was known at that time, it was understood, that at the end of pregnancy, the amount of squalene is going up, going up, going up. But at that time nobody was curious enough toward sea mammals. Nobody thought of that, although we knew about squalenes. So it was a missed opportunity.

There was another missed opportunity in 19.., no, in 2000. A team of dermatologists from the US wanted to develop a protective cream in the case of premature babies. A protective cream. And they looked at vernix caseosa. They tried to imitate vernix caseosa and they gave attention of course to corneocytes. In vernix caseosa there are cells like sponges that are protective in case of immersion in hypertonic water, for example. So they were interested in that. But then they never thought of considering what about sea mammals? They did not think of that. That's why, to learn to wait, to 2005, this BBC radio program, which was not listened by many scientific people, but it was not read by many scientific people.

Because in 2008, there was a study of vernix caseosa. And in this study they were interested in branch-chain fatty acid. Branch-chain fatty acid. That was a special fatty acid saturated, special because there was a CH3 attached to one of the carbon atoms of the fatty acid. So that branch-chain fatty acid. They noticed that. They mentioned that. But obviously, although at that time they knew a lot about branch-chain fatty acids. However, they did not know obviously what Don Bowen had found. 
But this venicosa of seals, it was not mentioned, so it was not something which occurred. But they focused on branch-chain fatty acid at that time. And it was an example of a missed opportunity, that they had not heard about seals before.

So finally, there was a last turning point in 2018. A team from California studying the particular case of sea lions. Sea lions are in the same family as seals, and they found that sea lions are also born with their skin covered by vernix caseosa. They looked at the details of vernix caseosa and what was important is that they understood that in vernix caseosa there are branch-chain fatty acids and particles of vernix caseosa are enriching the amniotic fluid at the end of the pregnancy. And fetuses are swallowing this branch-chain fatty acid. And this happens, they understood that the gut flora in this species, and they compared with human beings. They thought of comparing with human beings. Interesting, the gut flora is to a great extent established in such a way that it contains a lot of branch-chain fatty acids. Then similarities have been mentioned with human beings. So suddenly we realize, that to a certain extent, it is something we have to study more in depth now. To a certain extent, the gut flora of human beings is established similar to the gut flora of sea lions, sea mammals. So this is a way to introduce this issue as a medical practitioner interested in obstetrics. And interested in what has been for such a long time mysterious, [...] which is a way to say that we have a nonsuspected similarity with sea mammals, the marine. It's not aquatic, it's marine-marine-marine. It's an example.

There are other reasons to contrast marine with aquatic when human beings are concerned. It is the issue of the need in iodine. Most human beings cannot consume a sufficient amount of iodine. Most human beings. For those who have no access to the seafood chain, there is not enough. And in particular, when a mother is pregnant or breast feeding, the need in iodine is multiplied by 1.5. And it's such, we might say that it is the most common nutrient deficiency in humans, except those who can consume on a regular basis seafood at such a point. But in many governments have established rules obliging to introduce iodine in the table salt. It is obligatory in many countries, because it's the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. ...

We know why it's serious. But, as everybody knows, that we are characterized by a huge brain and the development and function of the brain depends to a great extent on thyroid hormones. And it is well known that there is a need in iodine to produce thyroid hormones. Particularly serious in the case of pregnant women. This is well known. For example the American Association of Thyroid ATA says that all pregnant women will have on a regular basis, 150 μg of iodine as a supplement. There was a British study demonstrating that when pregnant women have absorbed this supplement of iodine, the average IQ of the children are multiplied by 1.22. So when we consider that the most common nutritional deficiency in modern humans is lack, for many people, lack of iodine, [...] it is serious. Once more we are obliged to prefer the term 'marine' to the term 'aquatic' when we consider human beings.

