In 1933, a Chinese man working for the Japanese occupation found an extraordinary skull in the sediments along the banks of the Songhua River near the city of Harbin. Since the Peking Man fossils, found just a few years earlier, were widely celebrated in China, he must have known that the strange-looking skull was something … More The Extraordinary Dragon Man
Almost twenty years ago, a team of scientists led by a French researcher published their description of a new fossil that they called Sahelanthropus. It was found in Chad, at a site in the southern Sahara known as Toros-Menalla. The big news was the skull, which we know always gets people excited. It was highly … More The Mysterious Missing Femur
A couple years back, my wife and I visited the beach, and I began to observe the quick erosion of footprints in the surf (because that’s what I do on the beach, that’s why). Even the clearest prints were washed away in minutes as the surf kept pounding the sand. It reminded me how ephemeral … More Tracking Hominins in the Great Rift Valley
…a threefold cord is not quickly broken (Ecc. 4:12) How smart is a Neandertal? During the first half of the twentieth century, artists and experts emphasized an animalistic depiction, with pictures that practically equated them with gorillas. Excavations at Shanidar, in Iraq, did a lot to change that public perception. There, anthropologist Ralph Solecki and … More A cord of three strands
From now to March 22, visitors to the Perot Museum in Dallas have the opportunity to see something exceedingly rare in the United States: Two hominin skeletons from South Africa. By a special arrangement with Wits University in Johannesburg, the remains of MH-1 (Australopithecus sediba) and LES1 (Homo naledi) are on display in a special … More Visiting the hominins in Dallas
In 2012, a team of French researchers began systematic excavation of a known Neandertal site in the coastal community of Le Rozel. The site had been studied previously and known primarily as an occupation, a place where the remains of a hearth, stone tools, and animal bones had been excavated. Someone spent time here making … More On the trail of Neandertals!
In 1965, Harvard paleontologist Bryan Patterson discovered a hominin fossil elbow (specifically, a distal humerus fragment) in the Kanapoi region of Kenya, just west of the southern end of Lake Turkana. Very little follow-up work was done until twenty-five years later, when Maeve Leakey organized digs in the area once again and uncovered fossils that … More A face for Australopithecus anamensis
The recent discovery of the Denisovan Xiahe mandible brings to mind the question of how the Denisovans compare to other hominin fossils. In this image, we have replicas of six different hominin jaws to scale, and we can begin exploring the similarity and diversity of these ancient fossils. The Xiahe mandible appears bottom center with … More JAWS!
In 2010, an international team of scientists announced a remarkable discovery from Denisova Cave in Siberia. A tiny fragment of a finger bone revealed DNA that was distinct from modern humans and from ancient Neandertal DNA. Further research revealed a handful of other fossils, mostly just teeth. The genome of these “Denisovans” matched sequences found mostly … More Denisovans step out of the shadows …very slightly