Know Your Hominin: Stw 53

I am starting a new series, similar to “know Your Primate” – which will continue – on hominins. The difference, besides subject matter, will be that instead of discussing species I’ll be posting pictures of individual fossils with some additional commentary as the mood strikes me. First up is Stw 53 from Sterfontein. Stw 53 was discovered in 1976 by Alan Hughes and has been at the heart of debates over South African hominin variability. So much so that last year Curnoe used it as the holotype of a new species. The question of how many species are represented in the South African fossil record is something I am becoming interested in, so I will be taking a more in depth look at the question over the coming months. In the meantime, here is Stw 53:
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Mini Book Review: Daniel Lieberman The Evolution of the Human Head

I just bought a copy of Daniel Lieberman’s The Evolution of the Human Head the other day. I’m only on chapter three (hence a mini review), which gives an overview of the embryological development of the head. However, based on what I have read so far I would highly recommend it. The central premise is that hominins vary very little postcranialy – arguable, but somewhat correct – but vary quite a bit cranially. The book sets out to explore why this is the case and so far has been a fascinating read. I’ll do a full review when I have finished the book.

I Wish I had Studied Under John Hawks!

I would have probably gotten my Ph.D., I say this because of this must read article. I love this bit:

Like any radicals, they weren’t always right. Any working scientist will be wrong about most of the details, if we revisit his work after fifty years. What makes anthropology weak today is that so many anthropologists learn nothing about scientific anthropology after Boas. They’re reactionaries against science, without knowing what today’s scientists do.

What makes me say that I wish I had studied under Hawks? This:

As an teacher and advisor, I make sure my graduate and undergraduate students get skills that will transfer into the broadest chance of success. Graduate students teach, they engage with the public, and they cross disciplines in their work. They present their work repeatedly, at professional meetings, for our faculty, for other students, and outside of anthropology. Most important, they develop skills that translate outside academia. For some students, this means anatomy, for others genetics. All of them learn to program a computer, most learn to browse genomes and operate on genetic data. My assignments are collaborative, students blog and participate in conversations; they produce and edit videos; they participate in real research. For my students, anthropology is a preparation for a networked future. Engagement is not an option, it is a requirement.

Read the rest!