Prof. William (Bill) Kimbel- RIP

It is with the utmost sadness that I inform you, for those who do not already know, that the famed paleoanthropologist, who served as the director of the IHO at ASU for 13 years, Dr. Bill Kimbel, passed on this morning.

Photo courtesy of Arizona State University

This is the third obituary for a famed, well loved, and amazing scientist that I have had to write, not since I started my career as a science communicator and journalist, but the third just this year.

We have lost many a great minds this year, it has been a crushing blow to paleoanthropology. From Richard Leakey, to Isaiah Nengo, and now Bill Kimbel, all of these professors have left a massive, permanent mark on the field. Whether you agree with their hypotheses, methods, or ways of doing things, there is no way to deny the contribution that these three men have made for the world of anthropology.

Dr. Kimbel received his Ph.D from Kent State University, and went on to lead an impressive career, from ASU’s website, “For more than 30 years, Kimbel has conducted research on Australopithecus and early Homo in Africa, Neanderthals in the Middle East, the evolution of hominin skull form and function, and concepts of biological systematics as applied to paleoanthropological problems. Since 1990, he has codirected or directed research at the Hadar hominin site in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Kimbel is also a Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. He is a founding member of the Afar Rift Valley Research Consortium, a group working on a region-wide understanding of human evolution and its contexts. Kimbel was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2005.”

Dr. Kimbel will be deeply missed, not only by the friends and family that he leaves behind, but the many students and minds that he has touched.

After a long, and arduous battle with cancer, Dr. Kimbel passed away this morning, Sunday the 17th of 2022.

He has earned his rest, and may he take it in peace.

Seth Chagi

Dating Stone Tools Directly? New dating at Olduvai proves its possible! 

One of the most important aspects of paleontology, is the ability to place things on a timeline, or a map of existence. Knowing when and where something came from, is critical to understanding its place and role in the natural world. Being able to know when something lived, and when it dates to is critical to Paleoanthropology, and our understanding of Human Origins. 

There are many techniques that can be used to date organic objects, as well as non-organic. And depending on what the material is, and how old it is believed to be, specific methods are used. For example, one of the most famous dating methods is Carbon-14 dating. We are not going to go into the details of how this works (perhaps another article?) But I will tell you, that Carbon dating only works to about 55,000 years ago. Meaning anything older than that will not be calculated correctly, or give any information really on what you are trying to ascertain. 

So, because of this problem, and the fact that the vast majority of hominin history was prior to 55kya, other methods that can date farther back in time are necessary. The first time that one of these methods was used, Potassium Argon dating, in Olduvai Gorge, was done by Louis Leakey et al., 1961. Many types of dating have been previously applied to Olduvai, Radio Carbon (Leakey et al., 1972) electron spin resonance (Skinner et al., 2003) uranium series (Seitz and Taylor, 1974) Tephrostratigraphy (mchenry, 2012; mchenry et al., 2016) paleomagnetism (Tamara et al., 1995: deino et al., 2021) and primarily potassium argon dating (k/Ar) and argon argon (mangea 1993; deinonychus 2012). 

This is all very critical, and it is important to understand that many of these methods, especially those that are not performed on organic material, such as rocks, volcanic tuffs etc. We, up until recently could not get a clear picture of the date of say, a stone tool, because we had to get the dates from the surrounding sediments and items. But say those were not there? Then what do you do?

At the T69 complex, in the Frida Leakey Korongo (FLK) west gully, led by Toshi Fujioka and Alfonso Benito-Calvo, we find Bed II of this particular volcanic tuff, while Bed I was covered with volcanic material and easily datable, Tuff Two and Three were near impossible, and this is of course where the stone tool assemblages were discovered. While this is a destructive method of dating (meaning part of the material is destroyed in obtaining its date), with the size of certain assemblages, this is less of a problem than it used to be. 

“Secondly the significance of cosmogenic nuclide isochron burial dating lies in its ability to be applied directly to stone tools:cosmogenic nuclide exposure during dating and simple burial dating for the archaeological assemblage itself, rather than estimates based on underlying or overlying sediments, as is the case for Ar/Ar dating of tuffs.”  So, now that we can date stone tool assemblages themselves, and not just the sediments around them, we can get a much more clear and accurate date. 

Some may ask, how do we know if it is accurate, and the answer to that, is the dates are congruent with other dating methods that were used previously to determine the ages of the tuffs and stone tool assemblages. One catch however, is that the items must have a high content of quartzite to analyze. Without this, the method simply does not function the same. 

With this new dating technology, if the assemblages are large enough, and meet the proper requirements, we are now able to get much more accurate dates for specific stone tools, rather than the earth and land around them. This has the potential to be very beneficial in the study of lithic (stone tools) and their use in early human origins. 

