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Found 7 results

  1. Homo naledi fossils dated (South Africa)

    "Cradle of Humankind" fossils can now be dated Maddie Bender, Earth Magazine, February 5, 2019 https://www.earthmagazine.org/article/cradle-humankind-fossils-can-now-be-dated The paper is: Pickering, R., Herries, A.I., Woodhead, J.D., Hellstrom, J.C., Green, H.E., Paul, B., Ritzman, T., Strait, D.S., Schoville, B.J. and Hancox, P.J., 2019. U–Pb-dated flowstones restrict South African early hominin record to dry climate phases. Nature, 565(7738), p.226. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0711-0 A related paper is: Dirks, P.H., Berger, L.R., Roberts, E.M., Kramers, J.D., Hawks, J., Randolph-Quinney, P.S., Elliott, M., Musiba, C.M., Churchill, S.E., de Ruiter, D.J. and Schmid, P., 2015. Geological and taphonomic context for the new hominin species Homo naledi from the Dinaledi Chamber, South Africa. Elife, 4, p.e09561. https://cdn.elifesciences.org/articles/09561/elife-09561-v1.pdf Yours, Paul H.
  2. Here’s an interesting article by Paleoanthropologist John Hawks, it details the problems CT scans can introduce when dating fossils via ESR (electron spin resonance) dating. This is particularly pertinent to paleoanthropology because of how vital exact dates are. http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/geology/dating/x-ray-esr-ct-scans-2019.html
  3. It’s an exciting time to be watching paleoanthropology unfold! Since the 1990’s, the paleoanthropological community has been waiting for Little Foot the Australopithecus to make its debut. Following increased pressure to allow teams other than the one that discovered it to examine the amazing remains, (Background ) the skeleton has been open for examinations and the original team headed by Ron Clarke has been releasing and pre-releasing papers this month. The flurry of activity has been met with some opposition, especially by Lee Berger, the man behind the excavation of Au. sediba and H. naledi. Berger and John Hawks have recently released a paper (“Australopithecus prometheus is a Nomen nudum,” I’m not sure if it’s open access but if you message Lee Berger on Facebook he will send you a PDF) which prevents the skeleton from bearing the name Au. prometheus if it is proposed as a new species. He has also pointed out that the skeleton is younger than it has been made out to be (Here’s why), and doesn’t like the preprints and things that have yet to be fully peer reviewed, stating publicly: “I suspect the #littlefoot papers will become a historical teaching moment, but not for the right reasons.” He believes more comparative analysis is nessecary. I bet you we will see Lee release some major papers on Little Foot in the near future. Don Johansson, Lucy’s discoverer, weighed in as well: “This controversy should not distract from Ron Clarke's discovery and years of dedication to cleaning this specimen and making it available to science. Unlike some other discoveries that have been rushed into print and hastily excavated, Little Foot is an example of responsible science. Whether it is a new species is, at this point, not the issue, since detailed comparative work, assessing all the South African Australopithecus species is necessary to evaluate that premise. An excellent example of how science progress is the revaluation of A. sediba, a proposed new species. After further careful study and comparative analysis it has been shown to belong to A. africanus (the initial suggestion the sediba was a new species failed to take into account that the type specimen was immature and not adult). Congratulations to Ron Clarke this monumental achievement is a fitting culmination of a stellar career. What paleoanthropologist wouldn't be thrilled to have been responsible for the oldest, most complete skeleton of a human ancestor--Little Foot” Here, Johansson agrees with Berger that more comparative analysis is necessary and that it is premature to name a species but takes a swipe at Berger’s assessment of Au. sediba. He supports Clarke and the time he took to excavate and study. Here is another article on it.
