Hominid fossils discovered in Eastern Africa last week have shed new light on the origins of man and altered the way anthropologists perceive the timeline of human evolution.
It was previously thought that our species, Homo sapiens, evolved from Homo erectus, the first human-like creature to walk completely upright, which in turn evolved from the earlier proto-human Homo habilis. But this week a Homo habilis jawbone and a Homo erectus skull found in the Turkana basin of central Kenya were both carbon dated to 2.3 million years ago, indicating that these two early species coexisted, and indeed probably lived side by side in the African veldt.
Even as the scientific community was assimilating the implications of this revelation, anthropologist Rosette Estonia, director of the excavation where the Homo erectus skull was found, came up with another astonishing find: a section of a limestone cliff between the two digs covered in carvings and inscriptions made by both species, a kind of early graffiti bearing witness to the interactions between the two groups.
Estonia, an expert in early languages, was able to decipher many of the crude symbols and sequences of abstract glyphs, which not only confirm that Erectus and Habilis lived in the same place at the same time, but also that they hated each other's guts. Excerpts of what is now recognized as the earliest form of written language have been translated as follows:
Hey Erectus -- why dontcha go back to Olduvai where you came from?
Oh yeah? Well next time your fire goes out don't come running to us. Woops -- I mean lumbering to us! Hawhawhawhawhawhaw!
I suppose you think just 'cause you walk upright we should all bow down to you!
No need to bother -- you're already bowed down! Hawhawhawhawhawhaw!
Ah, go suck a tusk!
Zing! I guess when it comes to humor you're no "slouch"! Hey -- while you're down there you can kiss my (undecipherable)...
Yeah, well one thing you learn when you keep your head down: They don't call you guys "Erectus" for the size of your (broken off)...
Estonia reports that another section of the slab is covered with a series of phrases apparently carved by the same hand within a short time period and that seem to form a narrative.
It is hoped that this inscription will be some sort of historical record of the lives of the earliest human communities. The translation work is still ongoing, and so far only the beginning has been interpreted. It reads as follows:
How many Habilis does it take to stick a fresh burning branch into a hole in the cave wall?