Sources: 

  1. Published in the Journal for Human Evolution by Toshiyuki Fujioka, Alfonso Benito-Calvo, Rafael Mora, Lindsay McHenry, Jackson. Njau, Ignacio de la Torre- https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004724842200015X

2. Leakey et al., 1972

3. Skinner et al., 2003

4. Seitz and Taylor, 1974

5. Mchenry, 2012; Mchenry et al., 2016

6. Tamara et al., 1995:

7.  Deino et al., 2021

8. Mangea, 1993

9. Deinonychus, 2012

A Planet of Apes 

View on Academia:

Today, we literally, walk alone (at least on two feet) and are the last of a long-lasting line of creatures known as hominins. Our lineage dates back 6-7 million years ago. Over that time we have gone through many changes as animals, and it is only in the last 100 years that we have really begun to study and learn about our evolutionary history. As we learn more about our past, our future becomes more clear, and we can learn ways to apply the lessons of the past to the problems of the present. 

While today, there are only four species of Great Apes left walking the planet today, only of them are bipedal in their form of locomotion, or that they walk on two legs. That would be us, Homo sapiens. This, as well as many other aspects of our lives, bodies, and cultures, make us a special species, possibly the most unique to have ever walked the earth (at least the most successful). But we were not always alone. In fact, being the only bipedal hominin is a relatively new development in the course of Earth’s history since hominins split from our last common ancestors with Chimpanzees some 7 million years ago. 

Today, we dominate the world, with over 7 billion of us, no other species of our scope or size have reached these proportions, to the point where we strain the ecological resources of the Earth almost to the tipping point. Something about the way we go about doing things has allowed us to survive past many challenges. Disaster after disaster that wiped out other species of hominoids, our close relatives and ancestors. 

There have been many branches of the hominin family tree, or braided stream as we will discuss, and all of them ended in dead ends except for our line. Why is this? Why are we the only living hominins, and for long how has it been like this? Today we will be exploring some of the ideas behind this, in an attempt to understand the complex landscape of the last 7 million years of hominin evolution.

Not so long ago, we were not the only species on Earth, in fact, many other hominin species were competing and coexisting in Africa for millions of years. Some are more successful than others, but all-important to the human story. It was long thought that human evolution was a linear path, that we had one species, which evolved into another, and so on until you reach the pinnacle, which would be modern-day humans. This is expressed explicitly in the “Progression of Man” illustration. However, as we are discovering over the last few decades, this is not how it was. In fact, it was quite the opposite. As we are learning, it is more likely that there were multiple species of hominins walking on two legs throughout Africa. From Australopiths to Homo, many species coexisted and could have, and in fact, did have contact with each other over the millions of years. With each new discovery, our place as unique creatures in the animal kingdom decreases. 

For one example, we have the footprints at the site of Laetoli, Tanzania, which was discovered by Mary Leakey and her team, which has some great evidence to support this view. There are millions of tracks at this site or footprints, and some of them are even hominin, without a doubt. But to whom do they belong? That is the question, one of the sets of tracks we are pretty sure belonged to A. afarensis the species that Lucy belongs to. However, another track is right near it, and laid down around the same time, are the prints of a completely different biped. These two bipedal animals could have looked at each other across these plains. It is an amazing thing to think about as described by Dr. Ellison McNutt in my interview with her, as well as her recently published a paper about the Site A prints. 

The evidence is mounting that hominins created and lived in multiple niches at once, coming in and out of the braided stream that we are learning is a better definition than even the family tree analogy. 

It is through these discoveries that the picture of our origins becomes more clear. As we see how we became bipedal to being with, we can see how other adaptations followed, which help make us who we are today. At some point along the line of our cousin, and ancestral evolution towards becoming human, our genus had to eventually set itself apart. Our genus, Homo is one that we believe directly follows the Australopiths, and it is with Homo Habilis which lived about 2.5 million years ago, that we see the first species in our genus. With a brain size larger than those of the australopiths, and more habituated bipedal anatomy, Louis Leakey and his colleagues argued that this hominin ought to be the first in our family line, and after a great deal of discussion and debate, it was finally accepted taxonomically. 

While Homo Habilis has had its place challenged many times, it remains to be the first recognized member of our genus. But it would not be the last. Not only did H.habilis possibly lived with other ancient humans, such as H. erectus towards the end of their longevity, but they also coexisted with various species of Australopiths, such as sediba, and others. From the very start of our genus, we were not alone on the plains but accompanied by many various creatures that would have looked similar to our contemporaries at the time. It truly was a Planet of the Apes, and it was only going to get more complicated, as more gaps in the fossil record are filled, we seem to find even more spots that are missing. 