  4. I don't read a lot about hominid fossils but I try to keep up with general knowledge of recent finds and discussions. Sometimes, the various science magazines will publish a special issue on the subject and I try to pick up a copy. The September issue of Natural History is devoted to human origins with a few articles with even one on the ancient primates of the Paleocene and Eocene along with a reprinted column by the late Stephen J. Gould. I haven't read it yet but leafed through it (nice artwork and fossil photos in it). I had seen it that month at a local Barnes & Noble but the last copy was all bent-up like an accordion. I looked for it at another store but couldn't find it. I went back to pick up the beat-up one I had seen but it was gone. After hunting around the magazine website, I found that back issues were available so I mailed away for it ($7 including shipping). Ten days later, it arrived. In case anyone else is interested, here's the link to page with the back issue address - just scroll down to it: http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/contact.html
  5. Scientifically vital fossils vanish, Masol’s claim to fame in danger Siddarth Banerjee | TNN | April 30, 2018 https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chandigarh/scientifically-vital-fossils-vanish-masols-claim-to-fame-in-danger/articleshow/63969904.cms 2.6-million-year-old ‘priceless’ fossil on sale for just Rs 4500 Sidharth Banerjee | TNN | July 24, 2017 https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/2-6-million-year-old-priceless-fossil-on-sale-for-just-rs-4500/articleshow/59729760.cms Some papers are: Chapon-Sao, C., Abdessadok, S., Tudryn, A., Malassé, A.D., Singh, M., Karir, B., Gaillard, C., Moigne, A.M., Gargani, J. and Bhardwaj, V., 2016. Lithostratigraphy of Masol paleonto-archeological localities in the Quranwala Zone, 2.6 Ma, northwestern India. Comptes Rendus Palevol, 15(3-4), pp. 417-439. https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01323986/ Malassé, A.D., Moigne, A.M., Singh, M., Calligaro, T., Karir, B., Gaillard, C., Kaur, A., Bhardwaj, V., Pal, S., Abdessadok, S. and Sao, C.C., 2016. Intentional cut marks on bovid from the Quranwala zone, 2.6 Ma, Siwalik Frontal Range, northwestern India. Comptes Rendus Palevol, 15(3-4), pp. 317-339. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/292209224_Intentional_cut_marks_on_bovid_from_the_Quranwala_zone_26_Ma_Siwalik_Frontal_Range_northwestern_India https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anne_Dambricourt_Malasse Malassé, A.D., Singh, M., Karir, B., Gaillard, C., Bhardwaj, V., Moigne, A.M., Abdessadok, S., Sao, C.C., Gargani, J., Tudryn, A. and Calligaro, T., 2016. Anthropic activities in the fossiliferous Quranwala Zone, 2.6 Ma, Siwaliks of Northwest India, historical context of the discovery and scientific investigations. Comptes Rendus Palevol, 15(3-4), pp.295-316. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/292077679_Anthropic_activities_in_the_fossiliferous_Quranwala_Zone_26Ma_Siwaliks_of_Northwest_India_historical_context_of_the_discovery_and_scientific_investigations https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anne_Dambricourt_Malasse Gargani, J., Abdessadok, S., Tudryn, A., Sao, C.C., Malassé, A.D., Gaillard, C., Moigne, A.M., Singh, M., Bhardwaj, V. and Karir, B., 2016. Geology and geomorphology of Masol paleonto-archeological site, Late Pliocene, Chandigarh, Siwalik Frontal Range, NW India. Comptes Rendus Palevol, 15(3-4), pp.379-391. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281291986_Geology_and_Geomorphology_of_Masol_paleonto-archeological_site_Late_Pliocene_Chandigarh_Siwalik_Frontal_Range_NW_India https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anne_Dambricourt_Malasse Gaillard, C., Singh, M., Malassé, A.D., Bhardwaj, V., Karir, B., Kaur, A., Pal, S., Moigne, A.M., Sao, C.C., Abdessadok, S. and Gargani, J., 2016. The lithic industries on the fossiliferous outcrops of the Late Pliocene masol formation, Siwalik frontal range, northwestern India (Punjab). Comptes Rendus Palevol, 15(3-4), pp.341-357. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/293332452_The_lithic_industries_on_the_fossiliferous_outcrops_of_the_Late_Pliocene_Masol_Formation_Siwalik_Frontal_Range_north-western_India_Punjab https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Claire_Gaillard2 Yours, Paul H.
