Very flat, Norfolk

We have, during this year, discussed whether the Neanderthals, despite not being our direct ancestors, could plausibly have immortal souls. This time, some new discoveries are the occasion of looking at homo antecessor – an extinct species thought to have been present in Europe about a million years ago.

The most northerly point which we believe that they reached is Happisburgh in Norfolk, not far from Norwich. The site is an early course of the Thames, now revealed by erosion. At that time of course England was joined to continental Europe, and a walk directly eastward would take one to the area of modern Amsterdam. If you know the loucher parts of Amsterdam you might well reflect on the degree of progress man has or hasn’t, made over the last million years.

No direct Antecessor fossils have been foundon the site, and we do not know whether they died out there or retreated to warmer southern climates: the winters were very harsh. Later settlements at other sites have been found in Europe, but during a time when the climate was milder.

Antecessor had a somewhat smaller brain than modern humans, but the Norfolk finding demonstrates that they were manufacturers of sophisticated stone tools and certainly hunters. It is thought likely that they made clothing from animal skins and were capable of using fire. Without these skills they would hardly have survived at all. Indeed the experts had previously found it hard to believe that survival would be possible that far north.

I have not attempted to write in greater detail because those who need this might like to visit the site at Nature, where there is a good video and a very clear explanatory article: http://www.nature.com/nature/index.html There is also a good Wiki piece on homo antecessor, which already writes about the latest finds.

And we are left with the old question of the point at which the homo line was immortally ensouled. We know when it is night, we know when it is day – it’s twilight which cases the problem. So we have evidence of behaviour, both in Antecessor and Neanderthal, which suggests the presence of the unique powers through which we recognise the soul. But the evidence appears gradually, while a human soul either is or isn’t present. I would not care to come down on one side or the other.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Moral judgment, Quentin queries. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Very flat, Norfolk

  1. st.joseph says:

    I didn’t make a comment on your last post, Quentin as I didnt know what to say.
    It is very interesting what you say about the homo -antecessor, also reading the web site,( I could not get into the video you said, but the Cause of Disease was interesting.)
    Whether a soul is present ,well I dont expect we will ever know, only God knows that.
    As our Faith teaches us we are made in the image and likeness of God, so I would say the most important question to ask is ‘If we have a soul?
    The Catechism tells us that the soul is the very heart of man, and we have come to know God through His Son Jesus Christ. Are we not the lucky ones!
    It is good to ponder over these things when further knowledge that science enlightens us on our -so-called-ancestors. But I think if I was to meet them to-day the first and most important message would be to tell them about Jesus and His Word made Flesh.I would not be able to tell them if it hadn’t been revealed to me in the first place., through Holy Scripture and of course Tradition and Magesterium.
    I doubt very much if they could ‘tell us.’What’s new.
    Are we going back in time to tell us more about our future?
    Are we going to benefit from it all?
    Jesus did say ‘He was the first and the last’ What did He mean by that?.
    He has given us our dignity by revealing Himself to us, and sending His Spirit so that we can be united to Him for all Eternity.What more can we want?
    St Paul speaks a lot about the Spirit and it is well worth meditating on , which I am sure most Catholics have- it is very powerful reading.

    I am sorry if I am moving over to Faith again, but I am not to much into science, but I do very much respect it ,as a gift from God. And I do appreciate your information. Thank you Quentin.

  2. Ion Zone says:

    I always find it weird that some people think there was a time when we weren’t. Or that animals aren’t allowed one.

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