Website Review: A Hominin Database

There are a number of websites out there, such as this one from the Smithsonian, that discuss human evolution and the fossil evidence for human evolution. They vary in quality and completeness and you might be tempted to ignore yet another. That would be a mistake with is the brainchild of Kambiz Kamrani – former/future blogger of – and it promises to be a good one. The project is still in its infancy, but one can see the outlines of a really useful resource. is going to be a database of all known hominin fossils (at this point there are only 30 specimens listed) along with a time line, Google Earth maps showing locations, pictures of the specimens and links to the publication the specimen was originally described in. Additionally, any paper or book that uses/mentions the specimen will be included. Kambiz is also promising Embeddable snippets of fossils to be used in blogs and websites and RSS feeds to provide updates on fossils and references as they are added. Currently the site is divided into eight sections (Home, Map, Specimens, Taxonomy, Timeline, Publications, Authors, and About). The map page locates each specime on Google Maps. The specimen lists each specimen by specimen number (e.g. AL 288-1 rather than “Lucy”) and species (so that you know Omo-323-1976-896 is a specimen of Australopithecus [Paranthropus] boisei for example). The taxonomy page provides a list of species covered (at this point the 30 specimens in the database represent 23 species of hominin). Each species name is linked to all the specimens of that species in the database. The timeline plots each specimen by date. Clicking on the specimen number brings up a small tag that provides the species name and date of the specimen. This, by itself, will be an extremely useful resource. The publication page has links to books and papers that describe or use the specimens in the database. The author page does much the same but allows you (or will allow you) to find all the relevant papers by a given author. The about page is self explanatory and also links to a page were you can submit specimens or references for inclusion in the database. It also includes a list of planned features and known bugs.
Kambiz tells me he is looking for one or more volunteers who know Python and would be willing to donate their time and Python programming expertise to help with some of the coding.
As I mentioned above the project is still in its infancy, but has a lot of promise and, I think, is going to grow into one of the more valuable resources on the web.

3 Responses

  1. Thank you very much for this site reference. It looks most promising already. It’s interesting that on the map he shows countries’ names in the Roman alphabet and often in their own writing as well — for China, Japan, and many of the nations that use the Cyrillic alphabet anyway. I guess he doesn’t know Arabic though. Maybe that’ll come later.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I checked the site out, and I found it to be an invaluable resource in lots of ways. I wish I knew Python, so I could help him develop the site. Alas, I don’t! But I’ve linked the site to my blog, The Writer’s Daily Grind at:
    I really find this site extremely valuable,
    Anne G

  3. I know quite a lot of Python, e.g. the Dead Parrot sketch, all the dialogue from Holy Grail and Life of Brian…
    Oh, that’s not what you meant?
    How apout pythonid snakes, I work on those a bit. No? Sorry.
    I guess I’ll just bookmark the site then.
    Best wishes for ’09.

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