  6. Infographic: Field guide to Pleistocene hookups John Hawks Webblog, December 21, 2013 http://johnhawks.net/weblog/topics/humor/field-guide-pleistocene-hookups-2013.html "inaugural infographic, illustrating what we know about mating relationships from ancient DNA" The homepage is either http://johnhawks.net/weblog/ or http://johnhawks.net/weblog/articles.html . Also, there is an interesting lecture about Homo floresiensis at: Great Beasts of Legend: The Hobbits of Flores Island: Myth, Magic, Majesty of Homo floresiensis Penn Museum, February 6, 2017 [www.youtube.com] Yours, Paul H. "The past is never dead. It's not even past." William Faulkner, Act 1, Scene III, Requiem for a Nun (1951)
  7. a book review of: The Hunters or the Hunted?: An Introduction to African Cave Taphonomy by C.K. Brain. 1981. The University of Chicago Press. 365 pages. Large trade paperback. Suggested retail: $55 USD. In the early years of the 20th century, paleontology was still a young science. Across the 1900's it matured as unusually-rich fossil deposits offered opportunities beyond just naming extinct species. In some cases truckloads of bones could be collected; in others numerous exoskeletons were preserved in exquisite detail. Some localities sampled more than one bed, each representing a distinct world. Studying the encasing matrix became as important as the organisms because this led to the reconstructing of paleoenvironments. Geologists established a surprising big picture - plate tectonics - while paleontologists started to pay attention to the small details of an organism's path from death through deposition and called it a science of its own - taphonomy. "The Hunters or the Hunted?" is the title and the condensed version of the main question of this book: are the early hominid remains found in three cave systems in the Sterkfontein Valley of South Africa evidence of our ancestors occupying the caves or are they the discarded leftovers of carnivores that preyed upon hominids? Answering that question required new research on how bones accumulate in those caves today, research on the fossils from the caves, and research on the animals that live in the area today. The remains dated from between 1.6 and 2.6 million years ago, spanning the Late Pliocene - Early Pleistocene boundary, which marks the beginning of the ice ages. The interval is also significant because australopithecines (early human species related to the famous "Lucy") were on their way to becoming extinct while the earliest representatives of Homo, the modern genus, were spreading across Africa. The author, Charles Kimberlin Brain, then-director of the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria, South Africa, was already a respected paleoanthropologist when this book was published. Now retired but still active, he is considered a pioneer in the field of taphonomy - still in its infancy in the early 1980's with the term having been coined only forty years before. The book uses the term "hominid," which is a member of the Hominidae, the family which has traditionally comprised only extinct and modern humans. Since the 1990's, however, researchers have employed the term "hominin," a member of the Tribe Hominini, for that grouping. Meanwhile, "hominid" remains in use but is more broadly defined to include the modern great apes. This has led to some confusion among laymen and scientists who misunderstood the terms to be interchangeable (or perhaps considered "hominin" a typo). In biology a tribe is a formal classification level between family and genus. The reinterpretation of the Hominidae and the Hominini reflects recent work toward increased precision in determining ancestral groups and their descendants - part of a general reassessment of the tree of life. The book is composed of two parts. The first is a guide to the interpretation of the bone accumulations in the caves at Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, and Kromdraai with this part subdivided into eight chapters. They report on early research by Professor R.A. Dart, review the durability of various bones in a mammal skeleton, distinguish between the food remains (and activities) of various animals, and examine the observed compressional effects on bones preserved in cave sediments. The second part breaks down the combined faunas of the three cave systems and then each one individually (history of research, geology, and paleontology) with comparative notes on other australopithecine sites in southern Africa. In the last chapter, Brain goes back over his work and lists his own reservations before presenting hypotheses on the dwellers of those caves. He provides the answer to the title question, though as the evidence mounts across the previous chapters, the reader may have already reached the same conclusion. A postscript cautions that because many of the fossils (those excavated before Brain's time) were not carefully collected and documented the answer to the question should not be considered final - still ripe for further study. The appendix contains seventy pages of tables - all the fine details of the study (bone totals and identifications, various measurements, etc.). In the course of its analysis, the book presents a model for future investigations and not just for bone accumulations in caves. For any similar question of taphonomy there must be a thorough step-by-step procedure to answer it just as in any other science. Brain stresses the need for correcting the sloppy fossil collecting practices of the past (specimens previously cleaned of matrix without noting the precise stratigraphic level) and reducing other margins of error. Similar to a good mystery novel, "The Hunters or the Hunted?" introduces the setting, the suspects, the innocent bystanders, and the unwitting crime scene contaminators - all in detail. The fossils are compared to the remains of victims of known predators and scavengers living in the area now. In some cases very close relatives of modern species were present during the time in question so the behaviors of those forms can be deduced with some confidence but it was also long enough ago that the bones of saber-toothed cats and various extinct hyena species were also associated resulting in some speculation on how their behaviors would have impacted the remains. Printing in color was especially expensive in the early 1980's, so a "limited-interest" book like this featured only black-and-white illustrations except for the front to back cover photo. Some of the photos (fossils, modern animals, localities, etc.) could have been better-lit but most of them are very good. The text is further supported by numerous good drawings, maps, and charts. The book is geared to paleontologists. It is detailed yet the writing style is almost casual so an interested layman could read through the text without much trouble, especially with the way everything is described and explained in Part 1 and with the abundant illustrations throughout. I think "The Hunters or the Hunted?" would appeal to a wide range of paleo-book readers and even prompt them to look for an update on the research of the Sterkfontein caves since its release. I would recommend it for students curious about early taphonomic studies. Readers intrigued by studies of fossil-bearing caves may see similarities with sites elsewhere on the globe. Others may be interested in the mix of vertebrates that lived in southern Africa during the Late Pliocene and Pleistocene as few mainstream books cover that part of the world of that time. Some may value this book as a reminder that there was a time when humans eked out a living on the fringes of more established empires but also rose to dominance within that same geologic moment. Jess
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