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By Dr. Jerry Drawhorn

This year, and 60 years since the last extensive analysis of the remains led to the discovery that the Piltdown skull was a fraud, a team of over 15 analysts - including experts in ancient DNA, radiocarbon dating and isotope studies - have been assembled by Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London to re-examine the Piltdown collections using modern analytical methods. The goal is to both to establish the precise methods used to fabricate the remains, and also to determine the original sources for the specimens and clarify the motives of the forger(s). The new studies, scheduled to be published next year, place in context the advances that have been made in analysis and scientific cooperation since the Piltdown finds were unearthed a century ago. No forgery of any significant fossil hominin could today escape disclosure simply because they would face a similar gauntlet of tests prior to peer-reviewed publication. As well, the new studies will reveal the greater detail that has been obtained since the original analysis of the chemical contents of the remains led to the exposure of the fraud almost exactly sixty years ago (Weiner, Oakley, and Le Gros Clark, 1953).

The “Years of Colonial Empire” prior to First World War were quite different from the modern spirit of international cooperation and joint scientific expeditions. The scientific prestige of nations and museums was based on whether they acquired and exhibited new fossil remains. Belgium, France, Germany, and even the Austro-Hungarian Empire had discovered remains of Neanderthals in the soil of their homelands, and in some cases sent covert teams to excavate materials on foreign soil. German collectors had also discovered a form, Homo heidelbergensis they believed distinct and earlier than Neanderthals. And a Dutch scientist, Eugene Dubois, had recently discovered what appeared to be an even more primitive hominin, Pithecanthropus erectus, in the tropical colony of the East Indies. Embarrassingly, Great Britain lacked any ancient human remains.  As well, analyses of fossils were performed by one or two individuals responsible for evaluating the geology of the site, archaeological materials and anatomy of the specimens. It was in this context that the now infamous Piltdown remains were first revealed to the public in Burlington House in December 1913. 

Dubbed Eoanthropus dawsoni, the skull was supposedly first discovered by workmen digging out gravel along a country road in Sussex in 1908, the cranial bones were identified by a local attorney and landlord’s agent, Charles Dawson. After a mysterious delay of several years he brought the thick fragments to the attention of his friend, Arthur Smith Woodward, the Keeper of Geology at the Natural History Museum in London. Dawson and Woodward had a long relationship of nearly thirty years, having been inducted into the Geological Society of London on the same evening in 1885, and Dawson regularly supplied Woodward, an ambitious palaeontologist in the Natural History Museum, with fossil fish, dinosaur bones, and the teeth of ancient mammals. Woodward and Dawson (1913) eventually collected more specimens, including faunal specimens (hippo, elephant, rhinoceros, horse, and beaver), and “eolithic” artifacts, which suggested that the cranium was older than the Neanderthal remains of Europe and at least as old as Dubois’ Pithecanthropus specimen. In addition, an ape-like mandible was discovered, and the following year (1914) a large canine matching Woodward’s reconstruction was found in previously sieved gravel by French Jesuit cleric and paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin, who had been invited to join in the dig. All these remains were covered in a rich chocolate brown patina that mirrored the iron-stained gravels of the Piltdown pit.

Despite their apparent antiquity, the human specimens were, however, distinct from Pithecanthropus. Thus only one of these potential hominins could be directly ancestral to modern humans. The cranium of Eoanthropus had significantly smaller brow ridges, a higher forehead, and smaller occipital torus than the Javanese skull. These traits suggested modern affinities, but critical to the assessment was the cranial capacity. The parietal bones of the Piltdown skull were incomplete and broken, and oddly lacked any trace of a sagittal suture to indicate a midline. This allowed some latitude for reconstructing the brain size. Woodward had initially suggested that the cranial volume of the skull was only slightly larger than Pithecanthropus, but anatomist Arthur Keith, by brilliantly measuring the surface areas of the bones from more subtle landmarks demonstrated that the brain size of the skull was actually well with the range of modern human populations. However, the associated mandible and the canine indicated a much more apelike face than the dental remains that Dubois had associated with Pithecanthropus. Because the round cranium lacked the brows and tori of Neanderthals and Pithecanthropus and had a modern brain size, Eoanthropus ascended to the status of the singular ancestor to Homo sapiens, with all hitherto hominins competitors pushed to side branches fated with extinction. This interpretation fitted well with Smith Woodward’s orthogenetic view that organisms acquired odd accretions, crests and spines as the phyletic lineage aged.

A phylogeny with so many side-branches was irksome to many human paleontologists, particularly the Ales Hrdlicka, who supported a more lineal sequence to human evolution with less requisite parallelism. Hrdlicka raised questions about the association of the mandible and cranium, pointing out that the absence of an occipital condyle on the mandible prevented a direct anatomical connection. Immediately afterwards, Dawson reported a new locality had been discovered, with both a fragment of thick cranium and a molar tooth from the opposite side of a mandible, but otherwise identical with the original finds. This seemed to foreclose any argument that the mandible and skull could be unassociated.

