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Neanderthals and Giant’s Bones

  A Strange Skeleton The bones revealed a human of “extraordinary form,” he concluded. It was January 1857, and Hermann Schaaffhausen had just viewed a fossilized skeleton that was unlike anything he had ever seen. The surviving bits of the skeleton–made up of a partial skull, along with some leg bones, ribs, and other bits…

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Neanderthal DNA: A Historical Fossil Resurfaces

Who were the Neanderthals, and how were they related to humans? These are questions that have plagued paleoanthropologists since the first Neanderthal fossil was found over a century and a half ago. On July 11, 1997 a very important paper appeared in the journal Cell that shed light on this issue. It was titled “Neanderthal…

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The Hobbit is Real: 4 Reasons Why the Mata Menge Fossils Matter

  New fossils have been discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores. The bones appear to be an ancestor of the hominin species named Homo floresiensis (known as the hobbits)! The bones–some teeth and part of a jaw–were uncovered in an area called Mata Menge, only 74 kilometers from the cave in which the hobbits themselves had been found back…

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What Does a Historian of Science Actually Do?

If you follow me on twitter (@FossilHistory) you may have seen I’ve been doing some writing outside of my blog. Today I wanted to share a piece I recently wrote for  SAPIENS–but also I’d like to use this to briefly illuminate what it is I do as a historian of science, and why I think it’s the…

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Teeth & Human Evolution: Scientist Spotlight on W.K. Gregory

  William King Gregory was a paleontologist who studied a variety of fossils creatures during the first half of the 20th century. He worked at the American Natural History Museum and Columbia University, and spent many years studying everything from fish to primates to human ancestors. Gregory introduced new approaches to examining fossils, helped settle human ancestor debates, and…

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Why Neandertals & Hobbits are the BEST Historical Subjects

As some of you know, I study the history of paleoanthropology. Clearly, doing a PhD on the entire history of paleoanthropology would be difficult. So, for my dissertation research, I focus on fossils of two species of extinct hominins: Neandertals and the ‘hobbits’ from Indonesia, Homo floresiensis. I’m here to today to tell you that I lucked out; I…