Saturday, November 12, 2016

No, Homo naledi did not just fall into the Dinaledi chamber

Capping off a weird week, there's a genuinely confusing post on the Uncommon Descent blog: Todd Wood: The latest is, homo Naledi just fell into the Dinaledi chamber

I don't like to nitpick much any more, but their post is exceptionally misleading. The "latest" is not that Homo naledi just fell into the Dinaledi chamber.  I never said that, so let me elaborate.  Thackeray's paper made a poor argument built on a string of speculations and what-ifs.  Since the stains on the bones look kind of like the stains associated with lichens, and since lichens might cause the stains associated with them, then the stains on the bones might have been caused by lichens.  If the stains on the bones were made by lichens, then they might have been resting on the surface of the ground exposed to sunlight where lichens could grow.  It's one speculation after another.  There is no actual evidence directly connecting the stains on the bones to the stains on the rocks or to the presence of lichens.

The response article from Randolph-Quinney et al. adequately responded to all of Thackeray's points, including reviewing ways bones in a cave might be stained as well as discussing new evidence from the excavations (including the presence of invertebrate fauna that could have marked up the bones).  The response article is the "latest," and it shows that Thackeray's hypothesis is not relevant to the H. naledi bones.  The bones did not just fall into the Dinaledi chamber.  I feel quite confident in affirming the original hypothesis that complete Homo naledi bodies were intentionally placed in the Dinaledi chamber, and I expect future research will continue to support this hypothesis.

And just for the record, I am not "anthropologist Todd Wood."  I thought I've made that quite clear previously.  I have no background in anthropology.

This is unfortunately not the first time that UD has erroneously reported things about me.  I wish that were not the case.

UPDATE: UD has issued a correction, so thanks for that!

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