Mary Leakey (1913-1996) was a paleoanthropologist who made several important discoveries related to the evolution of humanity. In 1948 she discovered the first ever fossilised Proconsul skull, an extinct ape and an early ancestor of humans.

Even though she showed a great interest in archaeology from an early age and wanted to apply to Oxford, she was discouraged to do so, and was turned away from several excavation sites until finally being allowed to work. Throughout her career she discovered fossils and stone tools belonging to different species of early hominids, some of them more than 3.75 million years old. She discovered fifteen new species and one new genus of animal.

PreHistoric Murder Uncovered!

In northern Spain about 430,000 years ago, the bodies of at least 28 early humans found their way to the bottom of a 43-foot-deep shaft in the bedrock that archaeologists call Sima de los Huesos, or “Pit of the Bones.” They were not humans, but rather evolutionary precursors of Neanderthals, which modern scientists have named Homo heidelbergensis. Several explanations have been proposed: Carnivores might have dragged them there, or perhaps 28 separate hapless hominins accidentally fell down the shaft. But we know at least one was a murder victim!

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anonymous asked:

Don't get me wrong. I like scanitly clad blonde cavewomen as much as the next guy. But are there any pulps that take a more realistic approach to the concept? I mean, the cavewomen on the covers are far too well groomed for people who are living in the wilderness and fighting dinosaurs and mammoths.

A lot more stone age stories are more accurate and researched than you’d think, but that’s very seldom reflected in the cover art. This is something people need to understand about cover art: it’s not designed to accompany or reflect the story, it’s designed to advertise the story. So no matter what’s on the inside of the book, the cover will have stone age societies with highly advanced push-up bra technology and Cover Girl cavewomen (although you won’t hear any complaints at my end about that…that’s the opposite of a problem!)

Cover art is advertising, and uses the principles of psychology and marketing. If you want to understand this better, I recommend reading “Frank Kelly Freas: As He Sees It.” Among other things, this is why covers tend to use the hero-monster-girl cover over and over and over, because it creates emotional involvement. The threatened, vulnerable beautiful girl creates an instinctive need to protect that draws you in, the monster creates a threat, and the hero is someone the reader projects themselves into. Interestingly, research shows the hero-monster-girl cover creates the same reaction in women as it does in men.

As Freas himself said, “advertisers love it when you think you can’t be manipulated, because that means you’re not analyzing all the ways you can be.”

If you want brutal realism and scientific accuracy in your stone age story, you can’t do much better than one written by a true-blue paleoanthropologist, Björn Kurtén, “The Dance of the Tiger” from 1980. It’s yet another novel about Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal contact, the same as the Hok the Mighty stories, Clan of the Cave Bear, and Golding’s “The Inheritors,” except that Kurtén believed the way it all played out was interbreeding. Neanderthals in particular loved the African-originating Homo Sapiens because of how smooth their brows were, which reminds them of children, and therefore looks “cute.”
Oldest Fossils of Homo Sapiens Found in Morocco, Altering History of Our Species
Newly discovered fossils indicate Homo sapiens were present in Africa 300,000 years ago, scientists reported. Until now, the earliest evidence dated back just 195,000 years.
By Carl Zimmer

Fossils discovered in Morocco are the oldest known remains of Homo sapiens, scientists reported on Wednesday, a finding that rewrites the story of mankind’s origins and suggests that our species evolved in multiple locations across the African continent.

“We did not evolve from a single ‘cradle of mankind’ somewhere in East Africa,” said Philipp Gunz, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and a co-author of two new studies on the fossils, published in the journal Nature. “We evolved on the African continent.”

Until now, the oldest known fossils of our species dated back just 195,000 years. The Moroccan fossils, by contrast, are roughly 300,000 years old. Remarkably, they indicate that early Homo sapiens had faces much like our own, although their brains differed in fundamental ways.

