The Picture Page


- The Age of Aquarius -    

This is a picture of the small son of Dr. Biruté Galdikas, and one of the orangutans she was raising in Indonesia.
( yes, there is a nicer one inside the magazine, but I'd rather not put that one here: ask NGM )

For details ( and more ) read the National Geographic Magazine,      June 1980, Vol. 157, No. 6

Yes, I do have a better picture without the NGM Logo. But I don't dare put it here, for copyright reasons. Who knows??

Yes, I do have. . . but I'll just use that for a background on my computer.


South American native and child, taken from DER SPIEGEL Nr 41 / 1983 



The new interview:

Paläoanthropologe Phillip Tobias* über den Fund des ältesten Vormenschenskeletts** in Südafrika

SPIEGEL 51/1998 S. 202 ff ( Auszug )

SPIEGEL: Lehrt uns das neue Skelett auch, warum sich die Vormenschen für den aufrechten Gang entschieden?

Tobias: Früher dachten wir, sie hätten sich in der Savanne aufgerichtet. Aber das ist nicht mehr haltbar. Wir mußten die Savannen - Hypothese - eine 50 Jahre alte fixe Idee - aus dem Fenster schmeißen. Neue Entdeckungen, in Süd - wie auch in Ostafrika, beweisen, daß das Klima viel feuchter war als in der heutigen Savanne. Trotzdem ist denkbar, daß der Wald ausdünnte, so daß das Leben auf dem Grund ein klein wenig vorteilhafter wurde. Aber es könnte auch sein, daß die Menschenaffen Geschmack an Futter fanden, das am Boden zu finden war: Wurzeln, Beeren, Knollen oder Zwiebeln. Ernährung oder Umgebung - beides könnte eine Rolle gespielt haben.

* von der University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg
** genannt "Little Foot"; ca. 3, 5 Millionen Jahren alt.


Palaeoanthropologist Phillip Tobias* about the finding of the oldest pre-human skeleton** in South Africa

Taken from the SPIEGEL No.  51/1998  pp 202 ( Extract )

SPIEGEL: Does the new skeleton also tell us why the pre-humans decided to walk upright?

Tobias: "We used to think they had straightened themselves up in the savannah. But this cannot be maintained.

We had to throw the savannah - hypothesis - a 50 year old ideé fixe - out of the window.

New discoveries in South as well as in East Africa have proved that the climate used to be much more humid than in the savannah today. Still, it is possible that the forest thinned out, so that life on the ground became a little bit more advantageous. But it could also have been that the anthropoids found taste in the food that could be found on the ground: roots, berries, bulbs etc. . .

Nutrition or environment - both could have played a part

Source:   DER SPIEGEL, a German weekly periodical

* * * * * *

*Phillip Tobias; of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg

** called "Little Foot"; about 3, 5 million years old.


As it now seems, pre-humans existed approximately some 3.3 million years ago, for about a million years, in different species ( Lucy, et al ) as bipeds with a monkey brain of about 400 cc; in a stable, dry climate in Africa. In this period, being biped did not lead to any further development of the brain.

The jump to become a human species then took place approximately in a fossil gap in a very unstable climate in East Africa from 2.5 - 2 million year ago. After this, tool-making pre-man Homo Habilis existed, with a brain size of 800 cc, and a body height of 0.9 to 1.20 m, and proliferated.

In this theory, humans are the product of evolutionary adjustment to permanent change.

Well, so far so good. But this explains little... the others did not feel or react to the climate change?


For a full statement, look here: Dispatches Human Evolution - December 98
(mirrored here from

And for our German friends:   Sind die Vorfahren des Menschen tatsächlich auf der Savanne entstanden?
  UNIPRESS - Heft 95

Stelle für Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
Universität Bern
Patricia Maragno

Bild woanders her / Picture from somewhere else

More information on fossils from Hadar and Lake Chad: Afarensis Location
( At all times, hominids and humans seen to have followed water courses. View closer proximity and more detail here )

You can discuss the AAT via the following pages, and there are bound to be many more:

There is also a mailing list and a discussion group going on at:

which is worth having a look at
( or aat, if you pardon the pun )

And here's another little joke: What does "actively taking part in the evolution" mean? *
* usually: to die out ( aktiv an der Evolution teilnehmen = aussterben ) [ Oliver Kalkofe ]
    That is why it is called the "Darwin Award".

And while your aat it, you might as well have a look at the Voluntary Human Extinction page, where we are so aptly called "furless beach apes". [ Of course, we aren't furless beach apes. Nor are we shaved gorillas, as one famous Mr. Universe was once called ( albeit behind his back ). We are shaved furless beach bonobos! ]

Some news:

Scientists seem to have found that ( only? ) in elephants, dolphins (whales) and humans, the part of the brain that turned into the neocortex was the part that formerly was used to control the sense of smell; and it is by the way this part, being new, that is susceptible to Alzheimer's disease. ( I have no real source for this, just an interview on TV concerning the human brain with some crack brain doctor. )

This would coincide with Elaine's speculations concerning the elephant and be in line with the Aquatic Ape Theory - what does an aquatic animal need a sense of smell for? And it would give a whole new explanation as to why that part of the brain became so important - it took over the part that was the most important for orientation before the transition. Of course, for beach apes, a sense of smell is still important - and it still is important for us to recognize each other, unconsciously or not. It regulates food intake, sympathy and sexual preferences.

