David Johanson and Maitland Edey
In 1973, in Ethiopia, paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson stumbled across the skeleton of a hominin (or as he refers to it, a hominid) nearly 3.5 million years old. Nicknamed Lucy, it was acknowledged as the oldest known complete fossilized remains of a hominin, until a more the discovery of Ardipithecus in 1994. Although Lucy is no longer the oldest hominin remains, she is still one of the most famous, in part because of Johanson’s success in personalizing the skeleton. Lucy is also very controversial, from her age to her gender (a determination Johanson based on her pelvic bones but other paleoanthropologists dispute), historians and paleoanthropologists continue to interpret what the skeleton reveals about our earliest ancestors and about ourselves. The following excerpt is Johanson’s description of how Lucy differs from modern humans.
“Not All Hominids are Human Beings,” David Johanson and Maitland Edey, Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind (Simon and Schuster, 1981, pp. 18-24).
William J. Burroughs
William J. Burroughs, a scientist who specializes in physics and climate ponders the unwelcome relationship between people and lice, and what that reveals about evolution and migration of early humans. In this excerpt, Burroughs uses the designation” kya” for dates; it refers to “1000 years ago.”
William J. Burroughs, Climate Change in Prehistory: The End of the Reign of Chaos, (Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp. 133-134)
Archaeologists working in the Tsodilo Hills of Botswana in 2006 may have found the oldest evidence of a form of human ritual behavior. One cavern contains a large rock, roughly 20 feet long and 6.5 feet wide, that resembles a giant python, with the natural features of the stone forming its eye and mouth. While its resemblance to a reptile may be natural, there are also several hundred man-made grooves along its side, indicating an attempt to replicate scales with fashioned tools. Spearheads were also found at the site, and similar ones in the area have been dated to 77,000 years ago. Researchers have concluded that this was a worship site for the inhabitants of the region in this period.
Photograph by Sheila Coulson, Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo, Norway. National Geographic, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/12/061222-python-ritual.html