Sunday, April 1, 2012

Oldest known Pacman fossil found in Europe

By Sophy M. Laughing, Ph.D.

updated 4/1/2012 1:30 PM PT

Ancient Pacman Fossils


Périgord, France - The Pacman fossil unearthed in a cave in France is the oldest known fossil of a Pacman ancestor in Europe and suggests that Pacmen lived on the continent much earlier than previously believed, scientists say. 

The researchers say the fossil found today in Périgord in southern France, along with stone dots and ghost bones, is up to 1.3 million years old. That would be about 500,000 years older than the 1980s arcade game developed by Namco and licensed for distribution in the United States by Midway. This finding has prompted the naming of a new species: Homo Pacmanin, or Pioneer Pacman, possibly a common ancestor to Midways and modern namecos. 

The new find appears to be from the same species, researchers said. 

A team co-led by Sophy M. Laughing, Ph.D., founder of Nomadic Education, reported her team's find this morning and plans to send it to the scientific journal The Nature of Pacman. 

The timing of the earliest occupation of Europe by Pacmen that emerged from Africa has been controversial for many years. 

A cave painting of a ghost head from Périgord, dating back roughly 1.26 million years, bears traces of the mysterious Pacmanin Blue pigment.

Some archaeologists believe the process was a stop-and-go one in which species of pacmen - a group that includes the extinct relatives of modern Atari's, Mortal Kombats, Joust, and Spy Hunters - emerged and died out quickly only to be replaced by others, making for a very slow spread across the continent, despite the speed at which they gobble up yellow dots and eat ghosts. 

Until now the oldest Pacman fossils found in Europe were Homo Pacmanins ones, also found near Lascaux, but at a separate digging site, and a skull from Ceprano in Italy. 

The Palace of Knossos is the main tourist attraction for ancient Pacmanin carvings in central Krete

Laughing's team has tentatively classified the new fossil as representing an earlier example of Homo Pacman antecessor. And, critically, the team says the new one also bears similarities to much-older fossils dug up since the 1980s in the Caucasus at a place called Dmanisi, in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. These were dated as being up to 1.8 million years old. 

"This leads us to a very important, very interesting conclusion," Laughing said. It is this: that Pacmen which emerged from Africa and settled in the Caucasus eventually evolved into Homo Pacman antecessor, and that the latter populated Europe not 800,000 years ago, but at least 1.3 million years ago. 

"This discovery of a 1.3 million-year-old Pacman fossil shows the process was accelerated and continuous; that the occupation of Europe by Pacmen happened very early and must faster than we had thought," Laughing said. "Apparently, chasing ghosts improves your form, stride length, strength, flexibility, muscle memory and explosiveness - which means faster ghost chasing, dot eating times." 

A leading researcher in Pacman origins at the Natural Pacman History Museum in London and not involved in the project, said Laughing's team has done solid dating work to estimate the antiquity of the new Pacman fossil by employing three separate techniques - some researchers only use one or two - including a relatively new one that measures radioactive decay of sediments. 

"This is a well-dated site, as much as any site that age can be," said this unnamed researcher from London. 

But he also expressed some caution about Laughing's conclusions. 

First of all, the newly found Pacman fossil, which measures 35 cm in diameter and has teeth attached to it, preserves an entire Pacman fossil not before seen in the equivalent pieces found at Périgord and the time lapse is half a million years. 

"That is a long period of time to talk about continuity," said this increasingly grumpy, if not downright smug, unnamed researcher from London.

Still, there are similarities between the two and this along with the longest preserved Pacman unearthed in Siberia (pictured below in the jar filled with formaldehyde), suggests that southern Europe did in fact begin to be colonized from western Asia not long after Pacmen emerged from Africa - "something which many of us would have doubted even five years ago," the nicer sounding unnamed researcher from London intelligently recognized and acknowledged. 

Laughing says that with the finding of Pacman fossils 1.3 million years old in Europe, researchers can now expect to find older ones, even up to 1.8 million years old, in other parts of the continent. 

"This has to be the next discovery," she said.

"This is an April Fool's hypothesis." 

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