One of the biggest misconceptions over the last hundred years or so about human evolution is that it was one definitive step at a time. You had this species, it led to this one and then died out. They did not coexist and were not contemporaries. It was more of a ladder up to the top, where European Victorians believed were stood. Since then, and with new technologies, the blurry image of human origins is becoming slightly more clear. We now know, beyond a doubt that multiple species of humans coexisted for almost all of hominin history, except the last 40ky or so. From fossil and dating evidence, we can trace much older fossils of our earliest progenitors to living around the same place, around the same time. Then of course there are examples of snapshots in time, which are so rare, at Laetoli where there is near indisputable evidence that there were two types of hominins walking in the same field, within hours, if not minutes of each other shortly after a volcanic eruption. 

It was only when the Neanderthals went extinct, sometime around 40,000 years ago, that we were truly the only humans left on earth. (Save a few populations that could have been modern hybrids we are still learning about, such as the Red Dear Cave People) Even just 100,000 years ago; we had H. sapiens, H. florensiensis, aka the Hobbit, H. luzonensis, Neanderthals, and Denisovans. Possibly even a third branch of the related Neanderthal clade in Asia, represented by the Harbin crania. Some populations of H. erectus may even have survived in some parts of southeast Asia. Slowly these species would die out, leaving us as the only survivors, and while there are many reasons why we can not be sure as to what led to their extinction. All of these hominins have a great deal in common, in anatomy, capabilities, and the reasons for why they went extinct. Each of them, including ourselves, is a mosaic of evolution, meaning certain parts are “more evolved” or better adapted than other parts we may have inherited from our ancestors. Derived vs. Acquired traits. So, instead of one hominin leading to another, and then going extinct, and event instead of a family tree to represent all of our cousins and ancestors, a better analogy that has been used for the last few decades, is that of a Braided Stream. 

The idea of a Braided Stream, which is growing ever more popular, shows that traits and aspects of human evolution came in and out of the fossil record and our timeline, for various reasons. As they were needed, as they were not, they were discarded. An example of mosaic evolution, we can look at H. naledi with very modern human-like aspects, this creature was still suited for climbing in the trees, thanks to their long curved fingers, but their upright posture and long arched feet show that they were great at terrestrial bipedalism as well (walking on the ground like us), these features combined are called mosaic evolution (along with many other possible combinations). 

The braided stream of human evolution has given us a much better way of explaining where, and when other hominins come into our story, how they evolved, and what traits they had. But why then, if these other hominins were so similar to us, are we the last ones left? While there is no absolute answer, to researchers it seems to be pretty clear cut. We did not drive other hominins to extinction, such as the Neanderthals, as some would like to believe, but rather we just out-competed them. We are very good at finding, and creating ecological niches, anywhere in the world to a level never seen before, which allows us to not only survive but thrive almost anywhere in the world. Other humans could not do this, and as the climate changed, and as they had to move around to maintain their lifestyles, as a species or as a small group, misfortune would soon befall them, the natural misfortune of natural selection. 

These groups simply could not compete with Modern Humans on a social, cultural, or skill level, and this led to either their extinction, leaving us, or their assimilation into our own people, such as with the Denisovans and Neanderthals. We may never know what put the final nail in the coffin for these seemingly very successful species, who had been on the Earth much longer than we have so far, to go extinct. As we get more clues, one day perhaps it will be clear. 

Well, I hope that answers some questions about whether or not a straight progression for humans, or really any species works, as we can see it does not. A much more appropriate example of how hominin evolution occurred is the Braided Stream hypothesis. Regardless, a few things have become clear in the last few years that were once doubted highly, and that is that multiple human-like creatures lived on the Earth at one time, interacted, bred with each other, and created new types of humans. All through the world, but especially within Africa, before migrating out. With evidence like that from Laetoli, Tanzania, we can actually see a moment in time, as if transported there ourselves, and can see that these footprints were laid down around the same time and that they do not belong to the same species. To me, this is fascinating, and I hope leads to many more years of research on the topic to come! 

Sources: 

1.Homo habilis | Description, Traits, Tools, & Facts

2. Just How Many Extinct Types of Human Did Our Ancestors Meet?

3.How many early human species existed on Earth?

4. A Braided Stream?

5.What is the ‘braided stream’ analogy for human evolution?

6. New Analysis of Foot Prints Found at Laetoli!

Something a little different! Role of Climate Change and Natural Disasters in the Rise and Fall of Cultures in the Early Andes

By Seth Chagi

If you can, read of academia here:

Role of Climate Change and Natural Disasters in the Rise and Fall of Cultures in the Early Andes

One of the greatest mysteries that have yet to be fully solved about early Andean cultures on the coast of Peru, is the dramatic change that occurred around 5,800 BP. Around this time there is a dramatic cultural change in how societies work was completely upturned. Following this time, we see completely different signs of living and lifestyles even at the same sites and areas. How the peoples of early Peru adapted to these changes, which we are going to discuss in a moment, is nothing short of miraculous. Going from a culture of say, the Supe Valley on the Coast of Peru, which had intensive net fishing irrigation, fields of cotton, no looms ,and no weaving or ceramics, to societies that soon replaced them with large ceremonial complexes, people who were reliant on food crops, pottery, and weaving. What happened? 