Because of some noticeable coloration differences of some of the specimens, there had been requests to analytically test the possibility of admixture of remains from different stratigraphic levels, by contrasting the mineral content of the cranium, mandible and the faunal remains. Smith Woodward suggested that the coloration differences were simply because Dawson had applied different levels of preservative on the specimens. Only some inconclusive examinations on the skull by a local chemist in Dawson’s village were performed. This is puzzling because the Fluorine test had been utilized in 1879 by Thomas Wilson to test the antiquity and association of the spurious Calaveras cranium. And Woodward himself had used the Fluorine test to assess the antiquity of bones of the South American Glyptodon associated with human remains (Moreno and Woodward, 1889).

In the period between World War I and II hominin discoveries accumulated, with many broadly confirming the existence throughout the Old World of hominins that broadly resembled Neanderthals or Pithecanthropus (now called H.erectus). In South Africa, curiously small-brained, bipedal forms (Australopithecus) with far more human-like dentitions than Eoanthropus were being recovered. And in what is now Zambia, a skull of H. heidelbergensis was discovered, and Woodward himself described it. He curiously made no mention of his Piltdown discovery at all. Except for Woodward’s book The Earliest Englishmen, (1948) based on his notes at the time, for most reviewers of human evolution at this time, the Piltdown discovery seemed to become an extended footnote, a peculiar specimen without a confirming match in the geological record.

That very same year, Kenneth Oakley (1848), who had revived the application of the Fluorine Dating technique, applied the analysis to the Piltdown remains.  The results, showing oddly low levels of Fluorine adsorption in the skull and jaw compared to the faunal remains aroused the attention of Joseph Weiner of Oxford University. He contacted Kenneth Oakley with his concerns of a possible fraud and they assembled a team of specialists from London's Natural History Museum and Oxford University to careful reexamine the remains. In 1953, in the same Burlington Hall theater were Eoanthropus was originally announced they showed the find was a cleverly assembled fake, combining a Medieval-era human skull with the jaw of an orangutan, and planted with appropriately aged fauna- all artificially stained to resemble the Piltdown gravels. Oakley noted that the chemical composition of many of the specimens appeared not to derive from English collection sites and a radiocarbon dating of the orangutan jaw suggested a sub-fossil specimen that pre-dated collections of materials of zoological collections.

Weiner was more curious than Oakley as to “who-dunnit” and eventually established that Charles Dawson was likely the primary “man-on-the-spot” and perpetrated the fraud. Weiner showed that Dawson was associated with all three sites where collections of stained human remains had been found (a third site with more “modern” crania was never published by Woodward), as well as some stained “eoliths”.  Smith Woodward was regarded as an uncritical dupe. But over the last decades a long list of “suspects” (almost all those mentioned in Weiner’s book) have been proposed as possibly involved. Other long-dead suspects identified by researchers include Arthur Smith Woodward, the museum's keeper of geology, who championed Dawson's discoveries and gave them vital scientific credibility. Many of the Piltdown remains appear to have potential sources in collections that Smith Woodward curated, studied or directly excavated (Drawhorn, 1994). The finger has also been pointed at de Chardin (Gould 1979), Arthur Keith (Spencer 1990); and even "Sherlock Holmes" author Arthur Conan Doyle (Winslow & Meyer 1983), who lived in Crowborough about 11 km away. Recent suspicion has also fallen on museum zoologist Martin Hinton (Gardiner and Currant, 1996; Gardiner 2003). A trunk with Hinton's monogram was found in 1971, a decade after after his death, which contained animal bones and human teeth claimed to be in stained the same way as the Piltdown fossils.

The new barrage of studies will hopefully clarify whether the fraud involved a knowledgeable break-up of the skull and jaw to lead anatomists astray. As well they may reveal the precise sequence the stains were applied, and distinguish between the endogenous mineral composition of the faunal materials and the applied chemicals. Are the applied stains actually identical to the methods used by Hinton on his faunal and human specimens? And do the trace isotopes of the Piltdown specimens allow them to be associated with known fossil collections and expose the manner in which the hoaxer obtained them? All who have been fascinated by what has been called “the greatest scientific fraud in history” anxiously await a final resolution of the case.

Drawhorn, G. M. (1994) Piltdown: Evidence of Smith-Woodward’s Complicity. American Association of Physical Anthropologists on April 1, 1994 (The abstract of this paper appears in the February 1994 issue of the AJPA) http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/piltdown/drawhorn.html

Gardiner BG  The Piltdown forgery: a re-statement of the case against Hinton. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2003, 139, 315–335. With 12 figures

Gardiner BG, Currant A. 1996. The Piltdown Hoax who done it. Linnean Society of London, Burlington House.

Gould SJ. 1980. The Piltdown conspiracy. Natural History (New York) 89: 8–28.

Moreno, F.P. and A.S. Woodward. 1989.
 On a portion of mammalian skin, named 'Neomylodon listai', from a cavern near Consuelo Cove, Last Hope Inlet, Patagonia. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1:144-156.

