Kanapoi Humorous

One of my favorite songs from the late 1960s had the title and refrain “I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.” It was a hit for the First Edition, with Kenny Rogers singing the lead and Glenn Campbell playing lead guitar, which is a bit strange, considering that the song became a psychedelic anthem and a favorite of Jimmy Hendrix. Both Rogers and Campbell went country (nothing wrong with country—I like that, too—but these artists arrived there from a different place). As for me, I was just intrigued by the philosophical implications of “dropping in to see what condition one’s condition is in” for psychology and consciousness studies. But what’s this got to do with forbidden archaeology?

Let’s make the connection. My book Forbidden Archaeology, from one point of view, is a manifestation of the state of my intellectual condition at the time I wrote it, and it remains part of my intellectual condition up to this day. The book is out there in the world, and one of the places it can be found is on commercial bookselling web sites, like Amazon.com. One of the features of such web sites is that readers can put up their reviews of the book, giving it from one to five stars, with five being the highest positive rating. Reviews are constantly being added, so the mix of positive and negative reviews is always changing. So you could say the “condition” of the totality of reviews is always changing.

So sometimes I just drop in to Amazon.com to see what condition (in terms of reviews) my condition (as mani­fested in Forbidden Archaeology) is in.

I don’t expect everyone to approve of the book. I like the five stars, but I also kind of like it that a good number of reviewers give it a one star and sometimes lament that it is not possible to give it zero stars. That’s really great. Eve­ryone’s entitled to their opinion. But I have to say it is annoying to see reviews that misrepresent the book. Let me give an example. There is currently up on the site a one-star review that focuses on a particular case in the book— that of the Kanapoi humerus.

Here’s some background. The humerus is the upper arm bone, the bone between the elbow and the shoulder. The discovery of a lower (distal) humerus at the Kanapoi site in Kenya was announced by scientists in 1967. It was found in a Pliocene formation, about four million years old. The researchers found that the humerus was morphologically like that of modern humans and different from that of various apes and monkeys, as well as that of known australo­pithecines.

On Amazon.com, the anonymous (at least I have the courage to sign my name to what I write) reviewer says: “The authors [Cremo and Thompson] make early reference to the distal end of a humerus (KNM-KP 271) that was re­covered from the west side of Lake Turkana in Kenya, at the Kanapoi site. The authors went on to quote from Henry McHenry’s early work that the Kanapoi humerus was ‘barely distinguishable from the modern Homo,’ thereby sug­gesting that modern humans were at least four million years old. However, other researchers (Patterson and Howells ) in addition to McHenry note that ‘it is difficult to identify the family from the distal end of the humerus [alone],’ and that, in general, scientists are not able to distinguish between human and chimp populations based on the hu­merus alone. Subsequent research (prior to the release of the author’s book) by Meave Leakey has shown that the re­mains in question belong to Australopithecus anamensis not Homo sapiens.”

