Finally, the ages of the 13 individuals so identified—three infants, three young juveniles, one old juvenile, one subadult, four young adults and one old adult—are unlike those of other cave deposits for which cause of death and deposition have been determined. It’s a riddle, wrapped in sediment, inside a grotto.
I believe the authors are downplaying an all too common cause of death in our ancestors—homicide in the form of war, murder or sacrifice. Lawrence H. Keeley, in War Before Civilization (1996), and Steven A. LeBlanc, in Constant Battles (2003), review hundreds of archaeological studies showing that significant percentages of ancestral people died violently. January 1, 2016
Turning paleontology into a murder mystery never hurt public interest, right?
So then paleoanthropologist John Hawks, often a voice of common sense, responds
Shermer is a regular columnist and contributing editor of Scientific American and the editor of Skeptic magazine. He is widely recognized as a leader of the skeptic movement in the U.S.
It doesn’t sound like the work of a skeptic. Shermer does not seem to have read our open access paper very carefully, because he seems completely oblivious to the evidence most relevant to his idea.
Basically, the bones don’t show signs of violence.
None of the bone fragments have traces of cutmarks or tooth marks that would result from butchery, disarticulation, percussion, or consumption of the remains. There are no cranial bone fragments with radiating fracture lines or signs of intentional breakage. In other words, none of the bone shows any traces that indicate that the individuals met a violent end.
Hawks suggests that Shermer’s interest in ancestral violence is causing him to read things into the story.
There is a paleo-novel in here somewhere. Auel? Jean Auel?
See also: 2015, Hominid hype of the year: homo Naledi
The search for our earliest ancestors: signals in the noise
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