At first, around 8,800 cal yr BP we see societies along the coast that are very complex and are sustained by the ocean itself, and the benefits of the Humboldt Current that we have discussed so much in class.[1] According to Richardson III and Sandwiess, between 8,800-5,800 cal yr BP is a murky area in time. There is little known, but there are some sites that we know of such as Siches, Ostra, Paloma, and The Ring Site. These cultures were sophisticated hunter-gatherers who had a subsistence-based maritime lifestyle. [2] However, they did not have any temple structures or large ceremonial buildings. These people survived off the sustenance of the ocean for thousands of years until the climate began to change again during the middle of the Holocene. Between 5,.800-3,200 cal yr BP, during the Middle Preceramic Period El Niño was infrequent but began to reoccur with more frequency every 50-100 years. [3] El Niño had great effects on the coastal cultures of early Peru, however as we see the El Nińos increase, the cultures that existed at the time begin to fade, and we enter a new era. But what were the causes of this? Was it the El Nińos? Or was it caused by other natural disasters? I guess we will have to find out. As Sandwiess and Quilter argue, natural forces had a great effect on the people of Coastal Peru during the Early Preceramic, we will examine if these occurrences truly changed the way the early Peruvians lived. 

Prior to 5,800 BP, there was a stable, and successful set of cultures along the northern coast of Peru. Thanks to the archaeological record of sea mollusks as shown by Sandweiss [4], we can see how the climate changed during these years. In his paper titled “Mid Holocene Climate and Culture Change in Coastal Peru” Sandweiss argues that as the El Nińos began to return, which we can see in the record around 7,800 years ago, there is a drastic cultural shift, one in which the current cultures could no longer survive in, which aligns with the arguments that Sandweiss proposed in his paper, as well as to what others have said, such as Jason Nesbitt in his paper “El Niño and second-millennium BC monument building at Huaca Cortada (Moche Valley, Peru). Focusing on the Super Valley, he also supports the idea of earlier cultures with sea-based lifestyles that survived for a good few millennium, but that something in the mid-Holocene occurred, in Nesbitt’s case, he argues that the El Nińos even changed the geophysical topography of the sea ridges, changing the way the coasts worked from the bottom up. Which would have had an immense effect on the people using the local coasts to survive.[5]

The cultures that we see at this time, while less complex than what would follow, with their large ceremonial centers and stone architecture, these cultures lived in a variety of ways. From the earliest inhabitants living in caves and whalebone-built structures, these people seemed well suited to their land, and what was going on. The weather was more temperate in the early Holocene, and the coasts provided everything that these cultures needed. Soon they would begin to spread inland, and as they did so, the complexities of the societies would build. We know of sites such as Siches, Ostra, Paloma, and The Ring Site, which were maritime villages where hunter-gatherers lived and survived successfully for thousands of years without ceremonial architecture. However, according to Sandwiess and Quilter, there was a major shift coming. [6] Around 5,800 cal year BP we begin to see a change in the climate and the weather proposes all the authors in which we have read about, the effects that were to follow are what we will look at next. 

The role of climate change around the war 5,800 cal year BP can almost not be argued with. We have the data to support that the frequency of El Niño increased drastically, starting slowly in the mid-Holocene, leading to modern-day levels 3,400 BP. The time in between, however, was a tumultuous time. According to Sandwiess in his paper about the role of Catastrophism in the fall of early Andean cultures, the answers are right in front of our faces. Citing examples such as what Junius Bird was saying in the 1940s, where he was convinced that cultural trends changed and were altered by El Niño activity. [7] As Quilter notes, the observations were based on the Virú Valley River Profile. It was clear to see how the flooding of the plain fields, and down into the small towns and villages would have caused a great amount of damage. 

However, as Nesbitt says, “Disaster is largely a cultural construct, and that environmental perturbation is only a problem when ancient societies are unable to adjust to it successfully.” [8] As Sandwiess notes, there are also other forces at work that are changing the cultural views and aspects of survival for the people of the early Andean Coast. Peru is a very seismically active area. There is evidence at sites such as Caral and Aspero, of massive earthquake damage. Entire platforms shifting, pillars being destroyed, and staircases splitting and moving in different directions.[9] As we all know today as Californians, earthquakes are nothing to make fun of. Whether this was more of a challenge to overcome than those posed by the increasing frequency of El Niño, seems unclear. The authors of various papers seem to agree on the idea that catastrophism caused the fall of these civilizations, but whether it was climactic change, seismic activity, or a loss in the will to maintain that society, due to the challenges posed, we may not ever know. These terrifying events led people to come together more, and perhaps to look for a reason for all these disasters that seemed to be befalling them. As their cultures declined, the Andean peoples turned to the gods for salvation. 

