Chimpanzees and Conservation with Dr. Craig Stanford-The Story of Us #32

Hello my fellow Anthropologists! 

Welcome to the next episode of “The Story of Us”, our online show where we interview and have chats with prominent members of the scientific community! Today we are featuring guest Dr. Craig Stanford of USC, a primatologist who has worked closely with Dr. Jane Goodall, and has many interesting stories of his own to share. 

Dr. Craig Stanford

Come join us to learn about chimpanzees, conservation, Jane herself, and what it takes to be a naturalist. We join Dr. Stanford (whom I had the pleasure of seeing in person just the other week) who is as friendly as they come, and was kind enough to come join us! 

Hear some of the secrets and misconceptions about Chimp society, and learn what makes a chimp a chimp! 

Come along, and never stop learning! 

Be sure not to miss an episode by subscribing! And if you learned something, please like and share! 

Carol V. Ward-Paleoanthropology and the future of Research; The Story of Us Ep: 29

In this episode, we are interviewing Dr. Carol V. Ward, a Paleoanthropologists who has done work in Kenya, and from her home University.

Leading a lab of her own and being a part of the leadership team for a research institute in the Turkana Basin, Dr. Ward is very well accomplished and is a wonderful storyteller. In this episode we talk about the current state of Anthropology, and where it is going in the next few years.

Tune in to hear our chat and learn all about Paleoanthropology in today’s age from someone on the forefront! To view all our episodes, please visit our Youtube Channel. For more information on Paleoanthropology please visit our website http://www.worldofpaleoanthropology.org for blogs, news, interviews, and so much more!

If you liked this episode, please be sure to like it, and subscribe so that you do not miss a future episode!

I have many fun ideas for some future videos and you are not going to want to miss them! Until next time! Never Stop Learning!

Is that Anthropology? You bet!

To view on Academia.edu (If you have an account, please join the discussion!)

We live in a beautiful world, full of wonders, so many of which we will never understand or witness ourselves. But through community, and our shared connections, we can create better understandings of our world, see places and things we never would have seen otherwise. Everything in our world is connected, by this or that, and it is all held together in a fragile globe of an ecosystem. It is through the enlightenment of education, as so many great teachers and philosophers have said, that make the human experience as we know it.

There is, however, a unifying idea, or realm of ideas that can help a person, or a group of persons to begin to better understand the world in which they take part daily, whether they realize it or not. It is the view of many prominent individuals and institutions that learning and education are some of the top moving forces in our world. Without one of these, or either, we would once again be stuck in the “Dark Ages”. We must realize that if only the top tier of people possess the knowledge of the world, then there is little that will change.

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today”

Malcom X


The more we know about the world around us, the more we know about ourselves, and our place in it. The study of ourselves and our place in the world is called “Anthropology’, from the roots “Anthropos” or Man/Human and “Ology” or the study of. This is what we will be discussing today, Anthropology, its effects on your daily life, and its role in this world that so few people understand. As we understand more of this, we can use it to improve our day to day lives, from the person who cares little, to someone who is ever excited to learn more!

“Upon the subject of education…I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people may be engaged in”

Abraham Lincoln


When it comes down to it, everything that we do, or are involved in, is in some way tied to Anthropology. Many of you are Anthropologists and do not even realize it! Are you in marketing? HR? Sales? You are using Anthropology! Are you a student looking to raise money for a local cause? Interested in history? It is all Anthropology! Pretty cool right! So let’s dig deeper, and see just what I am talking about when it comes to our place in the world and Anthropology. I mean, that is what we are here for right?


So before we get too far into things, it is a good idea to make sure we all have the same understanding of what Anthropology is. Anthropology is the study of us, of you and I, of humankind. From the start of our evolution 7 million years ago, up until the types of music we like today. If it involves humans, it is anthropology. There are four main subfields of anthropology to better divide up this massive topic, a topic that there is so much to learn about!