Oakley KP. 1948. Fluorine and the relative dating of bones. Advancement of Science 4 (16): 336–337.

Spencer, F. 1990. Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery  “Beyond A Reasonable Doubt?” pp. 188-208  London: Natural History Museum Publications.

Weiner, J. S., Oakley, K. P, and Le Gros Clark, W. E., (1953) The Solution of the Piltdown Problem. Bull. Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist), Geol.,2, No. 3, 139-46

Winslow J, Meyer A. 1983. The perpetrator of Piltdown. Science 83 (4): 32–43.

Dawson, C. and A.S. Woodward. 1913.
 On the discovery of a Paleolithic human skull and mandible in a flint-bearing gravel overlying the Wealden (Hastings Beds) at Piltdown, Fletching (Sussex). Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London 69:117-151.


Dr. Jerry Drawhorn is a Biological Anthropologist at Sacramento State University. A graduate of UC Berkeley and UC Davis, he has studied the evolution of fossil orangutans in Indonesia and Malaysia. He is also involved in research on the interactions between Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace and their influence on others involved in Victorian-era zoological research in Southeast Asia.

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AuthorH Gregory

The auditorium was full. More than three hundred people were seated in the audience, eagerly anticipating hearing about and seeing beautiful examples of the art that our ancestors were making thousands of years ago. As Dr. White stepped up to the podium and said his first words, the power went out, and the auditorium was plunged into darkness.

Dim emergency lights came on as the back-up generator kicked in. Amy Potts, and Daniel Burch of the Houston Museum of Natural Science scrambled to find out what was going on; if it was just the museum, or if the outage was more widespread. Once we determined that the power was out for the surrounding area, and it wasn't likely to come back on soon, we came up with a plan B.

Dr. White agreed to give his talk in the dark, without slides. It was a powerful and moving experience for those who stayed to listen, and the experience of listening together in the dark made it even more memorable.

The Leakey Foundation would like to thank Randall White for going above and beyond, the Archaeological Institute of America - Houston for partnering with us on this amazing lecture, and The Houston Museum of Natural Science for being a a great partner and a venue that can keep it's cool when things don't go according to plan!

 

 

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AuthorMeredith Johnson
Skull 5, in-situ. Dmanisi, Republic of Georgia.

Skull 5, in-situ. Dmanisi, Republic of Georgia.

Dr. David Lordkipanidze's newest evidence to come from Dmanisi has set the stage for a lively debate between the lumpers and splitters. For the past two decades, Lordkipanidze­—a five-time Leakey Foundation grantee (1998-2003)­­—and his colleagues have excavated at Dmanisi, a long-term study site in the Caucasus in the Republic of Georgia, approximately 50 miles southwest of Tbilisi. This early Paleolithic site has proven to hold rich deposits of fossils and tools, producing very complete skulls from a pivotal time in human evolution, about 1.8 million years ago.

The Leakey Foundation has funded 10 research grants at Dmanisi, including work by Reid Ferring, James Macaluso, Philip Rightmire, and Martha Tappen. For some of these studies, the Foundation is one of only two American funders. YOU can help us continue to fund this type of important work; keeping science in the forefront and exploration into our origins a priority. 

Donate

The Leakey Foundation strongly believes in the funding of long-term research. With dedication and perseverance come great discoveries, like Skull 5. Please help support long-term research and donate to The Leakey Foundation today. 


Listen to David Lordkipanidze's talk "First Out of Africa"

In 2011, Dr. Lordkipanidze gave the lecture "First Out of Africa" for the 2011 Leakey Foundation Speaker Series on Human Origins. (Note: the recording starts just a couple of minutes into the program.) 

Related links:

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AuthorBeth Green
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If you weren't able to join us in Cleveland for "On the Trail of Lucy: a collaborative exploration of Australopithecus," you can watch Dr. Bernard Wood's excellent keynote lecture "Relatives and Ancestors" here on WVIZ World, thanks to ideastream, the lead sponsor of the symposium.

For more on the events in Cleveland, listen to "Ire of Lucy" on ideastream, about the ground breaking scientific meeting on collaboration in the field of anthropology, and read the piece by Ann Gibbons and Elizabeth Culotta about the new reconstruction of Lucy in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's new human evolution exhibit.

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AuthorMeredith Johnson
CategoriesSpeaker Series

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Doors Open at 6:30 PM, Event at 7:00 PM at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, NY

If you missed this lecture, check out Dr. Lieberman's appearance on the Colbert Report, the day after he gave this talk. Free admission, with cash bar; 21+ with ID (Registration requested)

Dr. Daniel Lieberman

Dr. Daniel Lieberman

Dr. Daniel LiebermanProfessor and Chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology and the Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences Harvard University

How and why is the human body the way it is? What did evolution adapt our bodies for? And how is the human body changing today? To address these questions, this lecture will examine the major evolutionary transformations that shaped the human body since we diverged from the apes, and how our bodies have further evolved and changed for the better and the worse since the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions. As we try to chart a better future for the human body, thinking about our evolutionary past is more relevant than ever for preventing the expanding burden of chronic diseases whose symptoms we must increasingly treat.