Between 5,800 BP and 4,000BP, the climate, while still changing, is slowly starting to settle down, the warm waters turned cold. Environments under and above twelve degrees latitude had completely different experiences. Prior to 5,800, south of twelve degrees, the air was hyper arid, with a low sea level, but when the sea levels rose, and El Niño returned, coinciding with the changes we see in the archaeological record, Sandwiess and Quilter say, along with the damage that once in a lifetime earthquakes were causing, the people, as many spiritual people do, turned to the supernatural. [10]We begin to see the construction of temples, mounds, and ceremonial complexes. In his paper, Nesbitt claims that as things got worse, the Andean people turned to human sacrifices, more and more often in an attempt to appease the gods.[11] This can be seen in their art, culture, and sometimes even in some of their burials. Whether it was the gods or the natural phases of the Earth, the climate began to settle towards the later side of the Holocene, to levels that were more tolerable to the culture that was now established. While there is still some debate as to what caused the abandonment, and total cultural change of the early Andean people, many authors, including the ones cited here, agree that some aspect of Climate Change is one of the larger components. [12][13][14][15][16][17]

While early Andean cultures along the coast of Peru had a complex, and sophisticated way of living, surviving off the bounty of the ocean, where their towns and cities had easy access to the sea, changes in the morphology of the coast as well as climactic change and the destruction caused by natural disasters like earthquakes, the people of places like Caral and Aspero had to adapt or abandon their sites. Human sacrifice was one way in which they attempted to turn their luck around, but it would be a few thousand years before things would get better. Climate Change ended the early role of civilization along the coast of Peru. 

Bibliography

Costin, C (2022) Anthropology 429 Lectures.

Nesbitt, Jason. “El Niño and second-millennium BC monument building at Huaca Cortada (Moche Valley, Peru).” Antiquity 90, no. 351 (2016): 638-53. https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2016.70.

Ortloff, Charles, and Michael Moseley. “2600-1800 BCE Caral.” Ñawpa Pacha 32, no. 2 (2013): 189-206. https://doi.org/10.1179/naw.2012.32.2.189.

Richardson, Richardson III, James B, and Daniel H Sandweiss. “Climate Change, El Ni~no and the Rise of Complex Society on the Peruvian Coast during the Middle Holocene.” El Ni~no, Catastrophism, and Culture Change in Ancient America (2008): 59-75.

Sandweiss, Daniel H, Kirk A Maasch, C Fred T Andrus, Elizabeth J Reitz, Richardson III, James B Richardson, Riedinger-Whitmore, Melanie Riedinger, and Harold B Rollins. “Mid-Holocene climate and culture change in coastal Peru.” Climate Change and Cultural Dynamics (2007): 25-50. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-012088390-5.50007-8.

Sandweiss, Daniel H, Sol\’\is, Ruth Shady Sol, Michael E Moseley, David K Keefer, and Charles R Ortloff. “Environmental change and economic development in coastal Peru between 5,800 and 3,600 years ago.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, no. 5 (2009): 1359-63. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0812645106.


[1]Lectures

[2]Richardson III, James B Richardson and Daniel H Sandweiss, “Climate Change, El Ni~no and the Rise of Complex Society on the Peruvian Coast during the Middle Holocene,” El Ni~no, Catastrophism, and Culture Change in Ancient America (2008).

[3]Richardson III, James B Richardson and Daniel H Sandweiss, “Climate.”

[4]Daniel H Sandweiss et al., “Mid-Holocene climate and culture change in coastal Peru,” Climate Change and Cultural Dynamics (2007), https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-012088390-5.50007-8.

[5]Jason Nesbitt, “El Niño and second-millennium BC monument building at Huaca Cortada (Moche Valley, Peru),” Antiquity 90, no. 351 (2016), https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2016.70.

[6]Sandweiss et al., “Mid.”

[7]Sandweiss et al., “Mid.”

[8]Nesbitt, “Niño.”

[9]Daniel H Sandweiss et al., “Environmental change and economic development in coastal Peru between 5,800 and 3,600 years ago,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, no. 5 (2009), https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0812645106.

[10]Sandweiss et al., “Environmental.”

[11]Nesbitt, “Niño.”

[12]Nesbitt, “Niño.”

[13]

[14]Charles Ortloff and Michael Moseley, “2600-1800 BCE Caral,” Ñawpa Pacha 32, no. 2 (2013), https://doi.org/10.1179/naw.2012.32.2.189.