So we may [...] a long time contrasting reasons to prefer 'marine' to 'aquatic'. It seems interesting when we try to learn more of the particularities of a species, species of mammals, and naturally species of apes, and human beings. It is a thing to study in depth the enzymatic system. The enzymatic system is to analyze [...] Is a good way to know the particularities of a species. And an argument is, an enzymatic system is special, and offers reasons to raise questions. Everybody knows, even though sometimes we forget it, everybody knows that we are characterized by an enormous brain. We are encephalized. The quotient of encephalization is 1.5. The other apes, it's something [...] three times lower. So everybody knows we are special among all mammals, including primates, because we have enormous brains. But why we have such an enormous brain? 

Well, we know, that the brain-specific nutrients, we know that the brain is mostly a fatty organ. We know that the brain has a specific need in particular fatty acids. In particular, 40% needs in DHA (To be simple. DocosaHexaenoic Acid if you want to be, to have time to listen to what I am saying.) Which is a long-chain omega 3 fatty acid, as long as possible: 22 carbons, six double bonds. So that is an essential nutrient for the brain. And it means that for human beings it is important to provide for the developing brain in particular a sufficient amount of DHA. So that's what went on.

But what is not always considered as serious, is that our enzymatic system is not very effective at making the synthesis of DHA. Of long-chain omega 3, 22 carbons in six double bond. The enzymatic system is not very effective to synthesize DHA, if you don't consume seafood. Your DHA is preformed and abundant in the seafood chain only. That's the point. It's abundant and preformed in the seafood chain only. If human beings don't have access to seafood, they must transform the parent molecule of the omega 3 alpha linolenic acid that molecule has only 18 carbons and three double bonds. That is to say, that there is something mysterious that human beings, that we have a special need in the long-chain omega 3 fatty acids with 22 carbons in six double bonds but our enzymatic system is not so effective. There is, there are a need for enzymes with desaturase in our case. We had desaturase in our case, but perhaps [...], that which is mysterious. 

So it's so that we have [...] some of this [...] enzyme, but in fact it is [...] down effective. They need a catalyst, mostly minerals. Minerals that are catalyst are found in the land food chain naturally in [...] and so on, but not a huge amount. And this synthesis which need a catalyst is easily, the metabolic pathway is easily disturbed. It's fragile. It's disturbed by emotional state. Prime example, cortisol, what happens if a pregnant woman is not happy. Depressed, it's minimizing the effect of enzymes. There are other blocking agents, like too much sugar, alcohol, man-made food. So this is a mysterious aspect of human beings. That we have a huge brain, that main characteristic of human beings, always start from that. Huge brain, huge need for long-chain omega 3 fatty acid, but an enzyme system that is not very effective. That means probably, ideally, we need to consume the kind of fatty acid that are found in the seafood chain only.

It's another way to say that the good reason to develop the concept of 'marine.' Because these are much more common points with sea mammals than with aquatic mammals. There are aquatic mammals that are not living in marine environments at all: rhinoceros, elephant, otter, sea voles and such. But we don't have many common points with them. When we say we are special when compared with the other mammals, the common points are much more with sea mammals. Now this is a fast way to suggest that we have reasons to replace to an extra level and we should do it. To replace the term 'aquatic' by the term 'marine' mammals. I don't want to say more on this issue. But this is the first complement on the concept of the term 'the aquatic ape hypothesis'. We have reason to replace 'aquatic' by 'marine'.

So the second term is the term 'ape'. Do we have reasons to replace the term 'ape' by the term 'chimpanzee'? Once more, I ask the point of view of my friend Lughan, age 12. I tell you, I said: "Are we, do you prefer to say that we are apes or that we are chimpanzees?" "Oh, chimpanzees, that's right, chimpanzees. We look like chimpanzees, we are friends of chimpanzees. And apes, I don't know exactly what it means." There are lots of reasons to prefer the term 'chimpanzee'. It is difficult to translate 'ape' in other languages. We have to consider that at the present time, the age of globalization, going from one language to another one, we have to realize that 'ape' is a term well known in the English language, [...] compared with francais. When I speak French, my mother tongue, I cannot translate 'ape'. I have a word for primate, and a word for monkeys. There is a word for chimpanzee. There is no word for ape. This is the first reason to prefer, perhaps, chimpanzees.

