Nightfall in the Hobbit Cave

“This is what Homo floresiensis must have felt like,” a paleoanthropologist mused through the darkness. It is almost 8pm on a Thursday and I am sitting on the floor of the cave known as Liang Bua. Other researchers stand only a meter from me, but I cannot see them, my eyes have yet to adjust…

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…

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…

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…