My interest in the ethical issues surrounding the use of non-human animals grew out of my investigations into the phenomenon of dehumanization- the tendency to conceive of groups of people as creatures that are less than human. Dehumanization is a common feature of war, genocide, slavery, and other atrocities (Smith, 2011). Its purpose is to disinhibit violence against the dehumanized group by excluding them from the universe of moral obligation.
Dehumanization raises deep metaphysical and ethical questions about the human/non-human binary…
…Speciesism is parasitic on the category of “species”. It refers to the moral privileging of certain biological kinds… [I]t is generally supposed that “human” straightforwardly refers to the species Homo sapiens, and therefore that “human” is a name for a biological kind. If this assumption is correct then it provides a clear basis for demarcating humans from non-humans. Only Homo sapiens are human, and all other species are non-human. But what if this isn’t correct? If “human” and “Homo sapiens” are not equivalent terms, then this upsets certain suppositions about the human/non-human dichotomy as well as the moral implications that supposedly flow from them.
What is it to be human? …[T]he dictionary gives us three options (Homo sapiens, some proper subset of genus Homo that includes Homo sapiens among its members, or all of genus Homo); the scientific literature presents us with even more. Although for the most part paleoanthropologists identify humans with Homo sapiens, or with the genus Homo, some restrict it to the subspecies Homo sapiens or enlarge it to include all of the hominin lineage (for a range of views, see e.g. Leakey and Lewin, 1993; Falgueres et al., 1999l Potts, 2003; Schmitt, 2003; Lewin and Foley, 2004; Mikkelsen, 2004; Pollard, 2009).
These differences of opinion are not due to the scarcity or ambiguity of empirical evidence. They are due to the complete absence of such evidence- or, to put the point with greater precision, the absence of any conception of what sort of evidence would settle the question of which primate taxa or taxon should be counted as “human”. Biological science can specify, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, the taxon to which an organism belongs, but it cannot tell us whether an organism is a human organism. The epistemic authority of science does not extend to judgements about what creatures are human because “human” is a folk category, not a scientific one.
…Claims like “an animal is human only if they are a member of the species Homo sapiens” are stipulated rather than discovered. Neither you nor anyone else has sifted through the available data (what data?) to emerge with the finding that humans are Homo sapiens. Rather, in deciding that all and only Homo sapiens are humans, you are expressing a preference about where the boundary separating humans from non-humans should be drawn (Clark and Willermet, 1997; Corbey, 2005; Bourke, 2011).

The Politics of Species (2013) -Chapter 3 (Idexically Yours: Why being human is more like being here than like being water)- David Livingstone Smith on the politics of human identity and “human” as a social construct and folk category versus a biological fact. // Part I.

“We exclude other animals from the moral community by conceiving of them as essentially different from ourselves.”


A new New York Times video examines the life and legacy of Mary Leakey.

The short documentary remembers the pioneering paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey, who discovered footprints of human ancestors on the African savanna. Her colleagues, several of whom help narrate, including American Museum of Natural History Curator Emeritus Ian Tattersall, uniformly remember her as an extraordinary character. Leakey was exacting in her science, and expected the same of her workers. 

Watch the video.


We know a lot about the life of Lucy, the famous fossil of Australopithecus afarensis —our ancient ancestor and bridge to the ape world.

Lucy was 3 feet tall; she lived in what is now Ethiopia and she walked upright. She ate leaves, grass and maybe nuts and seeds. She probably slept in a tree nest.

And now, after studying a 3-D scan of Lucy’s bones, scientists say they know something about her death. In a study published Monday in Nature, researchers at the University of Texas present evidence they say shows Lucy died after she fell out of a tree.

But other paleoanthropologists fired back, saying there was insufficient evidence to support the tree-fall theory.

Read more about the new theory here - and decide if you buy it!

Images: Wikimedia Commons; Marsha Miller/University of Texas, Austin; John Kappelman/Nature

anonymous asked:

WOAH WOAH the research you did in college sounds so cool!!!!!!! IT'S ALWAYS BEEN MY DREAM TO DO SOMETHING RELATED TO EPIDEMIOLOGY IN COLLEGE!!! you are my idol :')

thank u!!!!! I’m sure you will do great and do great research tbh!!! Like epidemiology wasn’t even really my focus, but I fell into it after working for this particular professor, so if you seek it out I bet you will find a lot more amazing things to study!!!!! So cool love it.

i mostly studied human bones lmao i wanted to be tim d. white the paleoanthropologist 

Fossils Found In Morocco Suggest Pan-African Origin of Humans

Scientists reported the discovery of the oldest remains of Homo sapiens from Jebel Irhoud in Morocco on Wednesday, adding an interesting angle to the findings of mankind’s origins. These fossils are roughly 100,000 years older than any previously described modern human bones.

The bones found are said to be from “early anatomically modern” humans — our own species with a mixture of modern and primitive traits.

Jean-Jacques Hublin, paleoanthropologist, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyThis material represents the very root of our species.
Jean-Jaques Hublin. (Photo Courtesy: MPI-EVA Leipzig)

Hublin helped lead the research published in the journal Nature.

Previous Discoveries

Based on previous discoveries, experts suggested that human ancestors evolved into our species 200,000 years ago. But the new fossils shift that window in time back half again as long, to 300,000 years.

Before the discovery at the site called Jebel Irhoud, located between Marrakech and Morocco’s Atlantic coast, the oldest Homo Sapiens fossils were known from an Ethiopian site called Omo Kibish, dated to 195,000 years ago.

