Monday, 28 September 2015

The Palaeolithic artist: part 21

in the Hall of Human Origins in the Smithsonian
Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
graphic: Tim Evanson
News of a new discovery of a hominid is always exciting news but it is always best not to leap to conclusions before a proper examination can be done. British Columbia, Canada, Simon Fraser University archaeology graduate student Marina Elliott will be doing just that when she returns to the Rising Star Cave in South Africa. An added bonus is her years of spelunking  and being able to squeeze through small passages because of her slimness. Fellow archaeologist Mana Denbo will have the unenviable task of classification.

Her biggest problem will be with the subjective nature of all classification: one classification might be given for one feature while another might be given for a different feature. Unfortunately, academic archaeology is sometimes not very strong on interdisciplinarity and will hold conferences where people have the choice of attending lectures in different disciplines. Only the building would really experience interdisciplinarity but it's not talking. Try to explain transdisciplinarity to the vast majority of archaeologists and you might just as well be speaking in Etruscan.

Take a look at the width of the mandible in the reconstructed head of Homo erectus, and then compare it to the chimpanzee's mandible in the lower left illustration. While you are there, compare the shape of the brainpan of Homo erectus with that of the chimpanzee. Of course, Homo erectus was a pretty tall fellow, and the creatures in Rising Star Cave were pretty small creatures. Confused yet? It would really depend on which features were given primacy as to whether were were classifying a hominid or a primate.

Sorry for the shortness of today's post, but on the weekend I had a computer meltdown and have gone from Windows 7 Professional, 64 bit, to an antique Windows XP 32 bit. I'm actually enjoying doing it "old school"

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