Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ann Gibbons Misleads on the Data and Interpretation of the Jebel Irhoud Crania Paper

A significant paper, New fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco and the pan-African origin of Homo sapiens,  was published in Nature yesterday, setting back the date for the emergence of modern humans to at least 315,000 years ago.  In the paper, they conclude that the emergence of Homo sapiens was a Pan African phenomenon.

The data in the paper indicate that Irhoud 1, 2, 10, 11 and 21, in terms of their cranial and dental morphology, are intermediate between recent modern humans, and Middle Pleistocene hominins from Africa, the Levant, the Homo heidelbergensis Mauer Jaw and Zhoukoudian Upper Cave 1.

It is indeed a mystery to me then that Ann Gibbons, in her Science Magazine write up for this paper, shows a map only of African crania samples:


The text at the top of the figure states:  "New dates and fossils from Jebel Irhoud in Morocco suggest that our species emerged across Africa" leaving the public to be unaware of the likely broader emergence of Homo sapiens both in Africa and in Eurasia:  no map or crania are shown on Ann Gibbon's map for the Mauer Jaw, the Levant crania, or Zhoukoudian Upper Cave 1, which, according to the Jebel Irhoud paper, are certainly more closely related to Jebel Irhoud 1, 2, and 11 than the Rising Star skull shown on the map.

For anyone interested in this topic, I would suggest looking deeply at the excellent data and plots in the paper, including the supplemental data, and ignore the misleading, lazy journalistic spin in some articles.  Draw your own conclusions about the significance of the Jebel Irhoud crania.

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