Boskop Man is purported to be a type of hominid, based on a skull discovered in 1913 in Boskop, South Africa, whose existence and interpretation is controversial. Originally, the skull was claimed to be 30 percent larger than that of modern humans, and the type of hominid which was postulated on its basis was taken to have lived in southern Africa between 30,000 and 10,000 years ago. The purported existence of this type plays a prominent role in a book by Gary Lynch and Richard Granger.
What was found
The first Boskop skull was discovered in 1913 by two African farmers digging a drainage ditch. They offered it to Frederick William FitzSimons for examination; many related skulls were subsequently discovered by other prominent paleontologists of the time, including Robert Broom, Alexander Galloway, William Pycraft, Sidney Haughton, Raymond Dart, and others.
Lynch and Granger book
In April 2008, neuroscientists Gary Lynch and Richard Granger published a book on human intelligence titled Big Brain: The Origins and Future of Human Intelligence, in which Boskop fossils play a prominent role. The authors suggest that the Boskops possessed a large forebrain, which may indicate a relatively high IQ.
Boskop Man was not a species, but a variation of anatomically modern humans; there are well-studied skulls from Boskop, South Africa, as well as from Skuhl, Qazeh, Fish Hoek, Border Cave, Brno, Tuinplaas, and other locations, which are near the high end of human skull sizes.
The original skull was incomplete consisting of frontal and parietal bones, with a partial occiput, one temporal and a fragment of mandible. John Hawks notes that "The skull is a large one, with an estimated endocranial volume of 1800 ml. But it is hardly complete, and arguments about its overall size -- exacerbated by its thickness, which confuses estimates based on regression from external measurements -- have ranged from 1700 to 2000 ml. It is large, but well within the range of sizes found in recent males."
Major questions have been raised about the quality and interpretation of the finds.
A paper read to the International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences in 1956 and later published in the journal Man observed that:
"...an isolated cranial fragment found 40 years ago near the surface in a dubious geological horizon, unassociated with implements and fauna, ... there has been developed conjecture after conjecture, speculation on speculation ... the features exhibited by the Boskop skull and those which have been termed 'Boskopoid' are not specific to any 'new' single, African racial group, and in Africa they may be found in varying degrees in the Bushmen, Hottentots or Bush-Hottentot admixtures."
Discover magazine gave Lynch and Granger's book a "fairly positive review" and reprinted an excerpt. John Hawks says "The portrayal of "Boskops" in the Discover excerpt is so out of line with anthropology of the last forty years, that I am amazed the magazine printed it. I am unaware of any credible biological anthropologist or archaeologist who would confirm their description of the "Boskopoids," except as an obsolete category from the history of anthropology." He does note that the Web editor at Discover replied that 'the excerpt was intended to run identified as a "controversial idea, but that context didn't come across as intended."', and that "[t]he web page has been changed to make that context clear".
- Broom, R (1918). "The Evidence Afforded by the Boskop Skull of a New Species of Primitive Man (Homo capensis)". Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History 23: 65–79.
- Dart, R (1923). "Boskop remains from the south-east African coast". Nature 112 (2817): 623–625. doi:10.1038/112623a0.
- Dart, R (1940). "Recent discoveries bearing on human history in southern Africa". Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 70 (1): 13–27. doi:10.2307/2844198. JSTOR 2844198.
- Eiseley L. (1958) The Immense Journey. London: V.Gollancz.
- FitzSimons, FW (1915). "Palaeolithic man in South Africa". Nature 95 (2388): 615–616. doi:10.1038/095615c0.
- Galloway, A (1937). "The Characteristics of the Skull of the Boskop Physical Type". American Journal of Physical Anthropology 23: 31–47. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330230105.
- Haughton, S, Thomson, R. B., Peringuey, L. (1917). "Preliminary note on the ancient human skull remains from the Transvaal". Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 6: 1–14. doi:10.1080/00359191709520168.
- Lynch G, Granger R (2008). Big Brain. Palgrave Macmillan.
- Pycraft, W (1925). "On the Calvaria Found at Boskop, Transvaal, in 1913, and Its Relationship to Cromagnard and Negroid Skulls". Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 55: 179–198. doi:10.2307/2843700. JSTOR 2843700.
- Schwartz J, Tattersall I (2003). The Human Fossil Record, Vols 1-4. Wiley.
- Tobias, P (1985). "History of Physical Anthropology in Southern Africa". Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 28: 1–52. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330280503.
- Lyall Watson (1986). Dreams of Dragons/Earthworks
- Loren Eiseley's writing on Boskop Man: "The Man of the Future"
- Big Brain: The Origins and Future of Human Intelligence by Gary Lynch and Richard Granger
- The "amazing" Boskops by John Hawks
- Return of the "amazing" Boskops John Hawks comments upon recent controversy
- What Happened to the Hominids Who Were Smarter Than Us?