Presented in collaboration with SciCafe.

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Daniel Lieberman is the Professor and Chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, the Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences, a Harvard College Professor at Harvard University, and a member of the Scientific Executive Committee of the LSB Leakey Foundation. He was educated at Harvard (AB ‘86, PhD ’93) and Cambridge (M.Phil. ’97). His research is on how and why the human body is the way it is, with particular foci on the origins of bipedalism, how humans became superlative endurance runners, and the evolution of the highly unusual human head. Lieberman has published 3 books and more than 100 articles. His latest books are "The Evolution of the Human Head (Harvard University Press, 2011), and “The Story of the Human Body” (Pantheon, 2013).

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AuthorBeth Green
CategoriesSpeaker Series
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Leakey Trustees visit KFS in Nairobi

Leakey Trustees visit KFS in Nairobi

In April 2013 The Leakey Foundation awarded the Franklin Mosher Baldwin Memorial Fellowship to five outstanding applicants, most of whom are now beginning a new school year. The Fellowship was established in 1977 by Elisabeth O’Conner as a program to educate African scholars in prehistory and paleoanthropology. Recently the program was expanded beyond Africa to include scholars with citizenship in a developing country who seek to obtain an advanced degree or specialized training from an institution outside the scholar’s home country. By enabling bright young scholars to obtain a graduate degree, The Leakey Foundation is helping to equip these individuals to assume a leadership role in the future of human origins research.

Here is a brief introduction to our current Baldwin Fellows:

Our two returning Baldwin Fellows are Mercy Akinyi and Stanislaus Mulu Kivai. Ms. Akinyi (Kenya) is continuing her studies at Duke University, focusing on understanding the relationships between the evolution of behavior, social connectedness and aging in non-human primates. Mr. Kivai (Kenya) is currently a PhD candidate in Evolutionary Anthropology at Rutgers. He has a strong interest in conservation and in adaptive responses of non-human primates to anthropogenic factors that threaten primate biodiversity.

Our three newest Baldwin Fellows are Simone Dagui Ban, May Lesley Murungi, and Justin Pargeter. Ms. Dagui Ban (Côte d’Ivoire) is enrolled in the Max Planck Institute in Germany where she is acquiring statistical training that she can apply to the analysis of fruit search strategies and memory skills of chimpanzees for her dissertation. Ms. Murungi (Uganda) is working towards her PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand where her area of interest is phytolic (silica plant microfossils) analysis of the environmental history of Sibudu Cave in KwaZulu-Natal. Mr. Pargeter (South Africa) is in his first year of doctoral studies at Stony Brook. His research focus is on the use of experimental archaeology, use-wear analysis and tool morphometrics to understand changes in hunting technologies during the late Pleistocene and Holocene in southern Africa.

Please join us in wishing our Baldwin Fellows great success in their studies and a fantastic school year!

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AuthorBeth Green
CategoriesIn the News
2013 EAAPP Conference

2013 EAAPP Conference

by Dr. Kristian Carlson*Senior Researcher at University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg Research Associate, Department of Anthropology, Indiana University

The 4th conference of the East African Association for Paleoanthropology and Paleontology (EAAPP) took place at the Leisure Lodge Resort in Mombasa, Kenya from July 28th through August 1st, 2013. Once again it was an exciting opportunity for students and researchers in African universities to assemble, exchange ideas, and interact with a diverse array of paleoscientists from around the world. The organizing committee did a superb job in putting together the fourth installment of what has become an increasingly popular conference in the field of human evolutionary studies. Thanks to all of them, particularly Dr. Emma Mbua†* (National Museums of Kenya) and Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged* (California Academy of Sciences), for their unending efforts.

While it is impossible to mention all of the presentations, there were a number of notable trends and highlights at the conference this year. Fewer presentations focused on hominin morphology and behaviour than in past years, but paleontological-focused presentations were still numerous amongst the usual complement of archeological and paleoenvironmental-focused presentations. Dr. Fredrick Manthi†* (National Museums of Kenya) began the scientific sessions with an update on field work at Kanapoi. Miopithecus, and now the first record of Kolpochoerus (a suid) at Kanapoi, were among recent finds he noted. Dr. Job Kibii† (University of the Witwatersrand) presented a comparative morphological analysis of a new pelvic fragment from Member 4 in Sterkfontein Cave, South Africa. Dr. Kristian Carlson (University of the Witwatersrand) presented results of a collaborative effort aimed at evaluating evidence for a partially fused metopic suture in the Taung Child. This work demonstrated the splendid capabilities of the microfocus CT facility at the University of the Witwatersrand. Even the well-known site of Dmanisi, Georgia was represented at the conference. Dr. Tea Jashashvili (University of the Witwatersrand) provided a preliminary structural interpretation of cortical thickness distribution in the 1st metatarsal of Dmanisi hominins.