  1. Biological Anthropology is the study of, you guessed it, biology. The morphology or shape of the create, its bones, and muscles. Fossils. This is the field where the scientists are sitting with their calipers in the lab measuring and taking data points from finds from the field.
  2. Cultural Anthropology is when an Anthropologist studies a living culture, everything about them that they can observe typically. From birthing rights to death ceremonies and everything in between, Cultural Anthropologists typically work within the culture that they are studying, for at least a period of time.
  3. Linguistic Anthropology is the study of language, how it formed, how it is used, and of the many different languages and sounds that we find our species making.
  4. Archaeology is the final subfield, and one of the largest. This is the study of ancient cultures and artifacts of the past. These are the individuals doing the excavations, and bringing the fossils in to be analyzed, and revealing more secrets about our ancient ancestors.

    So, now that we know all of this, what do Anthropologists actually do? Well, as shown by the four subfields, it really depends on what the individual has an interest or skills in. They could choose any of the 4, or a combination of any, or they may add their own flavor of science into the mix to make their studies more suited for themselves. Anthropologists study human history, human activity, human dreams, hopes, and wants. Our mythology and religion, our cultures, the only way we can properly understand these phenomena and share them with other individuals in the world, we have to have an understanding of what we are, of who we are, and where we come from.

    Anthropologists do their work by doing fieldwork, getting into the area or culture they are studying, making observations, taking notes, and seeing what they can find out. Getting down and dirty really, and getting involved. Research and data are critical to Anthropology, otherwise it would all be guesswork and not based on empirical, or hard evidence, which is worth little when dealing with a period of time where you only have artifacts and interpretations to make.



    Through years of study, hard work, and dedication, anyone who is interested can become an Anthropologist in any field that they wish to, just be aware it involves a great deal of schooling, dedication, and hard work. But you can make it! It is one of the most fascinating, and intimate fields of science that we humans can be involved in.


    Anthropology is a crucial study to understanding the world that we live in, the world that we are preparing, and the future of our next generations. It all ties together. Using Anthropological knowledge to work with, and apply it to modern-day needs and experiences is called “Applied Anthropology” one of the more minor subfields that we have yet to discuss.

    Applied Anthropology is using what we have learned from any of the four subfields, and using it for everyday tasks is our modern world. For example, earlier I mentioned marketing. Well, let us take a second. What makes a good marketer? They need to know their product, and they need to know who their clients are and what they are trying to sell their items to. They need to have a basic understanding of whom they are talking to. Since of course, they cannot check each and every viewer, there are key points where those who study humans know we are all very similar. Marketers will capitalize on what they know about humans, which will sell or grab the attention of certain populations of people. Knowing how people work is a talent, one that can be learned by the study of Anthropology.

    All fields of medicine, are trained Anthropologists, maybe not ones digging in trenches, but they had to master the biological side of humanity, and they must understand what will hurt or harm a person. They too must know how a person works, maybe not mentally, but physically. If you’re a psychologist, you’re also an Anthropologist, studying the human mind and how it was built, and functions. All of this is Anthropology. It is amazing when one sits back and realizes all of the things that actually fit under the massive umbrella of “What is Anthropology?”

    Wow, so what have we learned? A great deal if you ask me! We have taken the term “Anthropology” out of the antiquated past that we all knew it from, took it out of the museums and dig sites, and showed that many things, professions, and careers in the “regular” daily world are actually Anthropologically related! From interpreters and translators to English teachers and psychologists, these fields all fall under the subfields of Anthropology. So many of you can call yourselves Anthropologists when you had no idea of the fact!

    Now, of course, the next course of action for those who are truly interested in the field would be to pursue your interests in humans, learn and share what you can! There is a whole world out there to explore! Go out there, and never stop learning!

“The purpose of Anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences”

Ruth Benedict.

Sources:

  1. American Anthropology Associatioon. (n.d.). What is Anthropology?
  2. Sapiens.org. (n.d.). What is Anthropology
  3. UC Davis. (n.d.). What is Anthropology?

Modern Humans Entered Europe Thousands of Years Before Expected!

For as long as people have been around, we have wondered where we came from. It is an innate curiosity that most of us share on some level. Whether it is wondering where our grandparents came from, their culture, and what language they speak. Or perhaps it is wondering which tribe an African American family belongs to.