Other reasons, [...] less used by experts [...] There are reasons to think the archean split, chimpanzee-homo split, a certain time. We are cousins, but we separated from our cousin at a certain time, our split. This is accepted by many people today. I don't want to discuss this and that. I explained that to my friend Lughan is probably at a certain time we separated from the other members of the chimpanzee family.

So I started to explain that according to some experts it was 4 million years ago, or 5 or 6. He was not interested in that at all. For him, 4 million, 6 million [...] what he wanted to know: "Where did this happen? Where was it, where was this split, where? Where the split?" Homo, separated from the other members of the chimpanzees. That's what he wanted to know.

So I had to explain, what I could say. I couldn't say a lot. I said probably it happened in places where there are huge populations of chimpanzees, of course. Its [...] I said that. So where are they living, the chimpanzees? I said, well, they are living mostly in west Africa, around the Equator. Places like Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, and so on. That's the place where chimpanzees were living. I explained that.

I said so. Perhaps, we have fossils of chimpanzees in places where there are also fossils of human beings? That's a very important question. I had to say: "No, there is no fossil of chimpanzee. And no fossils of human beings [...] no. Because you cannot make, find fossils unless the climatic and geological conditions are perfect. And in the place where probably the split happened [...] there were huge rains, heavy rains, geological conditions, climatic conditions, so that it is impossible to find fossils." So that's a challenge. So we don't know what happened. We can say probably it was the place where they were living, of course, of course, but we cannot find fossils. And I [...] a lot of time Homo survived other members of the family. They had acquired a capacity to develop a huge brain. Probably, it's possible, that they started to live in coastal areas along the sea, if possible. "Ah, yes, interesting. So perhaps we can find fossils of human beings along the coast, coastal areas?" I said, "No, we cannot. Because there have been ancient [...] terrible fluctuation of sea levels." Sea levels today are different from where they were thousands of years ago, millions of years ago. Many places where perhaps our ancestors were living, probably developing their huge brain, they needed food from the sea, but now [...] by the sea we cannot find fossils. So everywhere we have to confess that we have many things to learn, many things we don't know.

My conversation with this boy, who is 12, was we have to focus on what we don't know. And apparently focus on how can we know more. And that is the question. How do we know more? Mysterious origin [...

I said, you know there are emerging disciplines that can help us in the future. We cannot say more. But meanwhile, let's think, let's dream of what we can learn in the future. For example, of a discipline like virology. When we know virus research. There are many mysterious questions. But how our genes have been colonized by viruses. This question, for example, we wonder why a virus called MERZ2 [CERV2 ?] have colonized the genes of chimpanzees but not the genes of human beings. That perhaps, brings some ways to know a little more the differences in how our genes have been colonized by viruses. If the genes of chimpanzees are colonized by these viruses, but not the genes of human beings, it means that the coloni... contamination took place after the split. That is something we can conclude. And what after that, human beings, Homo, evolved more or less in marginal places, and never been colonized or never contaminated by this virus. So just to say, I cannot say more. I don't know, we don't know, nobody knows. It's possible that in the future we can understand in a new way the common points between human beings and similarly, the differences between human beings and other chimpanzees. We still have, we still have a lot to learn.

There is still one term we have to consider. We started with 'aquatic ape theory'. I ask my friend: "What do you think of 'theory'?" He was not that interested in the topic, but he said "Theory is about ideas. Theories they come and go, you know, they disappear." For him, what is theoretical is not really serious. You know it's not very serious.

