When authors write about the future evolution of humanity an often recurring theme is that our heads have become enormous to hold a large brain. But what if evolution developed a people with those same characteristics thousands of years ago? During my research into human evolution and our ever changing brain in some of my recent articles I have found a fascinating but not widely known group of human fossils named Boskops.
Now most modern scientists have discredited anything about these fossils, so this post is just my own thoughts about what I have read about them. Any research into Boskop Man has ceased since at least 1958.
Who were the Boskops?
In 1913 two farmers in South Africa unearthed fossilized pieces of a human skull and brought them to a man named Fitzsimons who worked at the Port Elizabeth Museum. Later on these pieces, after being shown to many anatomists of note, ended up in the hands of paleontologist Robert Broom who wrote a published paper on them. In that paper he estimated that the brain that this skull held was 1,980cc. To put that in perspective an average human male has a brain that is 1359cc. It wasn’t that the people were huge either, they were normal sized – just with a larger skull.
Further digs uncovered more large skulls, negating the chance of this being some type of disease such as hydrocephalus. In addition the face of these people would have been small, childlike, as they had a face to cranium ratio of 1/5th, a European adult has a ratio of 1/3rd. The other features of the face were all smaller too, small teeth, nose, cheeks, and jaw.
It appeared that there was a group of humans that lived 12-10,000 years ago in South Africa that had huge brains and tiny faces. The human of the future, living in the past. During the time that paleontologists actively searched for Boskop fossils, Robert Broom put forth that they were a species he labelled Homo capensis.
At birth a gorilla and a human baby have roughly the same sized brain. Similarly, the faces of these babies are more alike than they will eventually become. The gorilla will develop a protruding muzzle and its skull will close early, stopping brain growth.
The human baby will develop more slowly, the brain will grow and smooth over any protruding brows. The jaw will tuck under the forehead to present an appearance that we see as less primitive, an evolutionary trade-off for a prolonged and helpless childhood. This is called pedomorphism.
Many people believe that this trend will continue, our brains will get larger and our faces staying the same size. Humans will end up looking less and less ‘scary’, or so the thinking goes. This seemed to have already happened with these Boskop people.
So why are they not talked about anymore?
Well, in the 1950’s the legitimacy of the finds were called into question. It was said that the paleontologists were finding larger skulls among other human remains and ‘cherry picking’ them out as Boskops. Claims were that the skulls were within a normal range variance for Homo sapiens, in addition the pieces of skull found were thicker than average and so would make estimating the brain size difficult and inaccurate. By 1958 this line of thinking won, Boskops were just normal homo sapiens and no further research was done.
To me, it sounds like the Boskop skulls didn’t fit into the normal thinking and so had to be discredited. It is easy to see the primitive skulls of our ancient ancestors such as Homo erectus and say without a doubt that we are a more improved version of humanity. To think that a large brained race fizzled out millennia ago opens up questions about our current place.
To put this into perspective, if the brain was the size they think it was or even smaller at say 1750cc it would be the same difference as exists between us and Homo erectus. If an increased brain size accounts for only say 10-20% in corresponding IQ than these people would average around 149 in the test. Einstein is said to have had an IQ of 160 (he never took the test), so around a third of Boskopians would have been at his level or higher.
Unfortunately having a large brain only helps so much in a primitive world. They existed in a time where the strong ruled.
Nobody knows what happened to them. Some say they interbred and live on in the!Kung, San or Khosian bushpeople of the Kalahari desert. The bushmen have a very unique look and language (click consonants) compared to other Africans. Some say they didn't have many children (think prehistoric nerds) and when they did procreate the rigors of birthing larger headed babies did them in. Others say that they lost out to our more aggressive and numerous ancestors.
Of course there are some people who will say they were the people of Atlantis or some type of human-alien hybrid.
I like to think that the reason the Boskop skulls are found among other normal sized skulls is because they were a ruling class. More intelligent people with longer brain pathways can see the consequences of an action before performing it. They can think things through and can follow the best path, a quality that makes a great planner.
One dig at an ancient communal living site found many rock foundations of structures and some normal grave sites of regular humans. Off to the side in what appeared to have been a specially constructed tomb for a single person in which was a normal looking skeleton, but it had a giant skull.