We all wonder, and we all have the potential to explore and find out, to the best of our ability, answer these questions. But Paleoanthropology, the study of ancient humanity, is one of the fastest fields in STEM today. With new discoveries all the time, each adding new pieces, and sometimes even rewriting what we understand about our own evolution and development. 

Most scientists agree that our species Homo sapiens evolved in Africa, 2-300,000 kya. The dispersal of our species is a series of events that are hard to explain and observe, but which leave traces to be discovered. Our species was not the first to leave Africa, that crown belongs to Homo erectus, one of our distant ancestors, who left Africa around 1.5 mya. They traveled into the Levant, Asia, and into South Asia. There is no evidence of them in Europe however, despite their large range. 

What we do have in Europe however, and most abundantly, are the Neanderthals. Their ancestors, who we shared in common, lived around 800,000 kya. At some point near there, we diverged, and one part of us stayed in Africa, further developing on our own path there. The other portion of the population moved out of Africa, through the Middle East, into Asia, Europe, and across much of the wold world. They speciated a few times, we now know of Denisovans, H. Hiedelbergensis, Neanderthals, H. antecessor, and of course at the last stage, modern Humans.

The periods in which all of these migrations occurred is something that is highly contested and is a key focus point for many scientists who focus and specialize in radiocarbon dating, such as a friend of WOPA, Dr. Tom Higham who was involved with this study. 

The importance of this new paper is not to show that humans migrated into Europe, we know that, but what is new is how long ago they did so. We can safely assume now that there was not a single “Out of Africa” event, a term that is often used incorrectly, as Dr. Chris Stringer prefers the term, Recent African Origins for this hypothesis on how humans populated the world.

The basic idea is that between about 60-90 kya AMH went on multiple migrations out of Africa and into various parts of Asia Europe Australia, and eventually even into the new world by 23 thousand years ago!

In a cave in Southern France, Grotte Mandrin, it has been discovered that modern-day humans, aka Homo sapiens sapiens, occupied this shelter as long as 56,800 years ago! This is about 10k years longer ago than was first believed. This paper is based on evidence of a tooth that was discovered in one of the deeper layers of the cave sediment. 

The cave had an occupation of Neanderthals on and off for the last 100,000 years, but it has been known that modern humans occupied the cave from time to time as well. But we did not know they were here this early. The layer in which the tooth was found is believed to show the occupation of modern humans for about 40 years around 56,800 and 51,700 years ago. This is where the tooth from, and has easily been attributed to AMH. “This was not a short-term hunter-gatherer cam but a tentative colonization of Europe,” main author and director of excavations at the cave for the last 24 years; Ludovic Silmak of the University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurés in France, along with his colleagues. 

This is important and implies a few key things. First of all, it shows that migrations out of Africa may be more complicated, and date back farther in history than we believed. And as mentioned in the study, this does not put a cap on how long ago modern humans were in Europe. This just shows what we know so far. But this does mean that Humans were around Neanderthals for a longer period than we once believed. 

Being around Neanderthals for ten thousand years longer would have given us longer periods for admixture, allowing European humans, who may have migrated back into Africa, traces of Neanderthal DNA, however slight. But this would explain the 2-4% of Neanderthal DNA found in modern-day Europeans. 

Another fascinating aspect of the study, that shows the importance of having a longer period with the Neanderthals, is that it appears there was a cross of technology or information on some level. The study details that flint tools were discovered among the sediment that came from within 100 km of the cave, but only an intimate knowledge of the landscape would have allowed for the harvesting of such resources, possibly suggesting that Neanderthals transferred this information to later modern humans who were living in the cave. 

Source:

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Humans in Europe, 10ky before we thought? Seems so! 

For as long as people have been around, we have wondered where we came from. It is an innate curiosity that most of us share on some level. Whether it is wondering where our grandparents came from, their culture, and what language they speak. Or perhaps it is wondering which tribe an African American family belongs to. 