So apparently, he would prefer, finally, the phrase 'marine chimpanzee concept'. One of the reasons why we prefer 'concept' is we know exactly what it means. That's curious. But from his point of view, 'concept' is much more to well thinking, well thinking, rather than ideas and imagination. So finally, after considering what I have learned [...] I have learned from conversation with a 12-year-old boy. I can say that finally we might have reasons to test, to contrast, to compare these two phrases. Should we, do we have reasons? (I don't know that we should do it.) Do we have reasons to replace the phrase 'aquatic ape theory' by the phrase 'marine chimpanzee concept'?

So I'll finish with a question: "Today, what was the topic?" We are always in an unprecedented situation, whatever the topic. What can we do in an unprecedented situation? What is urgent is to phrase appropriate questions. Thus, we must not rush, to forget theories, [...] ideas. We have to be careful. What we have to learn to do at the time for any topic in the present situation: we have to learn to phrase questions. That is an important part of the game.

To finish, to show you the cover of a book I published not for a long time ago. You don't need to read this book. Just look at the cover. What is this? A question mark. With it, we are at the question mark. What have we done today? Now? We have been phrasing questions. Thank you.

Transcript by Allan Krill. If you understand words on the video that I have difficulty with 
[...] please help me to improve this transcript.

Prehistoric people in arctic Norway probably ate a lot of fish

Allan Krill

It's amazing that people managed to live in Alta a few thousand years ago. It's cold and dark in the winter: the sun sets on November 25, and doesn't rise again until January 17.

Because of the Gulf Stream, the seawater is relatively warm and the fjord never freezes over. The fjord is full of fish. Anthropologists know from fish bones found near prehistoric dwellings that people ate fish. But it's curious that the rock art of Alta rarely shows fish or fishing. I think that's because it was uninteresting to the artists. They were more interested in reindeer (and curiously, the rib bones of reindeer.)

To fish in the fjords of Norway today, one drops a line with a number of colorful or flashy hooks into the water (and a weight to make them sink) and then pulls up many fish at a time. 

When a fish gets caught and struggles, it attracts others who bite the other hooks. If prehistoric people used this technique, what did the weight and hooks look like, and why did the Alta artists not show that in their petroglyphs? Well, maybe they did. There is a type of image that has been widely discussed but never understood. Some think it was a ring of caught fish, a tent, or a necklace. I think it may have been a piece of fishing equipment.

I suggest that they bent a long reindeer rib bone into a hoop, and tied it off at the top. It was the weight needed to sink the hooks. They attached some decorative stuff on the hoop, and a number of hooks hanging below it. This allowed them to catch many fish, like we do today.

There is in fact a petroglyph that shows a hoop hanging below a boat. That may have been their standard fishing technique. They used reindeer horn to make their fishhooks, and in this image there is a relationship between a reindeer and a fishing boat, with a hoop or wide fish hanging below it. T
here are no ribs shown on that reindeer, but two ribs are shown on the moose standing just behind it, so I am not ready to deep-six that hypothesis.

(Thanks to Don Hitchcock for posting so many detailed pictures of Alta petroglyphs.) 


Parsimony is a virtue in science, but not in paleoanthropology

Allan Krill

In science, the favored interpretation is the one that is the most simple, but still fits the evidence at hand. More complicated explanations are always possible, but are less acceptable. This principle in science is called parsimony.

Paleoanthropology is not a normal science. It is a type of historical fiction. Its purpose is to make sense (and cents) of the past, and to inform and entertain the educated public. Evidence should be interpreted in ways that are understandable, but not simple. A simple explanation will often kill a good story.

I have been visiting the Alta petroglyphs (helleristninger) in arctic Norway almost every summer for the past 40 years. This is beautiful rock-art, that has become a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are hundreds of figures carved in the glacially polished and striated rock at Hjemmeluft, Alta. The figures show similar motifs of people, boats, and animals, and were carved using similar techniques and styles. 

