Science used to think that the Humanity Cake was divided between two known factions: one made up of modern humans and Neanderthals, and the other consisting of Homo erectus, the humorous highpoint of many a biology lesson.
March 2010 changed those views for good, when the X-woman was discovered in a Siberian cave. Well, her finger bone, anyway. Other bits from other individuals followed, but were so scarce that to date we've only found three tiny physical remains: a tooth, a toe bone and a finger bone.
"But don't finger bones also make Homo erec-
Of course, a mere lack of material has never stopped scientists from sciencing. They analyzed the ever-loving crap out of each bit, and as a result, we have a massive load of information about the girl and her kin, now dubbed Denisovans, after the girl's finding place.
First of all, the tooth they found was far bigger than those of either Homo sapiens or Neanderthals, which means Denisovans were pretty damn huge (or alternately had the kind of buck teeth that were capable of both starting and ending fights).
Found on the Paleolithic equivalent of a barroom floor.
Denisovans were pretty handy, too -- besides Homo sapiens, they were the only hominids around that might have been using tools and making jewelry. The scientists found some strangely advanced tools and ancient jewelry alongside the X-woman's remains. Although the researchers say they're not yet sure that these were made by Denisovans, their aspirations are betrayed by the loud whoosh of blood rushing to their science boners.
Hey, speaking of boners: We know that Denisovans were on pretty friendly terms with both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. Sexy friendly.
Denisovans were notorious connoisseurs of sweet loving, and they were pretty generous about doling out humps. The only currently known encounter between Denisovans and the ancestors of modern-day humans is thought to have been a "fleeting encounter" between a group of 50 Denisovans and a thousand or so humans. There followed so much intense, exhaustive, primal banging that people in certain parts of Northern Australia share 4 to 6 percent of their DNA with Denisovans to this day.
"That explains why this cave floor's so sticky."
Sadly, Denisovans disappeared around the time when Homo sapiens decided we'd had enough of the arrogant way all these other hominids kept existing. And while logic dictates that they went the way of the Neanderthal, we like to think that they were just chased into hiding by angry Homo sapiens spouses and will one day emerge from their giant caves for some good ol' fashioned snu-snu.
When you're told to imagine an alien, you probably picture something like this:
You know -- tiny face, big head, creepy shark eyes, skin like a British teenager. There's a lot of theories on why we picture aliens the way we do. Some say they're a remnant from when we were babies and our facial recognition condensed everything to that simplistic, big-headed visage. Others maintain that they came from a TV show.
According to neuroscientists Gary Lynch and Richard Granger, though, the truth might be a lot simpler. Your ancestral memory might just recognize your funny-lookin' neighbor from a few thousand years ago. Meet the Boskop man:
"You've probably never heard of me."
Named after the South African area where their remains were first located, Boskops supposedly roamed the land a mere 10,000 years ago. Well, we say "roamed" -- chances are that they mainly spent their days at the prehistoric Starbucks, working on their screenplays and scoffing at all the crude monkeys. According to rough estimations, Boskops had a ridiculously huge brain (around 25 percent larger than ours) featuring a massive prefrontal cortex. This gave them an estimated average intelligence quotient of around 150. To put that in context, the average IQ in the U.S. today is 100 points.
Essentially, that means that every one of these big-headed dudes was a Mensa-level genius. A bunch of butt-ugly prehistoric rocket scientists, walking the Earth back when were still trying (and ultimately failing) to domesticate the house cat.
We already know that the big-heads interacted with our ancestors, and at least one ancient burial site features a carefully constructed king-tomb containing a very familiar-looking giant, pointy skull. So, why aren't we all card-carrying Morlocks right now, toiling under the superior brainpower of Boskops?
Two things: One, they may have been so preoccupied with their thoughts that they simply couldn't be bothered to put up any social structure to speak of, which in turn gave them precious little opportunities for procreation (ha! Ancient nerds).
Two, big brains are really only useful when you already have a civilization set up. Before the social network of companies, schools, libraries and caffeinated soft drink manufacturers is firmly in place, a powerful mind is usually the runner up in the Daily Fist and Fang Competition. The theory goes that the Boskops were smart enough to realize this, so, having assessed the situation, they accepted their fate and just sat there, withstanding the great evolutionary wedgie that we Homo bulliens inflicted on them.
We'd noogie their giant heads while yelling "Stop extincting yourselves! Stop extincting yourselves!"
Dawn likes to tweet about smashing things. She has a smashing new blog where she also talks about smashing things. J.F. Sargent is a workshop moderator for Cracked and likes to tweet about things that he almost did and Tumblr about things that can never be. Agneeth can be contacted at Agneeth152@gmail.com.
For more on human evolution, check out 5 Disturbing Ways the Human Body Will Evolve in the Future and The 5 Strangest Things Evolution Left in Your Body.