What Has Been Found

The Moroccan fossils, found in what was a cave setting, represented three adults, one adolescent and one child roughly eight years old, thought to have lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Scientists determined that the skulls, limb bones and teeth representing at least five individuals were about 300,000 years old.

An almost complete adult mandible has been found at Jebel Irhoud. (Photo Courtesy: Jean-Jacques Hublin/MPI-EVA Leipzig)

Scientists largely believe that Homo Sapiensoriginated in Africa. These findings suggest a complex evolutionary history probably involving the entire continent, with Homo Sapiens, by 300,000 years ago, dispersed all over Africa.

HublinThe message we would like to convey is that our species is much older than we thought and that it did not emerge in an Adamic way in a small ‘Garden of Eden’ somewhere in East Africa. It is a pan-African process and more complex scenario that what has been envisioned so far.

Fossil evidence points to an African origin of Homo sapiens from a group called either H. heidelbergensis or H. rhodesiensis.

However, the exact place and time of emergence of Homo Sapiens remain obscure because the fossil record is scarce and the chronological age of many key specimens remains uncertain.

(With inputs from Reuters and research published in the journal Nature)


‘Lucy’, is the name given to a collection of fossilized bones that once made up the skeleton of a hominid from the Australopithecus afarensis species, who lived in Ethiopia 3.2 million years ago.

She was named after The Beatles song 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’

After making the historic find, paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson headed back to his campsite with his team.

He put a Beatles cassette in the tape player, and when Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds came on, one of the group said he should call the skeleton Lucy.

“All of a sudden, she became a person,” Johanson said in an interview with BBC.

saphirarose0  asked:

So I'm still in high school and thinking about a career in anthro. I love it more than almost anything! But I just can't convince myself that I should go after it, because of jobs. Most people aren't out on sites digging. Could you give some advice in a few areas? 1. What should i do in high school to see if i should go into it and prepare myself to? 2. In college what should I look for and do to get ahead of the game? 3. And actual areas of common work? I can't find much on this topic.

Awesome!! Let’s see if I can help at all.

Now, I’m American which means anthropology is actually four different areas: cultural, linguistic, physical, and archaeology. I’m personally culture, but some of my best friends are archaeology, since we’re all the same major. With that said, I’m assuming that “sites digging” means you’re either interested in archaeology or paleoanthropology, since the other two disciplines will probably never call for actual physical labor. 

Paleoanthropology is the study of past hominins, like homo erectus or australopithecines. Two of my professors do this. The one is THE go-to paleoanthropologist for neandertals so he’s constantly going to Croatia and helping identify remains in cave sites, but he has plenty of stories about going to Africa (Ethiopia, I think) and helping with some of the earliest hominins with the Leakeys (yeah, he’s a big deal, and yeah he’s old). Anyways, Paleos do digging but would mostly be teaching or identifying remains in labs. They also require a PhD, I believe specifically a medical degree, so you’ll be doing practicals with people who will go off be to surgeons. There are probably universities though that offer specific paleo graduate programs though so you can always look for that. Also, if hominins aren’t your thing, archaeologists often need to seek out paleos or people who look into animal remains found on sites so that’s another area entirely. 

Archaeologists are a whole other thing. They study past humans but in particular they look at material culture, so likes pots and arrowheads and literal garbage heaps. What is most important for archaeologists, from what I understand, is going to field school. This you’ll do either after your junior year of college during the summer or the summer after you graduate. It’s an excursion to a field site for like a month in the middle of the woods and they teach you how to actually work the site. I was offered to go with a scholarship but declined. There’s always money available for this so if you go, have someone else pay lol. This is more important than the actual bachelors degree. Once you have field school, you can apply for any starting position archaeology job. And to say that ‘no ones out there digging’ is untrue. The US govt and universities constantly hire people, even especially right-out-of-college kids, to do ‘recovery’ or ‘protective’ archaeology or whatever its called. Basically the govt wants to destroy some land and they can’t because there’s stuff there and archaeologists need to show up and take care of it. Otherwise I know past arch majors who work in museums now. And, I even know people like me who are even going to graduate school for archaeology so that they can study a specific area or do theory or be professors. So there’s more options than just straight field stuff. 

1. What should i do in high school to see if i should go into it and prepare myself to? 

Paleo is most related to biology and anatomy. So those are classes you’d want to take. Anatomy is so fun anyways so even if you don’t want paleo I’d do it. 

Archaeology is most like history. Though I often don’t give archs too much credit, they do need to understand cultural theory, so if you can find a geography class, typically that will teach you stuff too. 