Paleoanthropologists say that the oldest carvings are about 6200 years old (4200 BC). The youngest ones were below sea level at that time and cannot be more than about 2500 years old. Paleoanthropologists think that most of them were carved just above sea level as the land rose slowly after the last glaciation. The land is still rising about 2 millimeters per year. This interpretation of carvings near sea level makes them as old as possible, and as interesting as possible.

Paleoanthropologists divide them into four periods: the highest ones, now about 25 meters above sea level, are thought to have been carved from 4200-3600 BC. The other periods of carving were 3600-2700 BC, 2700-1700 BC, and 1700-500 BC.

Artifacts have been found nearby, showing that people were indeed living in this area as early as 10 000 BC. It seems reasonable that the Hjemmeluft petroglyphs were made as early as 4200 BC. But they could have been made by the same artist or artists about 500 BC. Not too far away are two other series of petroglyphs: Storsteinen ('4200-1700 BC') and Amtmannsnes ('2700-1700 BC'). They have different styles and it is obvious that they were made by different artists. 

For paleoanthropologists, ‘older is better.’ For me, ‘simpler is better.’ I think that all the carvings at Hjemmeluft were probably made by the same artist or artists, about 500 BC. I cannot find that this parsimonious (and rather boring) hypothesis is ever mentioned in the published literature. 

Here is a schematic illustration of the ages and styles of the four periods of carvings of Hjemmeluft, Storsteinen, and Amtmannsnes.
See Helskog (1988) Helleristninger i Alta: spor etter ritualer og dagligliv i Finnmarks forhistorie


"Let us hope It is not true, but if it is, let us pray it does not become widely known."

Allan Krill

Evolved in western Africa with no fossils? Let us hope it is not true, but if it is, let us make sure it does not become widely known.


Cunnane & Crawford (2014). Energetic and nutritional constraints on infant brain development: Implications for brain expansion during human evolution

Allan Krill

An important paper for understanding the remarkable evolution of the human brain. (Somehow it has been overlooked by the folks at )

Stephen C. Cunnane & Michael A. Crawford (2014) Energetic and nutritional constraints on infant brain development: Implications for brain expansion during human evolution. Journal of Human Evolution, v.77, p.88-98.


The human brain confronts two major challenges during its development: (i) meeting a very high energy requirement, and (ii) reliably accessing an adequate dietary source of specific brain selective nutrients needed for its structure and function. Implicitly, these energetic and nutritional constraints to normal brain development today would also have been constraints on human brain evolution. The energetic constraint was solved in large measure by the evolution in hominins of a unique and significant layer of body fat on the fetus starting during the third trimester of gestation. By providing fatty acids for ketone production that are needed as brain fuel, this fat layer supports the brain’s high energy needs well into childhood. This fat layer also contains an important reserve of the brain selective omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), not available in other primates. Foremost amongst the brain selective minerals are iodine and iron, with zinc, copper and selenium also being important. A shore-based diet, i.e., fish, molluscs, crustaceans, frogs, bird’s eggs and aquatic plants, provides the richest known dietary sources of brain selective nutrients. Regular access to these foods by the early hominin lineage that evolved into humans would therefore have helped free the nutritional constraint on primate brain development and function. Inadequate dietary supply of brain selective nutrients still has a deleterious impact on human brain development on a global scale today, demonstrating the brain’s ongoing vulnerability. The core of the shore-based paradigm of human brain evolution proposes that sustained access by certain groups of early Homo to freshwater and marine food resources would have helped surmount both the nutritional as well as the energetic constraints on mammalian brain development. 


Research article published today: French cave tells new story about Neanderthals, early humans

Allan Krill

A cave 140 km north of the Mediterranean Sea was occupied at different times by Neanderthals and Sapiens, about 50 000 years ago. I think it was probably only used during the warm summer months, by people who were venturing from their coastal habitats (now submerged) into inland Europe. I am not convinced that Sapiens or Neanderthals were able to survive in the northern parts of Eurasia during the cold winter months.