In terms of new announcements, Dr. Kieran McNulty* (University of Minnesota) informed participants about the formation of a new partnership, REACHE (Research on East African Catarrhine and Hominoid Evolution). This exciting multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional effort sprung from a desire to place ongoing work at Rusinga Island into a broader regional perspective. The National Science Foundation (US) is funding the collaborative partnership, which provides an excellent model for future multi-institutional, paleontological efforts focusing on developing teams interested in regional outlooks.

Updates on field work at Woranso-Mille, Nakali, and Gona were provided by Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie* (Cleveland Museum of Natural History), Yoshiki Tanabe (Joint Kenya-Japan Nakali Paleoanthropological Expedition), and Dr. Sileshi Semaw* (CENIEH), respectively. Among other things, Dr. Haile-Selassie presented new information on the phylogenetic relationship of two Early Pliocene suids (Nyanzachoerus and Notochoerus). Mr. Tanabe revealed that excavations over the last decade by the team have recovered nearly 1500 rodent specimens. Based on teeth, he was able to add nine newly identified rodent taxa to the late Miocene record. Dr. Semaw recounted the recent discovery of additional large artifacts found in situ at Gona, associated with cut-marked bone, and from basalts not available locally. Work on diagnosing them is ongoing.

Dr. Stanley Ambrose* (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) summarized collaborative efforts over the past five years aimed at expanding the existing database of known obsidian sources in the Kenya Rift Valley. The team has doubled the number of known sources in the area, while whittling away at the number of unidentified sources represented in artifact assemblages from Olorgesailie, the Turkana Basin, and the Central Rift Valley.

Dr. Julio Mercader (University of Calgary) presented cautionary results suggesting that a looming credibility crisis may soon be facing the analysis of starch grains associated with stone tools. Contamination issues seem to be a much more serious and pervasive concern than commonly recognized, and present protocols favoring reproducibility are relatively limited. More work remains to be done in this developing area of research.

Rahab Kinyanjui (University of the Witwatersrand) presented preliminary work on using fossil pollen and phytolith data to determine the impact of colonization on land use and forest structure in remnant indigenous forests outside Nairobi. Preliminary results suggest that forest structure was not significantly altered by anthropogenic impacts during the colonization period, and that current conservation efforts are proving to be fruitful.

Others reported on exploration efforts geared towards identifying new sites. Dr. Amanuel Beyin* (University of Southern Indiana) updated conference participants on efforts to explore migration routes of Middle Stone Age hominins out of Africa via Eritrea. He proposed a combined northerly/southerly route, and is currently looking for archeological evidence to support the hypothesis. Atrianus Mutungi (University of Dar es Salaam), on behalf of several colleagues, presented on a collaborative effort aimed at developing a statistical modeling approach for predicting and identifying site locations on the landscape. The effort integrates remote sensing, landscape imagery, topographical indices, and soil parameter information, among other pieces of information. Dr. Purity Kiura* (National Museums of Kenya) reported on cultural resource management efforts in the Turkana Basin aimed at assessing the impact of exploration work by Tullow Oil. Dr. Kiura noted that the cooperative relationship has already directly resulted in the documenting of hundreds of new paleontological and archeological sites. This last presentation came towards the end of the conference, and seemed to best symbolize the upbeat mood as the scientific sessions wound down. As the exploration for and exploitation of minerals and other resources becomes increasingly common in Africa, it is encouraging to see commercial entities exhibit both a tolerance for and a willingness to help preserve opportunities to study our own heritage.

The 5th EAAPP is scheduled to take place in Tanzania in 2015. I am already looking forward to it!

* indicates Leakey Foundation Grantee† indicates Leakey Foundation Baldwin Fellow

Sponsors of EAAPP: Wenner GrenPAST and its subsidiaries Walking Tall and Scatterlings of AfricaROCEEH (The Role of Culture in the Early Expansions of Humans)

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AuthorBeth Green
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Thursday, September 19, 2013

7:00 PM at Strosacker Auditorium Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio

Bernard Wood with Casts

Bernard Wood with Casts

Dr. Bernard Wood professor of Human Origins director of the Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology The George Washington University

Like all living creatures, we are on the surface of the tree of life. All extinct creatures are within the tree. But does our small part of the tree contain just ancestors, or does it also contain extinct close relatives? This talk addresses two related questions. How good are we at using fossil evidence to reconstruct the branching pattern of our part of the tree of life? How good are we at sorting ancestors from close relatives?

Purchase your tickets here $10 per person. Free for college and high school students. Special package pricing: $15 for keynote lecture and symposium on Friday, Sept. 20

 

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AuthorMeredith Johnson
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The deadline approaches! Those interested in applying for a research grant during our Fall 2013 cycle must complete the application by July 15th. Our website is your source for guidelines for applying as well as the place to start the application process.

