Homo erectus, extinct by laziness?


This 2016 video is called HD Documentary: Becoming Human, Episode 2, Birth of Humanity (Homo Erectus).

From Australian National University:

Laziness helped lead to extinction of Homo erectus

August 10, 2018

New archaeological research from The Australian National University (ANU) has found that Homo erectus, an extinct species of primitive humans, went extinct in part because they were ‘lazy’.

An archaeological excavation of ancient human populations in the Arabian Peninsula during the Early Stone Age, found that Homo erectus used ‘least-effort strategies’ for tool making and collecting resources.

This ‘laziness’ paired with an inability to adapt to a changing climate likely played a role in the species going extinct, according to lead researcher Dr Ceri Shipton of the ANU School of Culture, History and Language.

“They really don’t seem to have been pushing themselves”, Dr Shipton said.

“I don’t get the sense they were explorers looking over the horizon. They didn’t have that same sense of wonder that we have.”

Dr Shipton said this was evident in the way the species made their stone tools and collected resources.

“To make their stone tools they would use whatever rocks they could find lying around their camp, which were mostly of comparatively low quality to what later stone tool makers used”, he said.

“At the site we looked at there was a big rocky outcrop of quality stone just a short distance away up a small hill.

“But rather than walk up the hill they would just use whatever bits had rolled down and were lying at the bottom.

“When we looked at the rocky outcrop there were no signs of any activity, no artefacts and no quarrying of the stone.

“They knew it was there, but because they had enough adequate resources they seem to have thought, ‘why bother?’.”

This is in contrast to the stone tool makers of later periods, including early Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, who were climbing mountains to find good quality stone and transporting it over long distances.

Dr Shipton said a failure to progress technologically, as their environment dried out into a desert, also contributed to the population’s demise.

“Not only were they lazy, but they were also very conservative”, Dr Shipton said.

“The sediment samples showed the environment around them was changing, but they were doing the exact same things with their tools.

“There was no progression at all, and their tools are never very far from these now dry river beds. I think in the end the environment just got too dry for them.”

The excavation and survey work was undertaken in 2014 at the site of Saffaqah near Dawadmi in central Saudi Arabia.

Beginning more than 1.5 million years ago, early humans made stone handaxes in a style known as the Acheulean — the longest-lasting tool-making tradition in prehistory. New research led by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage has documented an Acheulean presence in the Arabian Peninsula dating to less than 190,000 years ago, revealing that the Arabian Acheulean ended just before or at the same time as the earliest Homo sapiens dispersals into the region: here.

Investigations into what it means to be human have often focused on attempts to uncover the earliest material traces of ‘art’, ‘language’, or technological ‘complexity’. More recently, however, scholars have begun to argue that more attention should be paid to the ecological uniqueness of our species. A new study, published in Archaeological Research in Asia, reviews the palaeoecological information associated with hominin dispersals into Southeast Asia and Oceania throughout the Pleistocene (1.25 Ma to 12 ka). Our species’ ability to specialize in the exploitation of diverse and ‘extreme’ settings in this part of the world stands in stark contrast to the ecological adaptations of other hominin taxa, and reaffirms the utility of exploring the environmental adaptations of Homo sapiens as an avenue for understanding what it means to be human: here.

Homo erectus extinction in Indonesia by climate change, 110,000 years ago: here.

7 thoughts on “Homo erectus, extinct by laziness?

  1. Pingback: Survival of the laziest in evolution? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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