What this says, however, is this: Of the three types of mammals that have developed a 'big brain' by letting the part that controlled the sense of smell ( which is one of the most ancient and important senses of all, if you include things like taste and reaction to pheromones ) diminish in function by letting it burgeon and evolve into our beloved neocortex, one is aquatic ( the whale ), one looks and behaves 'aquatic', if near water ( the elephant ), and one looks and behaves aquatic as well ( the human ). There seems to be some coincidence here. Of course, seen the other way around, not all 'aquatic' mammals, such as the hippo, have a big brain or are able to use it.

- JHR  04 / 2000

Some comments on the diving reflex / Tauchreflex -

and a passing note ( January 2011 ): generalised fear, it seems, is based genetically to thirty percent; panic to fifty and a simple phobia ( as of spiders ) up to seventy. What does this tell us?

Here's more:

New findings in South Africa and their chronology seems to suggest that about 120 000 years ago, at the height of the last interglacial period, a group of African hominids ( which seem to have been fully - fledged Stone Age Homo Sapiens ) started on a long trip from some sea shell and fish bone littered caves along the beach of South Africa. They spread north, following the coastline of East Africa, up and around or across the Red Sea, up the eastern coast of Arabia, around or across the Persian Gulf, down the western coast of India and up the eastern one again, then down again along western Indonesia and Malaysia, finally reaching Australia some 60 000 years ago.

Remember, for one thing, the coastlines of 120 000 years ago were roughly the coastlines of today, but the oceans fell during the last ice age and rose again by 400 feet ( 120 meters ), leaving bare for a few thousand years what we now call the continental shelves which connect Australia to Asia, although these prehistorically constitute two different land masses. Humans do walk some thousand miles during their lifetime. And anyway, wanderings of this sort are not really wanderings; it is just that one generation takes homestead a bit further down the road, or in this case down the coast. They only had to walk around in search for food, which the sea so conveniently provides anew day by day.

That little group on the coast of south Africa seems to have been the ancestry of all human beings.

What is striking about this theory is the fact that according to this interpretation of available data, they kept to the seashore ( and later the banks of big rivers ) for food, travel, accommodation and for the fact that it constitutes an environment which, at least along this route and generally south of the Arctics, is quite pleasant, stable, unchanging, and similar all along the way from South Africa to Australia. ( And, as I would like to point out, would still today be considered to engulf many of the lost paradises of this world )

But what is even more astounding is the beauty and ease with which this interpretation is adopted! Beach - combing Homo Sapiens, living on fish and seafood, using stones for tools and taking shelter in caves along the seashore, isn't that the picture we've been telling all along?

Savannah theory, with your stick - brandishing cadaver - chewing lion chasers, where are you now?

The way I see it, most human beings are NOT attracted by the sight, smell or taste of blood, gore and decomposing flesh of some dead animal rotting in the midday heat somewhere out on the grasslands. In fact, it repels us. And rightly so: except in very dire straits, eating this raw usually would make us ill. On the whole, I would say we prefer fresh fish, raw or not.

Furthermore, brandishing a stick won't help much with a pack of hungry savannah carnivores used to something five times your size, speed, and weight; but even today African natives can be seen clubbing a crocodile. Water - holes are of course dangerous, with crocodiles inside and lions outside; but the shoreline offers refuge from one or the other.

Max Planck, the German physicist and Nobel laureate, once wrote these words on the replacement of an outworn paradigm: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows that is familiar with it." ( Taken from Water & Human Evolution - mirrored here- )

And, one might add, because nowadays they are so sneakily replaced that no-one will notice the transition! Like German scientists of age* turning up late at night in German television, hijacking the Idea or parts of it and pawning this off as "their idea" with not even their adversaries who I just happen to know to know better even mentioning the AAT... Vell, boys, ve haff some documents here...

But, of course, this is the standard procedure to handle anything that could prove one wrong: first violent opposition, then derision, then denial, finally feigned ignorance and then quiet acceptance.

We are now in phase four.

- JHR  05 / 2004

* Take, or instance, Professor Carsten Niemitz, chief of the University of Berlin institute für human biology und anthropology, who, as it seems, calls his the "Amphibic Ape" theory, which describes the human evolution as having happened by wading on lake and river shores.

At least, he does mention the much older Aquatic Ape Theory, rejecting it, however, (while seemingly, shall we say, leaning on it and using many of its components!) on the grounds that while humans do love to populate the sea shores, only 10% of them are actually in the water and only 2% actually swim at any given time.

