The Nature of Humanness at Longgushan Brain Language Fire and Cannibalism

When Davidson Black lay dying at his lab bench in the wee hours of March 24, 1934, the last sight that his eyes beheld was an evolutionary sequence of Homo erectus to Homo sapiens—the skulls from Longgushan that he had laid out before himself. Yet the cave had not yielded to Black exactly what he had imagined it might-hominids, yes, but these hominids were much more anatomically primitive than what anthropologists in the 1920s had conceived a human ancestor to be. Black's Sinanthropus did not have the expanded braincase and globular skull of Homo sapiens or of the spurious Piltdown Man, but Black still firmly believed it to be humanity's ancestor. Perhaps that was the symbolism of his dying message to us-here I die amid the bones of my ancestors.

Bones of anatomically modern Homo sapiens from the Upper Cave at Longgushan showed the presence of the presumed descendant of Homo erectus, discovered remarkably in the very same site, and archaeology provided further evidence of behavioral evolution-advanced humanlike behavior, tools, and fire-in Homo erectus. There are other behaviors that have been difficult to interpret and controversial as regards the humanness of Homo erectus. We now examine the data for whether the species could communicate by spoken language and whether it was cannibalistic.

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