As for other preparing, visit universities by you with anthro programs, even if you don’t like the university, and talk to the anthro professors. Anthro professors are THE BEST and they are so fun and just really accepting. They’ll definitely be biased about with subfield you go into, of course, but if you give them some idea of what you like they can point you in the right direction. 

2. In college what should I look for and do to get ahead of the game?

What is really important about grad school is knowing 1. who are the professors and 2. what do they like. I’m sure this applies to undergrad school too though when I chose my college I did it based on financials (I’m poor af). You want your interests to align with the professors, but when you’re an undergrad, you’re not gonna know what you want. And, if you’re going to an American university, you’ll likely be forced by the curriculum to take classes from each subfield. So you may go in thinking ‘yeah I’m an archaeologist’ and realize that linguistics is the shit. So the best advice is to take any class you find interesting because you may just fall in love, like I did. And talk to your professors they want to help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other areas too, like geography or history, because anthro majors almost always have a minor (I had two). I think it’s hard to ‘get ahead’ because really what that requires is a lot of reading but academic articles are going to be beyond you because you haven’t taken even the basic courses yet. Reading any anthropology articles will help. I personally follow the AAA Facebook page, and they always post stuff, and that’ll get you a legit understanding of contemporary anthro. And for the love of god, study abroad.

3. And actual areas of common work? I can’t find much on this topic.

Sorry kid, no such thing. HA. Okay so again depends on the subfield. Archaeology I gave some examples. But the thing about a BA or BS is that no matter what your major is, you can get a job outside of it. I know so many people who say ‘there’s no jobs in that wth are you doing’ and really anthropologists have the one thing that everyone wants: cultural sensitivity. I can get a job with NGOs, internships with the state dept., I know someone who works with refugees, someone who helps at womens shelters, someone who actually works for an agency that stops human traffickers, someone who works for a cruise line and gives tours at the tourist archaeological sites in multiple languages. Some join the peace corps, some work for USAID, some are literally helping relocate people who are already affected by global warming. It’s nuts. No job will ever say ‘anthropologist wanted’ but they will say ‘cultural understanding’ or ‘social sciences’ or ‘writing’ or ‘diversity sensitivity’. And besides, you can get any job as it is. I know anthro people who now work for insurance companies. Your major literally does not matter. 

Anyways, cultural anthropologists as an actual career means being a professor to help fund your research. Same for linguists, and paleos. PhD = professor almost every time. Which isn’t a bad thing but keep that in mind. I personally want to get my masters degree and try being an editor. I do it part time for my professor and realize I really liked it so why the hell not. 

I’m posting this publicly because I know plenty of archaeologists and paleos follow this blog, I want them to offer resources or tips for you since I’m cultural and can’t give as much insight as I want to. Don’t be afraid to inbox me any other questions. Good luck, and welcome to anthropology. @saphirarose0

anonymous asked:

What does a bio anthropologist do and how do you get to work with bones? What are the steps in college? What classes should I get?

Hi!  Bioanthropologists (also known as physical anthropologists) can be primatologists, paleoanthropologists, bioarchaeologists, or forensic anthropologists.  We study the health, behavior, and variation of humans and their relatives.

I assume you mean working with human bones.  In college I majored in anthropology and took human osteology.  I also took AP bio in high school, but introductory biology college classes are the same, so I do recommend taking at least one of those.  In most programs you’ll have to take an introductory bioanth class anyway, which is what I teach now.  We cover basic primate behavior, human osteology, and the fossils of human ancestors.

I’ve worked with human bones through a bioarch field school, museums, and in university anthropology departments.  Right now I’m getting my MA in forensic anthropology so I can work for an ME, or perhaps mass disaster and human rights.  I’ll probably go on to PhD first, but it’s getting increasingly common to find a decent job with just an MA.

For more about what I’ve done, check out my FAQ!

In a Tooth, DNA From Some Very Old Cousins, the Denisovans

A tooth fossil discovered in a Siberian cave has yielded DNA from a vanished branch of the human tree, mysterious cousins called the Denisovans, scientists said on Monday.

Their analysis pushes back the oldest known evidence for Denisovans by 60,000 years, suggesting that the species was able to thrive in harsh climates for thousands of generations. The results also suggest that the Denisovans may have interbred with other ancient hominins, relatives of modern humans that science has yet to discover.

Todd Disotell, a paleoanthropologist at New York University who was not involved in the new study, said the report added to growing evidence that our species kept company with many near relatives over the past million years. The world, Dr. Disotell said, “was a lot like Middle-earth. There you’ve got elves and dwarves and hobbits and orcs.” Read more.