[15]Richardson III, James B Richardson and Daniel H Sandweiss, “Climate.”

[16]Sandweiss et al., “Mid.”

[17]Sandweiss et al., “Environmental.”

First new Oldowan Tool site discovered in 30 Years! 

Find this article on Academia.edu here, and read it there if you can =)

In a new find detailed in Science Direct, for the first time in thirty years, researchers have discovered a new locality, or location, where Oldowan tools have been found. Oldowan tools are the oldest, and most simplistic of the stone tools that we know of our ancestors using, (although cut marks at Lomekwi may show stone tools existing 3.3 million years ago) dating all the way back to Homo habilis at 2.6 million years ago and possibly earlier, pushing the stone toolmakers out of our genus altogether. 

Photo by Julia Volk on Pexels.com

These tools are very simple and are made from banging one rock against another and taking the flakes that chip off, in any unpredictable manner, and using what you can. These tools are very important to human evolution, as they allowed our ancestors to do things that were never before seen in the archaeological record. Such as hominins scavenging meat, and increasing their input of protein. While these tools did not transform their makers into hunters, as we would later see with H. erectus they made a huge difference in the behavior of these early humans. Having new sources of food, being able to process them in a much easier way, and even reducing how much chewing we had to do by cutting up our food, we set ourselves down a road we would thankfully never look back on. 

First discovered in Olduvai Gorge by Louis Leakey in Tanzania in the 1930s, at Olduvai Gorge, where comes the name. However, despite this being where they were first discovered, this is not the location of the oldest of the Oldowan stone tools, that title belongs to those found at the Gona River, about 2.6 million years ago. These tools changed the ways that early homies went about their daily lives, setting up the stage for further evolution to occur, and some big  changes were to follow. But for now, let’s focus on the new finds! 

While there have been quite a few sites discovered that have Oldowan tools within their matrix, and other related associations, it has been quite some time since a new locality, or location has been discovered. This is not for lack of trying, but the deserts and Savannah of Africa are unforgiving, not only to the living but to the dead as well. Sometimes, what I think many people do not think about, is after every windstorm, rainstorm, field season, etc. the surface of the land is going to be different. Fossils that were at the surface or near to it could become reburied, or could be flooded out onto the surface, or into a drainage ditch. So it is always important to, as Dr. Lee Berger says, “Never Stop Exploring”. 

So keeping that in mind, researchers were looking in the now fertile lands of what is the caldera of the now extinct Kilombe volcanoes, which is situated about halfway between Olduvai Gorge and Lake Turkana. 500 meters higher up than other tools of their kind have been found, in the Kenyan Rift Valley, early Pleistocene hominins were taking advantage of the resources of this fertile caldera, which on and off would have been a lake, providing very enticing opportunities. The fact that we have evidence of a stone tool industry here, means that hominins were spending a good amount of time up here, which really changes what we knew about how hominins of that time, (early Pleistocene) at least at those altitudes. 

With almost 100 artifacts found, made almost elusively of locally sourced trachyte (a volcanic rock, made of a large density of feldspar). The fact that the materials used to make the stone tools came from the area in which they were found, is another good indicator that early hominins were spending a good amount of time at these high altitudes. This is in fact, the first habitation found that lies in a rugged environment, that is away from the valley floor, making the location of the finds are particularly interesting. Again, another interesting sign is that there is more for us to learn about what these particular hominins were doing at the time

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So, with the first new location in thirty years, this once again shows that there is always more out there, and all we have to do is keep looking. Each find might answer some questions, but it is more likely than not going to create even more questions. But that is the beauty of science. 

Until next time friends! 

Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0003552121001801 

The Story of Us Podcast EP #2-Homo longi

Today we are launching the next episode of our new iTunes podcast, and extension of our video series “The Story of Us”. The first episode, which is a revisit to our Neanderthal Symposium is free for all to enjoy. After that however, in order to support the STEM and SciComm work that I hope to do, there is a subscription fee of $2.99 a month through iTunes.

Many of the episodes of the podcast will be from our video episodes, but for subscribers, we will have some special content, and episodes as well that will be exclusive!

Please visit our podcast channel and take a listen!

Exciting Podcast Announcement!!!

After a good deal of hard work, I am proud to announce that we finally have our own podcast on iTunes! 

This podcast, titled, you guessed it “The Story of Us!” will be the highlighted episodes of our beloved video and interview series. Not all episodes will be available, only specific curated ones. 

Allow me to make this clear as I do not want anyone to misunderstand this. The first episode of the podcast, which is our Neanderthal Symposium is free, but all following episodes will require a monthly subscription for $2.99 a month, or $30.99 a year. This DOES NOT affect any of the episodes that we post on Facebook, or Youtube. All of our videos and content will still be available for free, with open access on our site and YouTube. 