We all wonder, and we all have the potential to explore and find out, to the best of our ability, answer these questions. But Paleoanthropology, the study of ancient humanity, is one of the fastest fields in STEM today. With new discoveries all the time, each adding new pieces, and sometimes even rewriting what we understand about our own evolution and development. 

Most scientists agree that our species Homo sapiens evolved in Africa, 2-300,000 kya. The dispersal of our species is a series of events that are hard to explain and observe, but which leave traces to be discovered. Our species was not the first to leave Africa, that crown belongs to Homo erectus, one of our distant ancestors, who left Africa around 1.5 mya. They traveled into the Levant, Asia, and into South Asia. There is no evidence of them in Europe however, despite their large range. 

What we do have in Europe however, and most abundantly, are the Neanderthals. Their ancestors, who we shared in common, lived around 800,000 kya. At some point near there, we diverged, and one part of us stayed in Africa, further developing on our own path there. The other portion of the population moved out of Africa, through the Middle East, into Asia, Europe, and across much of the wold world. They speciated a few times, we now know of Denisovans, H. Hiedelbergensis, Neanderthals, H. antecessor, and of course at the last stage, modern Humans.

The periods in which all of these migrations occurred is something that is highly contested and is a key focus point for many scientists who focus and specialize in radiocarbon dating, such as a friend of WOPA, Dr. Tom Higham who was involved with this study. 

The importance of this new paper is not to show that humans migrated into Europe, we know that, but what is new is how long ago they did so. We can safely assume now that there was not a single “Out of Africa” event, a term that is often used incorrectly, as Dr. Chris Stringer prefers the term, Recent African Origins for this hypothesis on how humans populated the world.

The basic idea is that between about 60-90 kya AMH went on multiple migrations out of Africa and into various parts of Asia Europe Australia, and eventually even into the new world by 23 thousand years ago!

In a cave in Southern France, Grotte Mandrin, it has been discovered that modern-day humans, aka Homo sapiens sapiens, occupied this shelter as long as 56,800 years ago! This is about 10k years longer ago than was first believed. This paper is based on evidence of a tooth that was discovered in one of the deeper layers of the cave sediment. 

The cave had an occupation of Neanderthals on and off for the last 100,000 years, but it has been known that modern humans occupied the cave from time to time as well. But we did not know they were here this early. The layer in which the tooth was found is believed to show the occupation of modern humans for about 40 years around 56,800 and 51,700 years ago. This is where the tooth from, and has easily been attributed to AMH. “This was not a short-term hunter-gatherer cam but a tentative colonization of Europe,” main author and director of excavations at the cave for the last 24 years; Ludovic Silmak of the University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurés in France, along with his colleagues. 

This is important and implies a few key things. First of all, it shows that migrations out of Africa may be more complicated, and date back farther in history than we believed. And as mentioned in the study, this does not put a cap on how long ago modern humans were in Europe. This just shows what we know so far. But this does mean that Humans were around Neanderthals for a longer period than we once believed. 

Being around Neanderthals for ten thousand years longer would have given us longer periods for admixture, allowing European humans, who may have migrated back into Africa, traces of Neanderthal DNA, however slight. But this would explain the 2-4% of Neanderthal DNA found in modern-day Europeans. 

Another fascinating aspect of the study, that shows the importance of having a longer period with the Neanderthals, is that it appears there was a cross of technology or information on some level. The study details that flint tools were discovered among the sediment that came from within 100 km of the cave, but only an intimate knowledge of the landscape would have allowed for the harvesting of such resources, possibly suggesting that Neanderthals transferred this information to later modern humans who were living in the cave. 

Source:

Did Cooking and Eating Meat Make Us Who We Are Today?

