A Toast to Darwin’s Origin & Lucy’s Discovery

November 24th is my favorite day of the year. Not because ski season has officially begun (though that is great), but because a couple of pretty incredible events occurred on this day in history. On November 24th, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published AND our favorite human ancestor, Lucy, was discovered! Both moments,…

An Elaborate Story: Why Lucy’s Death Matters to Us

“LUCY WAS PUSHED!” someone shouted at me through the fibers of the internet. I had just shared the new Lucy study on Twitter, which I’m sure many of you have seen by now: the idea that Lucy–the famous Australopithecus afarensis skeleton–fell to her death 3.2 million years ago. My mother felt just as incredulous as…

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…

Much to be Discovered: Cradle of Humankind Pre-History

To a non-paleoanthropologist, the names Sterkfontein and Kromdraai may not mean much…but, that’s about to change. These are two limestone cave systems that make up the World Heritage Site known as the Cradle of Humankind. This South African site is the richest place for hominin fossils in the world. The sheer number of hominin fossils found at Sterkfontein and…

New Fossils, Sima DNA, & more: 2016 so far!

It’s only March (on a related note–how is it already March?!), and already a TON has happened in paleoanthropology this year. So far in 2016, we’ve seen announcements on everything from teeth to DNA. I thought I’d recap some of the big finds, but as always, I have to include the disclaimer that these announcements are…

Human Ancestor or Immature Gorilla? The Taung Child

Inventing a Southern Ape In early February 1925, Raymond Dart announced his discovery of the Taung Baby fossil to the world. I recently wrote about how Nature was scooped on the announcement, but I now want to focus on how the scientific world reacted to Taung’s discovery. In his paper, Dart argued that Taung represented a new…

Announcing the Taung Child to the World

Dart and his Taung Baby Raymond Dart and his Taung child fossil are well known in the history of paleoanthropology. The story goes: the fossil came from a limestone quarry near the town of Taungs, South Africa. It fell into the hands of Dart, an anatomist at the nearby University of Witswatersrand. Recognizing that he…