This is just the extra premium if you would like to use the app, and help support what I do here. Currently, I make zero funds from doing this, in fact I have to spend money in order to keep all of this running, I do not expect much, but If I could get some funds coming in, I could do more, and more exciting and fun things! And the more of that I have, the more premium content I can make for those who are subscribers! 

As time goes on, there will be content that is for the podcast only, but not the traditional interviews, or anything like that, so no one should feel like they are being left out, but I do want to offer this premium option to help fund STEM and SciComm projects. 


Please, listen, like, enjoy, and if you can, subscribe! 

Thank you so much! 

Top Nine* Anthropology Podcasts of 2022 (So far…)

*Update* Check out the big news!:

Very #exciting #announcement!

For some of us, the chase for knowledge is never ending, and the need to learn as much as we can is insatiable. Trust me, I am one of those people, and I understand the importance of balancing modern day life, work, family etc. with academic pursuits. Some of us are lucky that we can dedicate our lives to academia, but others of us are enthusiasts, and there is nothing wrong with that!

However, what that does mean, is that many of us are loosing out on what is going on in the Anthropological world because we do not have the time to sit and read all the new journal articles (if we can even afford it, #OpenAcess FTW) or sit and read the newest books. While i highly recommend you do when possible, I understand the difficulties with keeping up with things this way.

Since Paleoanthropology is, in my opinion of one of the fastest moving fields in STEM, it is important to try to stay up to date with current data and hypothesis, with the research and what is going on. When we have time, siting down to listen to an Audiobook, or to pick up a physical book, or watch a documentary, its a great thing to do. But sometimes, we do not even have time for that! And even if that is not the problem, some of us just like a different medium for their entertainment and education!

So today, I am proud to show off our Top Eight Anthropology Related Podcasts of 2022, so far! These are not listed in any particular order, if they have made it onto this list, that means they are all of high quality, and worth your time to listen to!

All of these podcasts are on Apple Podcasts, I do not know if they are available on other services as I do not use them, but I will give the names of them, and their links for Apple, so you can at least search for the names!

Please, enjoy, and never stop learning!

Number One: Origin Stories by The Leakey Foundation- https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/origin-stories/id982555930

Number Two: The Neanderthal Mind by Anthony Yocolano- https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-neanderthal-mind/id1534957575

Number Three: CARTA by UCTV- https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/carta-center-for-academic-research-and-training-in/id422679454

Number Four: The Anthro Podcast by Gabriella Campbell- https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/that-anthro-podcast/id1518833495

Number Five: AnthroBiology Podcast by Gaby Lapera- https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/anthrobiology-podcast/id1493360298

Number Six: The Insight by Insitome “Your guide to the story of you”- https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-insight/id1324744423

Number Seven: Evolution Soup by Mark @evolution_soup- https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/evolution-soup/id1466315944

Number Eight: Evolution by UCTV- https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/evolution-audio/id382084478

So…what is Science Communication and why is it important? — World of Paleoanthropology

Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

There are many things that are tough to understand in this world, those of us in positions of researching and making the discoveries that cover the headlines, should take some time to actually explain what these things mean…this is SciComm.

So…what is Science Communication and why is it important? — World of Paleoanthropology

So…what is Science Communication and why is it important?

Read on Academia.edu here.

            We live in an amazing world. One that, if given the chance, will never cease to amaze or astonish you. No matter where you come from, who you are, or who you want to be, planet Earth is the place to be. From magical woodlands to dense tropical forests, and the highest mountain peaks; Earth is a varied, and dramatic place.

            For many of us, there is this interest, an interest to understand the world around us. Some of us do this with our five senses; sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Others of us, just as validly try to figure out the mysteries of the universe and Earth through prayer, or communion with whom they believe to be a higher power. 

It is hard to go wrong when it comes to discovery, as long as you are not harming another living thing, then the world is your oyster. For as long as modern humans have been on this planet, which as far as scientists can tell is around 300,000 years, we have been wondering not only about the world we found ourselves in, but about ourselves too; beginning to answer questions about where we came from, and why we seemed to set apart from nature. 

            Whether you find your answers or just more questions, there are some ways in which we can go about exploring the natural world around us. Today we will be talking about the scientific approach, the more modern and unbiased approach. We need to be able to answer the questions that plague our society today, those surrounding climate change, famine, and wealth disparities, in fact, we are even facing a sixth great extinction event. We need now to be more prepared and educated on the world around us than ever before. 

            Today we will be discussing just what SciComm is, why it is important, how to start practicing it, and why you should. Now is the time, there may not be many more tomorrows if we do nothing. But, as famous primatologist and naturalist Jane Goodall always likes to point out; there is always hope, and each of us can play even just a small role in turning the world around. 