Turkana Boy

A new paper recently published in the National Academy of Sciences by Dr. W. Andrew Barr, Dr. Probiner, John Rowan, Andrew Du, J. Tyler Faith et.al details a new multi-year study where the dietary habits of early Pleistocene hominins were examined. They found some surprising results, which may change the way we view how we got our modern bodies, brains, and even cultures. For decades now, since Dr. Richard Wrangham’s theories on the use of fire and meat consumption detailed in his 2009 book “Catching Fire”, we have long believed that H. erectus began a new habit of meat consumption that would lead to many biological and cultural changes within the homo lineage. Many people believe that the advent of more effective stone tools and new behaviors led to a more active hunting lifestyle, also in part to their adapting anatomical bodies. Soon they were hunting, not just scavenging as all hominins were believed to do before. This new source of food, and mass amounts of proteins and nutrients, led to many things, as Dr. Wrangham explains.

Cooking allowed for the need for less mastication, our jaw muscles got smaller, our skulls changed shape to be home to these newly shaped muscles. Our brains were able to grow to larger sizes than ever before, double the size even. Due to all of this, when we see evidence of individuals being taken care of and surviving near-fatal injuries, we at first began to think we saw the start of a culture, a culture that would be recognizable to us as something different than those of the natural world. Something more human. But, this has all been put into question by this new paper. Let’s find out why. 

So what does the new study say? Well, let’s break it down. Basically, what the hypothesis was, is that H. erectus was not more of a meat eater than any other hominin, it was not more carnivorous. Which, at this point, I would like to say no hominin is or has ever been a carnivore, I do not agree with the usage of the term, as all hominins are omnivores. 

Anyway, the idea that erectus was not hunting any more than it ever had, started to become clear. The reason for this, the team believed, was because there was such a drastic focus on finding signs of meat-eating among them. Such a periscope focus that other signs and clues to the diets of these early hominins disallowed for other ideas and views to come to light. Generally, scientists are very agreeable with the former hypothesis for humans eating cooked meat at higher rates starting around 2.5 mya. But what if we started to look at the greater picture? What would we find? 

Studying around 59 different sites, dating from 2.6 to 1.2 mya (well within the range of H.erectus). What was shown was that as the abundance of modified bones and the number of zooarchaeological sites all show an increase in the activities of erectus the increase was mirrored by a corresponding rise in the way in which samples were searched for and the intensity of which they were discovered. So changes in human behavior, the way we act, and the reason we do the things we do, could be the cause, rather than an increase in the pure consumption of meat. 

There are alternative methods as to why we have the body designs that we have today, and our brains are as they are today after a long trail of evolution and random, successful progress. But here is the thing, the point that I personally would really like to get across to anyone reading this article. Humans, most primates in general (not all) are not herbivores, they are not carnivores, they are omnivores, and they are opportunistic. So what does this mean? Well, we will eat any, and everything that we come across. We are survivalists, it is how our genera have survived for so long, and through such drastic circumstances, we do not turn our noses up at what we eat (save maybe in this day and age). Our species and all of our ancestors ate whatever they could get their hands on so that they and their families could survive. 

As most things in evolution occur, what we came by to eat would have been by chance, what we ate, how nutritious it was, and what we decided to do with it, all added to the nutrients that were consumed. What was consumed led us to be who we are today, and our diets continue to drive our lives? Bad diets lead to unhealthy, unhappy lifestyles, we have proven this. Healthy diets make healthier, happier people. It’s our circumstances that bar us from all having fresh, healthy food. But it is what our bodies crave. A wide variety in diet is important for our brain health and growth. 

With this new challenge to the “Did Meat Make us Human” hypothesis, we may have a new light shined on the way our brains and bodies developed. It changes long-held thoughts on how Homo erectus lived, survived, and adapted. What was the change between habilis and erectus? The changes may not be as clear now as we once believed, and as always the lines in paleoanthropology become blurrier and blurrier each day, while other aspects become more clear. 

What we will find out as new studies continue to be published, and new ideas are explored, we will see which hypothesis stands the test of time. It seems we may not know exactly how we got here is yet another aspect. 

But isn’t that fun? 

See you next time, and never stop learning! 

Seth Chagi 

The Story of Us Ep #28 Homo naledi and the discovery of Leti with Dr. Juliet Brophy!

A Child from the Darkness of Rising Star…is what the title read of many papers and exciting articles just a few months ago, as Lee Berger and his team of Underground Astronauts made an announcement of an utterly amazing discovery out of the Rising Star Cave System, yes, the home of Homo naledi. We now have yet another astonishing discovery! 

