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“Know Thyself”. Carolus Linnaeus. Human Origins: A Confluence of Research. Paleontology Anthropology Archaeology Genetics Paleoclimatology. Conflict, Racism and Uncertainty. Human origins – commonly at center of the Evolution vs. Creation “debate”

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know thyself

“Know Thyself”

Carolus Linnaeus

human origins a confluence of research
Human Origins:A Confluence of Research
  • Paleontology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Genetics
  • Paleoclimatology
conflict racism and uncertainty
Conflict, Racism and Uncertainty
  • Human origins – commonly at center of the Evolution vs. Creation “debate”
  • Evolution and human origins are investigated scientifically – hypotheses are proposed and tested
  • Creationism/Creation Science/Intelligent Design, etc. are faith, not science
  • Topic is full of uncertainty
    • A) Very young discipline
    • B) Relatively sparse fossil record
a family dynasty the leakeys louis richard mary and richard jr
A Family Dynasty – the Leakeys: Louis, Richard, Mary and Richard Jr.
  • Mary Leakey - A lifetime of contributions including:
    • Many “first discoveries” of skulls, etc.
    • First hominid footprints
a patchy fossil record
A Patchy Fossil Record
  • Upland habitat – erosion vs. deposition
  • Fossils are not abundant
  • Most important sites are in Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia (East African Rift System) and Egypt
  • Teeth predominate
  • Jaw and skull fragments
    • Taphonomic changes make taxonomy difficult
  • Rare post-cranial skeleton
  • Few complete or nearly complete skeletons
  • Footprints
the cradle of humanity
The Cradle of Humanity
  • The East African Rift System
  • Earthquakes and formation of rift as Africa splits
  • Sinking of rift floor promoted accumulation of sediments
  • Early hominids preserved in these sediments
  • Recent erosion cuts through sediments to reveal fossils
famous locations of hominid fossils
Famous locationsof hominid fossils
  • Olduvai Gorge
  • Hadar
  • Laetoli
arboreal ancestors
Arboreal Ancestors?
  • Characteristics of tree dwellers
  • Flexibility and agility
  • Parallax vision – eyes in front of head
  • Vision predominates over sense of smell
  • Enlarged brain to handle visual data
  • Secondary adaptations to bipedality (from tree swingers)
of apes and man
Of Apes and Man
  • Divergence in Early Cenozoic – Oligocene?
  • Apes and Hominids
  • More gap than record
  • Too early to establish evolutionary relationships among species
  • Discovery of each new species changes picture
  • So, what is a hominid?
characteristics of hominids a k a hominins
Characteristics of Hominids(a.k.a. hominins)
  • Arched palate
  • U – shaped jaw
  • Uniform dentition (no diastema)
  • Enlarged skull and brain case
  • Opposable thumb
  • Bipedal
  • Paralax vision
australopithecus afarensis lucy
Australopithecus afarensis – “Lucy”
  • Circa 3.8 Ma Pliocene to Pleistocene (?)
  • Female
  • Four feet tall
  • Less than 100 lbs.
  • Tool user, but not maker
  • Coexisted with A. robustus
  • Upright posture and bipedality arise before enlargement of braincase
general picture of hominid evolution
General Picture ofHominid Evolution
  • Probable common ancestor of humans and chimps circa 5.5 Ma
  • Pliocene saw several hominid species coexising
  • Several lineages became extinct
  • Which one was our ancestor?
kenyanthropus platyops an early ancestor to rival a afarensis
Kenyanthropus platyops –an early ancestor to rival A. afarensis?
  • Mid-Pliocene (circa 3.5 Ma)
  • Some similarities to Homo (Kenyanthropus) rudolfensis
  • Coeval with A. afarensis
  • More “modern” appearances millions of years earlier than previously thought
  • Possibly incorrect – taphonomic distortion?
general picture of hominid evolution1
General Picture ofHominid Evolution
  • Genus Homo arises circa 2.0 Ma (H. habilus) - Pleistocene
  • H. habilus – a tool maker and user, fire, built shelters, social structure
  • H. sapiens arises circa 500,000 to 300,000 ybp (Late Pleistocene)
  • Modern Humans arise about 100,000 ybp
the hominid time line
The Hominid Time Line
  • Accurate dating of fossils is critical
  • Direct evolutionary relationships are still unclear
  • New fossil discoveries prompt revisions all the time
  • The burning questions: Who are we? What is our heritage? Where do we fit in the grand scheme of things?