            So what actually is SciComm now that I have mentioned it so many times? SciComm stands for “Science Communication”, and what that means is exactly what it sounds like. Communicating the aspects of science. But it goes beyond that. For much of our scientific history, which has of course only been over the last few hundred years, we have kept much of the knowledge higher up on the social threshold. Today that is no longer how things are done, or at least that is the new way in which the scientific community is leaning. Of teaching and educating, sharing, and advancing the sciences by spreading determination and inspiration to new generations all around the world. 

            Science can compose of so many things, there are so many fields of science, and truly when one gets to know a few of them a little more closely, it is clear how they all relate to one another. Many sciences are now multidisciplinary, meaning you take more than one field and apply its methods to a problem. Often times this causes a much more accurate answer, and in better time. 

            Today’s sciences focus on a variety of topics, some of that which the fate of our world depends on. Things like climate change, ecology, population sciences, agricultural studies, environmental studies, etc. are all ways in which modern-day scientists are trying to do their part in helping the world. If we cannot leave the world a better place than we found it, what are we leaving future generations? We must prepare, we must use the gifts that we have been given intellectually to solve our problems. 

            Now some of you might be saying that it is too late, or that the solutions to the problems take too much time or money. Well to that I say, never before has there been such an enthused generation to really make change for the better for not only ourselves but the planet in which we habitat. One of the best ways in which we have discovered how to do this is SciComm. Teaching the next generations right from ecological and scientific wrong. Giving them the tools and methodology to make real change in the world. 

            It is important to understand that when we are dealing with the sciences, there is a grand canyon sort to say, of a distance between a “fact” and an “opinion”. Many people like to believe that their opinions lead to some scientific truth, but for many, this is unfortunately not true. It is important when getting involved in science, of any kind, to know that it has to be unbiased and that your feelings and opinions do not, and cannot affect the data. Otherwise, the science is flawed. One of the most important rules a science communicator can teach. 

            All right, so now that we have gone over all of that important information, what actually is SciComm and what role does it play? Well, as mentioned above, for a very long period, pretty much up until the modern-day, scientific discoveries were for one reason or another kept away from the general public. Either for their “safety”, or other manipulative reasons, or simply the information was too hard to understand that people gave up trying to explain it. Science Communication aims to fix all of those wrongs. 

            With science communication, the goal is to break open the doors of the “Ivory Tower” and let any interested person or party enter, to lay low the walls holding people back from a basic, or even advanced understanding of the sciences. Science communication is about taking advanced, hard-to-understand terms or concepts, and breaking them down in a way that anyone can understand. If done properly, it is even done in a fun way that is engaging and will live on with the individual the rest of their lives. 

            Science communication is about inspiration, about a call to action. It is about teaching that yes, there are real dangers out there, and there are real problems that need to be fixed, but, if we sit down collectively as a species, we can put our massive intellectual power together to save ourselves, and this planet. But beyond that, how else are we to advance as a species if we keep starting things over and over? We must build on what we know, share it with the next generation, and advance science. 

            So why is this all so important? Well, who do we want leading the world’s nations? Who do you want to make the decisions that are going to make massive ecological changes for dozens, if not hundreds of years or longer to follow? We need an educated body of people making these decisions, and unfortunately, that is not going to happen from the top down. It is sad to say but just is true, that we live in a world of old, outdated thinking. Pulling ourselves forward is going to take a great deal of effort, and that effort begins with each new generation. 

            When a new generation is born, it is an entirely new opportunity to start again, to instead of indoctrinating our children to believe one thing or another, but to give the facts, and nothing but the facts to those who seek it, and to allow them the opportunity to have, and express. These new generations will then grow to take over the positions of the old guard, creating a better, more educated world for us all to live in. 

To do this, we must make sure that the resources are available, locally, and on national levels. That children of all nationalities, creeds, orientations, and backgrounds can learn to become whatever they dream to be. To create a future of possibility that seems to have been lost in this world. Science and education are shining lights in the darkness of an uneducated and ignorant world. A world that I do not think any of us wish to leave our children, our future generations. 

            Making this information available, creating lesson plans, tools, presentations, activities, and showing children the science, actually getting them involved is the best way in which we can make this happen. There is nothing like hands-on experience, and that is something unfortunately that so many children are lacking today. 

            Science has changed the world many times over, for better or for worse, and we have the chance to change the world again, and for the better, if we have the right tools, technology, and people leading us. This all starts with a science communicator sparking the interest of a child or two at a school presentation, or online. Or wherever it may be. We must do all that we can to promote these ideas and keep our societies moving forward, farther from the dark and towards the light. 

Sources: 

  1. What is Sci-comm • scientia.global
  2. A Science Communication Conference
  3. 29743-Catalyst 24 1 556