Tag Archives: Paleoanthropology

Animals made us human

Animals Make Us Human is the title of Temple Grandin’s wonderful book on how animals think, feel, and perceive, and how humans can provide the best possible life for the ones in our care. Not quite on the same topic, RichardDawkins.net links to an article about an interesting anthropological speculation:

What explains this yen to have animals in our lives?

An anthropologist named Pat Shipman believes she’s found the answer: Animals make us human. She means this not in a metaphorical way — that animals teach us about loyalty or nurturing or the fragility of life or anything like that — but that the unique ability to observe and control the behavior of other animals is what allowed one particular set of Pleistocene era primates to evolve into modern man. Continue reading

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Becoming human, cont’d.

The New York Times has a review of the new David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, which includes the fascinating hominid reconstructions I wrote about earlier.

This part was particularly interesting: Continue reading

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Becoming human

Meet your great-great-great-great-great-… great-great-grandparents, and mine.

Paleo-artist John Gurche has reconstructed the heads of some of our earliest human ancestors, for an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute that opens on March 17. What strikes me is not just all the research and skill that went into recreating the anatomical details, but the effort that went into imbuing these faces with mood and intention: wariness, nervousness, contentment. The Neanderthal in the series has even done up his hair, a simple but powerful humanizing gesture. These aren’t just expressionless mannequins; they’re characters. They could very well be the faces of our distant relatives, looking out at us from these pictures with profoundly human eyes, if we could just turn the family photo album a few million pages back. Continue reading

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