Here are a few lines from the news article about this research:
Slimak, an archaeologist at the University of Toulouse, said the findings at Mandrin suggest the Rhone River may have been a key link between the Mediterranean coast and continental Europe.
"We are dealing with one of the most important natural migration corridors of all the 
ancient world," he said. 
While the researchers found no evidence of cultural exchanges between the Neanderthals and modern humans who alternated in the cave, the rapid succession of occupants is in itself significant, they said. In one case, the cave changed hands in the space of about a year, said Slimak.

(Thanks to Marc Verhaegen for pointing out this interesting article.)


Bronze Age (ca. 3000 years old) rock-art near Trondheim probably shows marine food resources (not footprints)

Allan Krill

There are hundreds of images on this rock-carved surface at the location Leirfall (also spelled Leirfald) an hour's drive from Trondheim. Everyone seems to think that the most common image depicts footprints.

But the supposed 'footprints' never make a track or a trail. They are often in pairs, and often connected. I have studied them carefully, and think they probably depict clams or mussels, and have nothing to do with feet. 

Boats are also depicted. They are typical fjord boats, seen in rock-art many places in Norway. The river at Leirfall is now 12m above sea level, and the fjord is now 10km away. The land has risen more than 12 meters since the Bronze Age. This part of the river valley was at sea level, and the rock carvings were right near the fjord. 

There are lots of blue mussels and other bivalves in the fjord today, and I think that they were an important part of the diet, especially in the winter.

Here is Figure 13 of the publication These Rocks Were Made for Walking (Sognnes 2011) with my photograph (blue box) added.

See also these web sites for some photos and explanations:



Here's where I think most Stone Age Europeans (Neanderthals and Sapiens) spent the winter

Allan Krill

The light blue coastal areas on this map, along the northern shore of the Mediterranean Sea are just below present sea level, but were mostly exposed when the sea was low during the Stone Age. 

During the Ice Ages, and especially during the cold winters, it must have been more hospitable near the Mediterranean Sea than in inland Europe. That's where I think most European humans lived. Scientists now know that fossil skulls of Stone Age European humans have exostoses, or 'surfer's ear' indicating that these people spent much time in rather cold water. They were probably living largely on marine foods, as their ancestors had on Bioko.

Evidence of coastal humans — their domiciles and art — has been submerged for the past 10,000 years. 
But Cosquer Cave, just off the coast of France, is an example of a living area and spectacular art that was not completely destroyed. It was discovered by a diver in 1985. 


Piltdownian science: experts won’t mention the possibility of hoax

Allan Krill

We need a new adjective in science, especially in the science of paleoanthropology. 
Piltdownian: Remarkable evidence that cannot be tested by impartial experts, and where the possibility of hoax is unmentioned. 

The true extent of the Piltdown hoax has been kept covered. All the blame has been placed on the solicitor Charles Dawson. But all three anatomy experts: Sir Arthur Keith, Sir Arthur Smith Woodward, and Sir G. Elliot Smith, must have suspected that the jaw of Piltdown man was actually an orangutan, and that it was planted by Dawson. 

Sir Arthur Keith, in his famous book Antiquity of Man, compared the cranium to that of a human, a gorilla, a chimp, and an orangutan. He showed that the cranium was human-like, not ape-like. He compared the jaw to that of a human, a gorilla, and a chimp. He never compared it to an orangutan. He showed that the jaw was ape-like, not human like.

For the next thirty-five years, Piltdown Man was accepted as authentic. But it was secretly doubted by many experts and kept unavailable for study or chemical testing by impartial scientists.

A few brave experts wrote that it was probably an error, and Weidenreich, the Peking-Man expert, wrote that the Piltdown jaw was probably an orangutan. But no expert could study or test  it, and no respected person could mention the hypothesis that it was a hoax. After it was discredited by chemical analysis, no respected scientist has suggested that the experts were involved in this hoax. 