Okay, so here’s what I’ve got to say about it. Yes, in Forbidden Archaeology my coauthor Richard Thompson and I did accurately quote McHenry (and his coauthor Corruccini) as stating that the Kanapoi humerus is barely distin­guishable from modern Homo. Actually, Patterson and Howells also say the same thing. They said, “there are individ­uals in our sample of man on whom measurements . . . of Kanapoi Hominoid I [the humerus] can be duplicated al­most exactly.” Although it may be “difficult” to make identifications on the basis of the distal humerus, it is not impossible, because both Patterson and Howells (Science 1967, 156: 64-66) and McHenry and Corruccini (Folia Pri­matologica 1976, 23: 227-244) do make such identifications. Patterson and Howells measured seven features on 40 human humeri, 40 chimpanzee humeri, and the humerus of an australopithecine, and found that the Kanapoi hu­merus was “strikingly close to the means of the human sample.” The study by McHenry and Corruccini also com­pared the Kanapoi humerus with the humeri of all species of anthropoid apes (i.e., chimpanzees, gorillas, etc.) and a sample of human humeri and found that the Kanapoi matched the human sample. So the anonymous review of For­bidden Archaeology is very misleading. The authorities that the anonymous reviewer cites do in fact make identifica­tions of the Kanapoi humerus that characterize it as humanlike and distinguish it from anthropoid apes, including the chimpanzees. As for the paper by Meave Leakey (Nature 1995, 376: 565-571) identifying the Kanapoi humerus as belonging to Australopithecus anamenis, the paper merely includes the Kanapoi humerus in a list of about 20 sup­posedly A. anamensis fossils from two widely separated sites in Kenya (Alia Bay and Kanapoi), and with widely vary­ing dates. Meave Leakey and her coauthors offer no justification for attributing the Kanapoi humerus to A. anamen­sis. They just put it in the list. Here is the only substantive mention of KNM KP 271 (the Kanapoi humerus) in the paper: “The distal humerus, KNM-KP 271, was originally seen to be humanlike, and it does show many derived homi­noid features, including a marked median anterior capsular ligament tubercule.” The authors make no attempt at all to show any nonhuman or particularly australopithecine features. In fact, they simply acknowledge, without contradiction, the original research showing it is humanlike, giving a citation to the relevant papers. It is clear that the au­thors included the Kanapoi humerus in the list of fossils attributed to A. anamencis simply because it was found in the same region and was about the same age as the other fossils.

This is another example of how what I call the “knowledge filtering process” operates in human origins studies. Scientists with evolutionary preconceptions try to make all the evidence fit those preconceptions. In this case, the scientists involved could not admit the possibility that humans like us could have been present in the Pliocene, so they attributed the humanlike Kanapois humerus to some kind of human ancestor, an australopithecine, without a hint that there is another possible interpretation of this discovery.

So the Kanapoi humerus is human in morphology, and everyone that the author of the anonymous Amazon.com review cited as authorities admitted it. That said, I do want to point out that in Forbidden Archaeology, I made only a limited claim about the meaning of the Kanapoi humerus. I acknowledged that the original researchers (Patterson and Howells), who characterized it as having a human form, would not have dreamed of saying that humans like us were present in Pliocene times about 4 million years ago in Africa. They would explain the bone in another way: per­haps there was some kind of Pliocene apeman who just happened to have a humerus that was like that of a modern human, while the rest of the body remained somewhat apelike. “Nevertheless,” I wrote in Forbidden Archaeology (p. 685), “if an anatomically modern human had died at Kanapoi 4.0-4.5 million years ago, he or she might have left a humerus exactly like the one they [the original discoverers] found.” That is a possibility that must be considered. It cannot be ruled out.

What makes it really credible that a human like us might have been present at Kanapoi in the Pliocene is the abundance of human fossils from Pliocene formations elsewhere. And these discoveries, documented in Forbidden Ar­chaeology, include more than just a fragment of humerus. For example, in the nineteenth century the Italian geolo­gist G. Ragazzoni found several human skeletons in Pliocene formations at a place called Castenedolo, Italy. Ragazzo­ni carefully studied the stratigraphy and determined that the skeletons were found in natural position and were not intrusive into the Pliocene formation through burial or earth movements. A human skeleton of Pliocene age was also found in an excavation at Savona, Italy. Also in the nineteenth century, an anatomically modern human jaw was found in a Pliocene formation at Foxhall, England. In the early twentieth century an anatomically modern human jaw fragment was found at Miramar, in Argentina. It is also interesting that Mary Leakey found dozens of footprints in Pliocene formations at Laetoli, Tanzania, characterizing them as indistinguishable from those of modern humans. All this makes it credible that the Kanapoi humerus could have belonged to a human like us.

Anyway, I find this humerus stuff all very humorous. Oh, one more thing. Next time you drop in to Amazon.com to see what condition my Forbidden Archaeology is in, please consider contributing your own review or comment (five stars or one star preferred).

Michael A. Cremo is author, with Richard Thompson, of the underground classic Forbidden Archaeology: The Hidden History of the Human Race. His latest book is Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory (see www.humandevolution.com).


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