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…

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…

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…

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…