We received over one hundred applications for the Spring 2013 cycle, and we expect a similar number for Fall 2013. Here are a few suggestions to help your application stand out from the others and maximize your chances for funding:

‣ Present a clear correlation to human origins. We fund research into human origins, including paleoanthropology of the Miocene, Pliocene and Pleistocene; primate behavior; and the behavioral ecology of contemporary hunter-gatherers. Other areas of study are generally not considered.

‣ State your hypotheses clearly with ways and means of testing them.

‣ Review and accurately cite related literature thoroughly.

‣ Submit a tight budget (Do a lot with a little). Find out from other researchers what they have spent on lodging, food, and transportation in your study area.

We understand you may have questions about the application process, so we've included a few frequently asked questions here: Q: I've received a previous award from The Leakey Foundation. Am I eligible for another? A: Yes, as long as you are fully compliant with the terms of your previous award. You may email us at grants@leakeyfoundation.org to find out what, if any, requirements are outstanding.

Q: Does the Foundation offer scholarships for undergraduate and graduate studies? A: No, Foundation grants are limited to funding for expenses directly related to research projects. Eligible applicants must either hold a PhD or equivalent qualification in anthropology (or a related discipline) or be enrolled in a doctoral program with all degree requirements fulfilled other than the thesis/dissertation.

Q: If I'm not affiliated with a school or research institution, may I apply for a grant? A: No, we do not award directly to individuals.

For a complete listing of frequently asked questions, please click here, and if you have further questions concerning the application process, feel free to contact us at grants@leakeyfoundation.org.

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AuthorBeth Green
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In April we celebrated 45 years of funding science. 40 of those years have been graced with the leadership and generous philanthropy of Mr. Gordon P. Getty. To honor this milestone, the Foundation created the Gordon P. Getty Grant. We also celebrated with six events, in four days, held in San Francisco and Healdsburg, CA.

On Thursday, April 25th, the events were kicked off by a lecture titled The NeuroEconomics of Innovation, by Dr. Michael Platt of Duke University.

The Sterlings

The Sterlings

Friday included a visit to Iron Horse Vineyards where Leakey Foundation Life Trustee Barry Sterling, his wife Audrey and their daughter, Leakey Foundation Trustee Joy Sterling hosted a lovely afternoon.

Among the many gatherings, Saturday evening's gala was certainly a highlight. At the gala, Mr. Getty was honored by the Foundation with the Leakey Legacy Award, for his 40 years of exceptional involvement as a Fellow, Trustee, and eventually Chairman of The Leakey Foundation's Board of Trustees.

Mr. Gordon P. Getty

Mr. Gordon P. Getty

Below are just a few photos from the 4-day-long celebration. Look for a full article about the events in the next issue of AnthroQuest, which will be published later this Summer. [All photos ©Jessamyn Harris]

President Don Dana

President Don Dana

Dick Massey and Alice Corning

Dick Massey and Alice Corning

Johnson and Gomersall.

Johnson and Gomersall.

Book cake

Book cake

What a cake!.

What a cake!.

John Mitani

John Mitani

Silent Auction Bidders

Silent Auction Bidders

Scientists with Mr. Getty

Scientists with Mr. Getty

Posted
AuthorBeth Green
CategoriesUncategorized

ATHENS, Ohio (May 15, 2013) — Two fossil discoveries from the East African Rift reveal new information about the evolution of primates, according to a study published online in Nature today led by Ohio University scientists. The team's findings document the oldest fossils of two major groups of primates: the group that today includes apes and humans (hominoids), and the group that includes Old World monkeys such as baboons and macaques (cercopithecoids). Geological analyses of the study site indicate that the finds are 25 million years old, significantly older than fossils previously documented for either of the two groups.

African Oligocene primates

African Oligocene primates

Both primates are new to science, and were collected from a single fossil site in the Rukwa Rift Basin of Tanzania. Rukwapithecus fleaglei is an early hominoid represented by a mandible preserving several teeth. Nsungwepithecus gunnelliis an early cercopithecoid represented by a tooth and jaw fragment.

Read the full media release

Ohio University

Ohio University

This study was funded in part by The Leakey Foundation

The researchers have shared photos from the field and their thoughts on the Foundation:

Funding from The Leakey Foundation has been pivotal in establishing and sustaining our international, interdisciplinary project, and instrumental for providing rich opportunities field and laboratory training for undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Authors on the Nature article are Nancy Stevens, Patrick O'Connor, Cornelia Krause and Eric Gorscak of Ohio University, Erik Seiffert of SUNY Stony Brook University, Eric Roberts of James Cook University in Australia, Mark Schmitz of Boise State University, Sifa Ngasala of Michigan State University, Tobin Hieronymus of Northeast Ohio Medical University and Joseph Temu of the Tanzania Antiquities Unit. We thank The Leakey Foundation for supporting our research.

