Homo naledi: The discovery of a new Hominid species in South Africa

Discoveries of new species tend to result from a combination of fortuitous luck and scientific nous. The discovery of Homo naledi certainly involved both.

In October, 2013, Rick Hunter and Steven tucker – both recreational cavers – stumbled across some human looking fossils in the Dinaledi cavern part of the Rising Star cave system. Initially fearing them to be the remains of fellow cavers they continued to see how far the cavern went back. On their return journey it became apparent that they may have stumbled upon some hominid fossils – previously, they had been told to be on the look out for fossils in this hominid fossil rich area, dubbed the Cradle of Humankind.

After pictures were sent to Professor Lee Berger an expedition party was assembled. Not more than two months after the discovery of these bones the excavation began…

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Did Neanderthals walk themselves into extinction? an analysis of locomotion efficiencies in comparison to Homo Sapiens

 

The Homo genus originated in Africa around 2-3 million years ago (mya), as the lineage split from the Australopithecine line (Henke and Hardt 2011), the following wide-spread dispersal lead to the colonisation of almost every habitat on Earth as we see today. It is thought that Australopethicines adaptations were confined to habitats in Africa by ecological, physical or climatic reasons, and the adaptations of the Homo species were able to overcome this (Henke and Hardt 2011).

wisetime

Continue reading Did Neanderthals walk themselves into extinction? an analysis of locomotion efficiencies in comparison to Homo Sapiens

How bad teeth could tell us a great deal about ancient humans.

At some point, most of us have probably been told by the dentist that we need to brush more as we have dental plaque building up. But what is dental plaque and what could it tell us about ancient humans?

Dental calculus (plaque) is ubiquitous on modern human teeth; it forms when a biofilm of oral bacteria builds up on the teeth and calcifies. As calcium phosphate mineral salts deposit on the tooth surface the biofilm becomes ‘trapped’ and preserved (Weyrich et al. 2015). This happens constantly over the individual’s lifetime trapping layer upon layer of bacteria. While dental plaque is often discarded from both live and dead individuals it is now recognised that this plaque contains bacteria that can be identified. Luckily for us ancient (and modern) hunter-gatherer groups don’t brush their teeth!

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Is Objectivity possible in Archaeology?

Objectivity is the state or quality of being ‘bias-free’ (where biases include personal feelings, experiences and imaginings) while subjectivity is the idea that our decisions and ideas are formulated as a result of our own mental experience (Kristianses and Rowlands 2005). The scientific method strives to produces results that are objective or objective truths and is concerned with reproducibility and testability of methods and theories.

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Reconstructing prehistoric animals

This post is based upon the book: All Yesterdays, unique and speculative views of Dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals by John Conway, C.M Kosemen and Darren Naish. I recently read this book and would recommend it to anybody studying archaeology and anthropology. The book raises the issues of clothing bones in tissue (e.g. skin, muscles, fur and feathers) or in other words bringing the animal back to life in art.

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