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Lecture 26 - Paleoanthropology: An Introduction

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Esteban Parra

ANT203Y5 – BiologicalAnthropology Lecture 26 – February 27, 2014 Paleoanthropology: An Introduction - Different fossils, where they are, many classifications of fossils and questions of fossil hunters. What is Paleoanthropology? - Paleoanthropology can be defined as the study of early humans. It is important to mention that this comprises both their biology and their culture. AMultidisciplinary Science - Scientists from many disciplines join their efforts to obtain the most complete perspective of human origins possible…. - Biological anthropologists, archeologists, paleontologists, paleobotanists, and geologists, among many others. Windows into our Past… - Important clues about the evolution of our species can be obtained by analyzing fossil remains. - Here is some more information about fossils and how they form… About Fossilization - Fossilization is a rare phenomenon, and it is dependent of a number of important factors affecting preservation after death, including…. - Geological factors: Nature and composition of sediments. - Temporal factors: Variation of preservation conditions through time. - Biological factors: Role of organisms after death - *Taphonomy is the study of the processes affecting an organism after death that result in its fossilization. Differential Preservation - Plants and animals from humid tropical forests, or mountain areas are rarely preserved due to high rates of decay or erosion. - This is one of the reasons for the lack of fossils for the chimp or gorilla lineages. - Also, hard parts (bones, teeth) of the body tend to be preserved, while soft parts are usually lost. Hominid Fossils - Most of the hominid fossils have been found in: o Volcanic deposits. o Lake (lacustrine) or river (fluviatile) sediments. o Caves The Fossilization Process - There are several ways in which fossilization can occur. Below, we indicate three common forms. - Replacement o Organic or inorganic material is replaced by soil minerals (e.g. calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate). o “The Black skull” - Early robust estrolopithises (ehtiopia). The black skull name comes the black and blue color of the skull because of the skull preserved in soil with manganese. - Cast and mold ANT203Y5 – BiologicalAnthropology Lecture 26 – February 27, 2014 o Caused by deposits of sediment in cavities of the organism, resulting in a three dimensional model. o The Taung Child –Estolopithicus Africanus; discovered by Raymond Darke. When he saw this fossil in S.Africa, the skull was primate like, whereas the face was human like. - Impressions o Two-dimensional imprints most commonly found in silt or clay, without organic material present. o Litalie footprints: are around 3 million years ago. We know that hominids were walking bipedially as far back as 3.6 million years ago Dating the Fossils - Finding a fossil (lucky you!) is just the first step of a long process, and there are many other things to do. - The next key step is to determine the age of the fossil. This is critical to put together the complicate puzzle of human evolution Dating Methods - Two main categories: - Relative methods: They give the time of a fossil or artifact with reference to another fossil, artifact, or event. They don’t provide absolute dates. - Chronometric (or absolute) methods: They provide estimates of the actual age of the fossil. Relative Dating Methods - Stratigraphic dating: Based on the geological principle of superposition: The deeper the layers of deposits, the older. - Problems with Stratigraphic Dating o Method is only relative. o Not valid for sites with different stratigraphy. o Possible problems due to disturbance of the layers (for geological reasons, or human or animal action) Fluorine Analysis - Based on chemical changes of skeletal remains buried in the earth - Fluorine is an element that is found in ground waters - With time, the amount of fluorine in the bone increases (and the amount of nitrogen decreases) - Problems with Fluorine Analysis o Relative method doesn’t provide absolute dates. o Difficult to compare bones from different sites, because fluorine content can
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