You can catch all the information and news straight from the academic papers, and press conferences on our website here.

Today on the show, we are hosting the lead author on one of the two papers published about the discovery of Leti, the Homo naledi child that was found, in the thus far deepest places reached in the cave system, known as the “Chaos Chamber” or, a few other interesting names that you will hear in this episode! 

Join us, and meet Dr. Juliet Brophy, an expert in dentition, who has been working with Berger and the team since the days of the sediba discovery! 

Learn all about Leti in this episode, you won’t want to miss it! 

Please, if you enjoyed this episode and want to help me make more of them, like, share and subscribe! It helps a great deal and is much appreciated! 

WOPA Neanderthal Symposium 2022 – World of Paleoanthropology

Join us for the first ever WOPA Symposium focused on Neanderthals! Don’t miss out and come check this out!
— Read on worldofpaleoanthropology.org/2022/01/15/wopa-neanderthal-symposium-2022/

You won’t want to miss this! The first ever WOPA Symposium!Featuring some of the leading experts in the field on the topic, get your Neanderthal ?s answered! Like, share, and subscribe!

Dr. Isaiah Nengo, a true Paleoanthropologist-RIP

2022 is proving already to be a tough year for the Paleoanthropological community as a whole as we lose yet another giant in the field today. Dr. Isaiah Odhiambo Nengo passed away this morning to the surprise, and shock of all those who knew and loved him; which were many across the globe.

Born in Nairobi, Kenya Isaiah was a brilliant student and in High School, a fateful event occurred that would change his life, and the field forever. Luckily for Nengo, the famed Richard Leakey (who also passed earlier this very month) came to visit and speak to his class, as he did to so many youths in his day. Isaiah was immediately hooked, he could not have enough! He begged Leakey to teach him all he could and take him on as a personal portage so to say, and with hard work, dedication, and a bit of luck, after graduating college with a degree in zoology and botany, with outstanding marks, Leakey got Isiah into a doctorate program in the United States, at Harvard in California.

After receiving his doctorate in Biological Anthropology, becoming the student and colleague of famed anthropologists such as David Pilbeam and Stephen Jay Gould in the process. Dr. Nengo would go on to focus on Miocene apes, and their role in the evolution of hominins, and you and I, humankind. Settling in the Bay Area of California, it was not long before those in Kenya wanted the talented Dr. Nengo back in their grasp! Meave Leakey herself showed up one day, nearly pleading, to have him return, and in the end, it worked! This would be a very fateful decision for all involved.

During much of his fieldwork, Dr. Nengo made many impactful discoveries, becoming one of the most well known Kenyan fossil finders of his time, which is important for this is an especially harsh and difficult environment to not only work in but for fossils to form and survive in for any extended periods.

Leading a team that would discover a 13 million-year-old ape skull, which, as we should all know is extraordinarily rare, even more, rare than finding hominin fossils for apes are found in forested areas, and fossils rarely form in wooded areas. So this was amazing! And it was pretty much complete as well! This would come to be known as Alesi.

Following in the footsteps of his close friend Richard Leakey, Nengo became a. science communicator and educator. Not someone who did their research and hid it in the shadows until they were as close to 100% sure they had all the answers. No, Dr. Isaiah was on the front lines of Open Access Science Communication and STEM education, teaching children in Kenya the joys of learning of Human Origins.

At the end of his life, Dr. Nengo spent most of his time in Africa, about half of the year, but worked at a new position at Stony Brook University in New York, and became an Associate Director at the Turkana Basin Institute, formerly run and founded by Leakey.

Dr. Isaiah Nengo taught and inspired many children throughout his distinguished career, supported them, and allowed them to launch their careers despite whatever challenges that they may have been facing. He was the person he needed as a young child. We should all strive to show the dedication, hard work, and love for what we do that Dr. Nengo did.

He will be deeply missed by his loved ones, colleagues, associates, and all Anthropology enthusiasts.

May he rest in peace.