Lucy, Turkana Boy, and Laetoli footprints are modern examples of ‘piltdownian’ evidence in the science of paleoanthropology. The evidence is unavailable for study or testing, and no respected scientist can mention the legitimate scientific hypothesis that these are hoaxes.

More details on rafting models for the origins of Gorilla, Pan, and Homo.

Allan Krill

We know that rafting has been important in primate speciation
New World Monkeys originated from Old World Monkeys that must have rafted from Africa to South America. Lemurs must have originated from primates that rafted from Africa to Madagascar. I wonder if gorillas might have originated from orangutans that rafted from Southeast Asia to Africa.

It think it is likely that chimpanzees originated from gorillas that rafted down the Congo River to a new area where they found higher quality foods. From there chimpanzees spread out to many areas, including the area up the Congo River where the gorillas originally came from. At a later time, a second rafting event down the Congo River brought gorillas to areas which the chimpanzees occupied in western Africa. They continued to eat large volumes of low quality food there. 

Humans evolved from chimpanzees that rafted to Bioko, at a time when there was only marine food on the Proto-Bioko islands. 

Read my posts 
208 and 209.

Here are maps that show the current ranges of GorillasChimpanzees and Bonobos, and explain some of the reasoning behind my models.


Blubber and steatopygia, as depicted in 25,000-year-old Venus figurines, were probably common traits of Stone Age women

Allan Krill

We should reconsider the meaning of the Venus figurines, which have so far been a bit of a mystery. There are hundreds of them, many about 25,000 years old. Most are female figures, with lots of subcutaneous fat (blubber) and large booties (steatopygia). I think that Stone Age women along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea looked like that, and Stone Age men carried a small figurine with them on their travels, as modern men might carry a photo of their wife in their wallet. (Well, the most modern men don't carry a wallet, but have a photo on their smartphone. :-)

Steatopygia was probably adaptive on Bioko. It gave women a perch behind, for their infants to be more secure as they held the mothers' head hair in the water. After 5 million years of human occupation in the water of Bioko, the heavy 'steatopygic' women moved along the coastline to Europe about 50,000 years ago. They preferred the Mediterranean Sea to inland Europe, which was too cold in the winters. Men traveled inland during the summers, some of them died there, leaving fossil skeletons and 'statuettes of their wives' when they died.

When we look at Stone Age Venus figurines, we should not think of steatopygia and obesity as some sort of artistic style, but as typical traits of Stone Age women. 


Paleoanthropology is narcissistic nonscience

Allan Krill

There are lots of unanswered questions in the study of human origins ('anthropogeny'.) Many of these questions (such as What were the selection pressures that led to human language, culture, physiology, anatomy?) have been avoided by the non-science known as paleoanthropology. It puts all focus on fossils and fossil locations, yet its evidence is irreproducible and the fossil material unavailable for testing by impartial or skeptical experts.

Fossils tell us nothing about the evolution of chimpanzees (Pan) and gorillas (Gorilla), because there are no fossils! Why should we be looking for fossils to answer our questions about the evolution of humans (Homo)?

Read this manuscript: The story of human evolution is based on fictional fossil evidence, and consider the likelihood that paleoanthropology is largely nonscience: more interested in studying fossils than in answering questions of human evolution, and based largely on a few 'piltdownifications'. 

EUREǂA ! Click sounds in African languages may be relics of 'Biokic' — the possible proto-human language

Allan Krill

I think it took marine humans a few million years to develop the first advanced language on Bioko . Then people came to mainland Africa, or directly to Eurasia, and easily developed new advanced languages in those places. If so, the marine humans on Bioko surely played around making sounds under water. An effective underwater sound is the click, used by dolphins in their communication. 
There are several click sounds in modern African languages: | —a dental click, ! an alveolar click, ǂ palatal click, ǁ lateral click, and ʘ bilabial click. Most human click sounds can only be made in air, but some oral clicks can be made under water.
Here is good information about African languages and the click sounds ʘ, ǀ, ǁ, ǃ, and ǂ    AfricaFreak and TheIntrepidGuide

Youtube examples of African click speech

Youtube example of dolphin click communication under water
I’d like to call this possible proto-language 'Biokic' (or maybe Biokicic just for fun). That word has a nice ring click to it. 


