We are going to finish Alan Walker and and Pat Shipmans “The Wisdom of Bones”, a truely wonderful book about Homo Erectus and its place as the “missing link” between ourselves and more apelike ancestors. Walker, with Kamoya Kimou and Richard Leakey, excavated and re-assembled the best H. erectus remains found to date, the “Narioktome Boy” #15000, aka 15K, an adolescent about 1.5 million (!) years old.
With this high quality source material, Walker goes through what can be surmised and concluded, bringing in experts from a variety of fields. Its real science, these are the stories underneath the peer-reviewed papers published since the discovery in the 1980s. Walker builds up to a somewhat startling conclusion, Homo erectus, most likely our direct ancestor, wasn’t fully linguate, leaving no concrete evidence of symbolic thought, and lacking a spinal cord sized for fine control of breath and vocal cords.
Rather than the near human in an ape’s body that is often presumed, Walker concludes that H. erectus ws a near-ape in a human’s body. As big or bigger than ourselves, as strong or stronger, wonderfully adapted to standing and running, a very successful tool maker and hunter. An adolescent with a toddler’s brain.
Makes sense, and Pat Shipman is a glorious writer and anatomist in her own right. They are married. The words are hers, the voice is his. So good books, bad cartoons and not a lot else are our story, while we’re all having and recovering from the flu.