April 24, 2019
The Missing Link
Who, or What is it?
There are those of us that are on the search for something so valuable that there cannot be price placed upon it. What we are talking about are the fossils of early hominids. The beings that came before us but put us on the evolutionary path that we know today. But who are these individuals and institutions that are searching for these extremely rare finds? Well, they would be Paleoanthropologists.
It is the Paleoanthropologists job to not only find fossils, but to get the most complete picture of them as possible, identifying the species, the date, practically everything they can about the discovery. The way they lived, and sometimes more importantly how they died.
There have been many discoveries the past ten years, and the naming of at least two new species of ancient hominid. These finds led to the timeline of our evolution to be filled out more, but of course not completely.
Each time we find a new fossil hominid, we think well this must be it, there are no more out there to be found. Well, as Prof. Lee Berger who made the Rising Star discoveries, likes to say, “Never Stop Exploring”. And what a true statement, there are probably more and more fossils out there to be found, but only the future will tell exactly what those finds are.
So what is this famous missing link that has been the greatest question for Anthropologists for hundreds of year? Well the idea behind it is that we have all these fossil hominids, save the one that changed us from “ape to man”. Many such finds have had this moniker, until a new, more fitting specimen was found. For years this is how the Paleoanthropology world was shaped.
But where was the missing link to be placed? At the start of the species Homo, or farther back in time between our last common ancestors with chimps? Is there such a species to be found that just makes it all make sense?
It is this missing link, that is the secret to all of human origins, finding this being, or examining what has already been found; is the dream of all young Paleoanthropologists. But will we ever find it? Only the future holds that truth. Funny we must look to the future to see more clearly in the past
Perhaps the missing link has already been found and is just not identified yet, or is it lost in the Cradle of HumanKind, who knows where else!
Okay, now it’s time to be honest with you. There is no such thing as a missing link. There, I said it. You’re probably asking yourself now, “so why am I reading this paper?” Well there are many reasons for the tale of the missing link to be told, and we are going to go over those today. From misconceptions to down right trickery, the tale of the missing link is one that continues on today.
So now we will discuss why there is in fact, no missing link and then go into some of the shenanigans that have taken place in the field. So why is there no missing link, in fact it makes perfect sense, we have chimpanzees which share 98% of their DNA with us, then there is a big gap and then there is us. Now things start to unravel. So there is supposed to be one being that bridges the gap between our last common ancestor and us. How could only one being exist?
It turns out that it does not. We in fact have an entire tree of familial relations vs. just one was never the answer. There are many hominids in our past that show a distinct line of evolution. From the Australopiths, to the early beginning of Homo, and a few here and there. While of course we cannot know with certainty how many species there were, when they lived, and even if they had interactions with modern humans. Now are you beginning to see how there is not a single missing link? It’s more of a chain, each link connected to each other, but more than that, there are chains sprouting outwards like the branches of a tree or a braided stream.
“Well hold on, Ive heard stories about the missing link being found last century, what happened to that?”
Ah yes, the wonderful Piltdown Man, possibly the greatest hoax in scientific history. As we all should know, human evolution sprouted and continued on from Africa, but a hundred years ago this answer was not sufficient for many European scientists who wanted to find the missing link in their own backyard.
“When Piltdown Man was unveiled before a meeting of London geologists in 1912, he was heralded as paleoanthropology’s “missing link,” the long-sought transitional form between modern humans and our great ape ancestor. He had a smallish skull, a chimp-like jaw, and a mixture of primitive and modern teeth to boot. Plus, he was a local; to this gathering of Brits, it would have seemed completely right and proper that humankind got its start just down the road in Sussex.
There was just one problem, he was fake.”-The Washington Post. Who would go to such lengths fo create this lie? Well there were a few culprits, and it was in 2016 that scientists made a announce,meant that they think they know who the culprit was. Long dead of courses there is not much to do about it, and the mystery will never be completely resolved.
While Piltdown Man was a fake. He did teach the scientific community a great deal. That everything is not always as it seems, and thorough investigation should be done into anything that seems odd or out of place.
It turned out that Pilddown Man was actually one of the greatest forgeries in scientific history, leading people to believe early man started out in Britain, for 40 years., Consisting of a Homo Sapiens skill, and an orangutan mandible munch work was done on the fake to make it all appear as realistic as possible. And it sure worked.
So what does the future hold for the missing link? Hopefully nothing, its an idea that needs to stop being spread around and shared. All those in the scientific community at this point know that there is no such thing. But that does not mean there is nothing to learn from it.
From hoaxes, to true science we have learned a lot about the missing link today, you are of course free to make up your own mind, but one cannot ignore the evidence.
From H. Habilis to H.Naledi and a few scattered here and there, our picture of human origins grows clearer each day, but at the same time more questions arise with each new discovery. While there may be no missing link, there is still a lot out there to discover, and the best way to do that, in the words of Paleoanthropologist Lee R. Berger, once again “never stop exploring!”