But be that as it may: One could see that as a modification of the AAT, not a refutation. The important thing is that he, too, completely turns down the Savannah Theory as "speculative" and the contribution of big game hunting to human evolution as "overrated".

In German: 

Earlier and very complete work on this seems to have been done by Algis Kuliukas

See also: (German) (English)

April 19th 2005:

So, now even the BBC and Richard Attenborough are catching up on the AAT. Well, well.

It has always been held against the Aquatic Ape Theory that it ain't no real scientific theory - just a mongrel assumption that, for one thing, cannot be proven.

Yes, that may be so.

But put to that scrutiny, the Savannah Theory ain't no real scientific theory either  - it, too, cannot be proven by anything that we knownot assume - of our ancestors.

And we know preciously little at first-hand:

- Chimpanzees can climb trees, and they do. But these African apes are not tree dwellers in the sense that real monkeys are. Partly due to weight, Chimps, like gorillas, walk about the forest floors and crouch down on the ground much of the time, maybe even most of it.

- Leopards and goats climb trees as well, and even some humans do, strangely enough almost only the mighty hunter males. They (the human males) then usually throw down fruit. What has that got to do with the open savannah? There are no fruit trees in the open savannah … 

- Anyone who has ever seen a group of adult male forest chimps (not bonobos) on the prey will instantly see that human hunting, warfare, business, gang wars, and all else depending on a group of individuals combining to perform a single, collective task has its origins there.

This is not the instinct-driven charge or whooping thrill of a lion or wolf pack chase; it is not herd movement either, in which a group of individuals blindly and collectively perform the same deed by following a leader or each other's actions.

These chimps first confer, then drum a tree with a stick for the GO!- signal, move and disperse in bands, lie quietly in ambush, surround the enemy or prey in a swift circumventing movement, blocking the escape routes and then attack collectively on a signal as soon as everybody has taken up his post or battle stations in the trees or on the ground. If hunting was the object, the secured meat will then be shared collectively and even dispensed to the begging females who did or do not take part in the hunt.

Single-mindedness, purposeful action, command structure, delegation, discipline, observation, group consent, situation control, premeditation, sexual work differentiation or division of labour, even the bringing home and sharing of the meat- all of this is evidently already there in the male forest chimpanzee mind in astounding quality. No need to look for human development in the savannah for that; it simply does not come into it.

Neither, by the way, does speech.

Furthermore, apes don't point, or look where you are pointing; something no human being can resist.

Pointing requires open space.

So, as we like open spaces … and are seldom seen in trees … someone came to the obvious conclusion that we must have left them - although the coming down off them was something done long ago by our common ape ancestor.

And so, looking out of his window or lying on the lawn, this apt European or North American male found that where the forest ends, the open grasslands begins and therefore that was where we went. And since this was Africa, it must have been the savannah. Eureka.

Since then, that idea has stuck in our minds, just because no European reasonably well off thought of beaches as welcoming open spaces at that time - maybe, for one reason, because in the north, beaches are cold, windy and uncomfortable most of the year ( although we do run there as soon as it gets warm ), even though the waterline is what poor people usually fall back upon to feed themselves if they have to; and, forgetting, too, that that open space that does feed people usually has to be actively cleared of forest and wild animals first, thereby being a man-made savannah, which is so much more easy to handle.

At that time, beaches were not even considered an option, or that the water may have come to us - but why then are collective flood myths so strong and pertinacious? The steep-sided Great African Rift Valley of our ancestry is a valley, not a plain. If at all, there is water usually to be found at the bottom of it.

The floor of the Rift Valley even today in some parts lies below sea level - in parts of the Danakil region in the Afar Triangle more than 300 feet or a 100 meters below, right next to the Red Sea and locked off by the Danakil Block. It does not take very much to flood that - just a "forty days" of rain, a rise in sea level or some tectonic upheaval.

All of this seems to be the reason this debate has to be run so one-sidedly.

As Dr. Peter Wheeler put it so nicely one warm evening some twenty years ago now in the summer of  '87 in Valkenburg, the Savannah Theory was there first and therefore has to be forcibly ousted - from a stand I personally contend it holds with as much or little right as any other theory.

March 17th 2008:

I was contacted by Renato Bender from Schwitzerland, who, after having a look at the history of the AAT (or Aquatile Hypothesis, AH) and the Savannah Theory (or Open Plains Hypothesis, OPH), called my attention to the following:

This author's choice: apart from the AAT protagonists, first and foremost Elaine Morgan, the most important authors of the last century on who, why, and what we are, to my mind <drum roll> are: Lloyd deMause, Stanislaw Lem, and, of course, the well - known Douglas Adams. Read them and ye shall see! Not to forget, of course, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley. Claude Lévi-Strauss, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and the already mentioned Thor Heyerdahl - AND Shakespeare's Macbeth in every form you can find.

Last revised: Jul 2006
 © JHR
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