Neanderthals — life on the edge

Allan Krill

There are lots of Neanderthal skeletons, but almost nothing to show that people were actually living where the bones were found. It is as if some people had wandered out of their comfort zones, and died in those harsh places, like the case of Ötzi the Iceman

If Neanderthals were living in the cold interior areas of Eurasia for a few hundred thousand years, why is there so little evidence of hunting weapons, and fire for warmth, and charred bones from cooking? Maybe those people were just visiting those places, like the Vikings who visited England, and the humans who visited the Moon. They didn't actually live there.


I think Neanderthals were living for hundreds of thousands of years on Bioko, without inventing tools, weapons, or fire. Those who left Bioko, migrated along the continental margins of Africa and Eurasia. Those Pleistocene coastal areas are now submerged and any traces of those people are hidden.

Neanderthals who came to Eurasia may have lived mostly along the shore of the relatively warm Mediterranean Sea. The water was much colder than Bioko, but swimmable. They lived mostly on marine foods. Proof that Neanderthals commonly swam in cold water is seen in many of their skeletons: Neanderthal skulls show exostoses ("surfer's ear") — typical in humans who spend a lot of time in cold water.

Some Neanderthals must have wandered into interior parts of Europe during the warm summer season when they could find forest foods. Some of them died in those cold places, leaving fossil skeletons. Those were not such good places to live, but good places to die. Neanderthals in Europe were probably living on the edge.

It's a model. We can see if it works. 

To learn more about the earliest DNA, and what it tells us about Denisovans, Neanderthals, and Sapiens, read this article in Nature by Meyer et al. (2014)


Deep-rooting Y-DNA haplogroup D0 from near Bioko

Allan Krill

In addition to A00, the earliest Y-DNA haplogroup, which seems to have originated near Bioko about 340,000 years ago, D0 is another deep-rooting haplogroup. It is found in Nigeria, and is thought to have split about 71,000 years ago. This fits the model that a large population of humans was living on Bioko, and some came over to the mainland about 340,000 and others came over as recently as 71,000 years ago. 

Read the scientific paper in Genetics 212(4) p. 1421-1428: 

A Rare Deep-Rooting D0 African Y-Chromosomal Haplogroup and Its Implications for the Expansion of Modern Humans Out of Africa
Marc Haber et al. 2019

Here is Figure 1 and the figure caption from that paper. The blue squares show locations of this D0 haplogroup. The African ones (Nigeria) are estimated to have split about 71,400 years ago, whereas the Asian ones (Japan, Tibet) coalesced only recently (about 2500 years ago.)

Y Chromosome phylogenetic tree from worldwide samples. (A) A maximum-likelihood tree of 180 Y-chromosome sequences from worldwide populations. Different branch colors and symbols represent different haplogroups assigned based on ISOGG v11.01. The Nigerian chromosomes sequenced in this study are highlighted in blue and assigned to the novel D0 haplogroup. Bootstrap values from 1000 replications are shown on the branches. (B) Map showing location of the studied individuals with colored symbols reflecting the haplogroups assigned in A. The clade consisting of the D0 and D haplogroups is represented by blue squares and is observed in Africa and East Asia. (C) Ages of the nodes leading to haplogroup D0 in the phylogenetic tree (point estimates; branch lengths are not to scale). Haplogroups D0 and D are estimated to have split 71,400 (63,100–81,000) years ago while the D0 individuals in this study coalesced 2500 (2200–2800) years ago.