Nature article, May 15, 2013  |  Science article, May 15, 2013  |  Animations of the fossils

Posted
AuthorBeth Green
Image courtesy of Anne-Elise Martin

Image courtesy of Anne-Elise Martin

Throughout my career, one of my greatest rewards has come from interacting with generations of students. Their fresh, inquisitive minds have continually kept me on my toes. Countless times, I have been stopped in my tracks by smart, unexpected questions that sent me scurrying back to the drawing-board. But I must admit to feeling some dismay when, several years ago, one particular student came up to me at the end of a course and said: “I really enjoyed your lectures about primate evolution, but what is the point?” Well, as a rule my justification for what I do has been to say that studying the evolution of primates—and of humans in particular—is really just like tracing our written history. I simply go much farther back in time. Just as we are keenly interested in recorded history for its own sake, surely we should be interested in our deep biological history as well? But that student made me realize that I do have an obligation to show that understanding human evolutionary history can yield direct practical benefits. And that prompted me to get my act together and finally write my long-planned book for a general readership on the evolution of human reproduction. So I guess I owe a special acknowledgment to that student now that my book How We Do It: The Evolution and Future of Human Reproduction is about to be published.

One crucial point is that suckling is a defining feature of mammals. Indeed, their very name reflects this; it is derived from the Latin mamma for teat. Mothering began 200 million years ago when the first mammals emerged and it was further refined to become a particular hallmark of ancestral primates by 80 million years ago. Now a biological adaptation with that kind of pedigree should surely command our respect! Yet many people today are confused about what is “natural” for human mothers because cultural influences are so overwhelming. It is no exaggeration to say we have lost our way in certain respects. Unfortunately, in the industrialized world, male members of the medical profession were only too willing to offer guidance. They readily provided advice for mothers, absent any understanding of our evolutionary past. Thus it was that decades ago mothers were told to breastfeed their infants following rigid timetables and to avoid any kind of “pampering”. Thankfully, things have gradually moved away from those rigid guidelines. But how are we to know that this is not just a shift in fashion? Well, we know for sure that modern guidelines are more in tune with our biology. For instance, there is a major difference between mammals that suckle on schedule, as decided by the mother, and mammals that suckle on demand in response to the infant’s needs. And we can identify the adaptation of any mammal from milk composition. Mammals that suckle on schedule produce milk that is rich in fat and protein but poor in sugar, whereas mammals that suckle on demand have milk with relatively little fat and protein but a fair amount of sugar. For instance, all primates have that kind of milk because suckling on demand is a universal feature. And humans are no exception. The composition of human milk carries a signature that clearly tells us that we are biologically adapted for frequent suckling in response to the infant’s needs.

Another key question that we need to ask because cultural influences are now so overwhelming is “What is the natural duration of breastfeeding?” This question can be answered in different ways, and they all lead to virtually the same answer. We can, for instance, look at what other primates do. As you might expect, the duration of suckling is longer in larger-bodied primates, so we have to take body size into account. When that is done, the prediction is that a primate with our body size should suckle for about three years. We can also gather information from non-industrial societies, and one study of about a hundred different populations revealed that the average duration of breastfeeding is more than two-and-a-half years. This is also true of earlier human populations. Ancient Egyptian texts, for instance, indicate that breastfeeding for three years was the norm. Indeed, we can even extract information from earlier populations for which no historical records exist. By measuring stable isotopes in skeletons from young individuals, it is possible to tell when weaning occurred, and it was between two and three years of age in populations dating back thousands of years. These and other lines of evidence indicate that the natural duration of breastfeeding in our gathering-and-hunting ancestors was three years or perhaps even more.

Now two things must be emphasized straight away. The first is that exclusive breastfeeding, with no other source of food for the baby, last only six months or so. Complementary foods are provided in addition to the mother’s milk for much of that three-year period. Secondly, it has to be accepted that breastfeeding for three years is not practically possible for many modern mothers and that, for medical reasons, some are unable to breastfeed at all. So the point here is not to dictate a return to our gathering-and-hunting origins but to ensure that any substitute for breastfeeding meets all of the baby’s needs. And in that respect the biological evidence tells us that we still have a long way to go. For instance, in addition to providing nutrients, mother’s milk includes agents that protect the baby against infection until its own immune system is up and running. Bottle-fed babies suffer significantly more from various infections. There is also a large body of evidence indicating that breastfed babies have a small but statistically significant advantage over bottle-fed babies in the development of the brain. For instance, results on tests of mental performance are consistently a few points higher with breastfeeding, at least in part because certain essential fatty acids are more prevalent in human milk than in standard infant formula.

But it is not just the baby that benefits from breastfeeding. The mother benefits as well. Benefits start right after birth when stimulation of the mother’s nipples speeds up the recovery of the womb after the demands of pregnancy and birth. More seriously, various reproductive cancers occur at higher frequencies in women that breastfeed only for short periods or not at all. This is true not just of breast cancer but also of cancers of the ovaries and the womb. Once again, the take-home message is not that women should be obliged to breastfeed for long periods, but that we need to study our biological adaptations to find ways of offsetting any negative effects arising from modern lifestyles.

So, if that one-time student happens to read this, I hope that the point of studying human origins is now fully apparent.

Dr. Robert Martin

Dr. Robert Martin

Dr. Robert Martin is A. Watson Armour III Curator of Biological Anthropology at the Field Museum in Chicago. He has devoted his career to exploring the evolutionary tree of primates, as summarized in his 1990 textbook Primate Origins. Martin is particularly interested in reproductive biology and the brain, because these systems have been of special importance in primate evolution. His research is based on broad comparisons across primates, covering reproduction,anatomy, behaviour, palaeontology and molecular evolution. He has written a new book How We Do It: The Evolution and Future of Human Reproduction, which is due to be published in June 2013.

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AuthorBeth Green
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The Leakey Foundation sits down with Dr. Adrienne Zihlman (UC Santa Cruz) to discuss her multi-faceted career in human evolution research.

In celebration of International Women's Day, 'Dig Deeper' in to the work of Adrienne Zihlman, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and pioneering anthropologist who has had major impacts on the study of human evolution. Her critique of the "Man-the-Hunter" concept made way for understanding the role of women in evolution, an approach that has become mainstream.

More recently, Zihlman's work in comparative anatomy has pushed the tenets of physical anthropology research to consider more than just the bones of a being. Zihlman's work promotes the idea that research should investigate the relationship of the many parts of a subject (bones, muscles, flesh, tendons, et al.) and not just each part separately.

Zihlman's career has spanned several decades; she began teaching at University of California, Santa Cruz in 1967. Her first Leakey Foundation grant was awarded in 1979 for research of the locomotion of pygmy chimpanzees (now called bonobos). In 1983 the Foundation once again awarded her with a grant for research of the skeletal biology and locomotor behavior of Gombe chimpanzees. Her third Leakey Foundation grant was awarded in 2001 for the investigation of the skeletal biology and life history of the Tai chimpanzees in Ivory Coast, Africa. Her publications cover human locomotion, sexual dimorphism and growth and development. She is author of The Human Evolution Coloring Book, co-editor of The Evolving Female, and is currently co-authoring a book on comparative ape anatomy.

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AuthorMeredith Johnson
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Jarman, age 4

Jarman, age 4

Did you know that grantees of The Leakey Foundation, as well as project sites funded by the Foundation, were part of this summer's Disneynature documentary Chimpanzee?

The lead scientific consultant to the movie, Dr. Christophe Boesch, has been studying wild chimps for 30 years. During Boesch's early years of research, The Leakey Foundation funded his work in Tai National Forest, where the film crew spent three years filming for this movie.

Today, Dr. Boesch is the Director of the Department of Primatology at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Germany. In 1999, he founded the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF), with the mission "to enhance the survival of the remaining wild chimpanzee populations and their habitat, the tropical rain forest, throughout tropical Africa." WCF hopes to reach this goal for 20-25,000 chimpanzees in the 17 countries in which they still exist in fairly intact habitat and to cover thereby the behavioral diversity of the species, still widely unknown today.

The Leakey Foundation has also helped fund the work of Dr. John Mitani, who served as a scientific consultant to the film. The film features footage of the chimpanzees Mitani has been studying in Kibale National Park, Uganda for nearly 20 years.

Dr. Mitani, who also serves on The Leakey Foundation's Scientific Executive Committee, has said "the chimpanzees that I study are a large troop, about 180 strong, and with so many males, they frequently interact aggressively with other chimpanzees who live in neighboring groups". This is why it was so unexpected that the film documents a special relationship between Oscar, "the star" of the film and Freddy the alpha male of Oscar's group. Oscar, a young chimpanzee who is orphaned and left to fend for himself, is adopted by Freddy. This is a very rare occurrence that has never before been caught on film before now. Mitani explains that "orphaned infants are often adopted by older siblings, or by other members in their groups. But Freddy has no relationship that we know of to Oscar. That's the mystery."

Research like Dr. Boesch's and Dr. Mitani's has given us much insight into chimpanzee behavior. With continued research at long-term study sites like Tai and Kibale, researchers might be able to delve deeper into what set us apart from our closest living relative, the chimpanzee.

If you didn't catch Chimpanzee in the theatre, you'll soon be able to buy it. On August 21, 2012, Chimpanzee, debuts as a Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray + DVD), Digital and On-Demand viewing. To celebrate the in-home debut of the film, Disneynature will continue the “See Chimpanzee, Save Chimpanzees” conservation program which was initiated with the film’s theatrical release.

For every purchase of the movie through August 27, 2012, Disneynature will make a donation to the Jane Goodall Institute to conserve chimpanzee habitat, educate the next generation, and provide care for orphaned chimpanzees. Check the official Chimpanzee website for details.

Sources:

University of Michigan Press Release

Internet Movie Database

Wild Chimp Foundation

Disneynature Press Release

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AuthorBeth Green