W5 Reflection Post

In reviewing the Top 10 Discoveries of 2015, I would rate “A Human Relative” as THE best discovery for 2015.  In the Rising Star cave system in South Africa, a discovery of hominin bones was made.  Over 1500 specimens from at least 15 individuals were recovered.  There is no mention of any cultural material being found with the remains.  The remains were determined to be of a previously unknown species.  The name given to this species is Homo naledi.  Though the remains have not been able to be dated, it is believed Homo naledi lived around 2.5 million years ago.  They are considered to likely be one of the first species in the Homo genus.  It’s brain was tiny but it’s skull was humanlike.

I picked this as #1 due to my extreme interest in Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis).  When Lucy was found in 1974, it was huge news.  She was nearly 40% of a complete skeleton.  It was quite a remarkable find.  I even had the opportunity to see Lucy when she went “on the road” at an exhibit in Arizona a few years back.  I had done some studying of her and have always been fascinated at her unique traits.  Lucy was tiny, she was under four feet tall.  Her bone structure suggested she spent as much time walking upright as she did in the trees.  She would have been about 60 pounds and had a very small brain.  She got her name when the Beatles song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was playing in the background after her discovery.  That part of her story always makes me smile as well.  I know more recent discoveries have filled in many more of the “gaps”, I still find her to be intriguing.

A close second choice for #1 would be “Earliest Stone Tools”.  Stone tools found in West Turkana, Kenya predate the first known humans (to date).  They are believed to date to 3.3 million years old.  Stone tools have long believed to be a defining characteristic of the Homo species.  This find is changing what we think about that distinction.

Overall, what struck me about all of the discoveries was their vast diversity.  Everything from pretzels to a chariot found in a fifth century B.C. Celtic burial.  I found the discovery of the liquid mercury in Teotihuacan, Mexico catching my interest as well. The fact that the mercury was thought to be part of a representation of the mythical underworld is fascinating to me.

2 thoughts on “W5 Reflection Post

  1. I also chose A New Human Relative as my number one pick from these discoveries! Your descriptions of Lucy were very similar to what scientists interpreted about the Homo naledi; able to walk upright but spending most time in trees (although they don’t know that for sure about the Homo naledi, it was just stated that they had shoulders and fingers for climbing), small and with a small brain. I’m also interested in your second choice, “Earliest Stone Tools”. Since you said that they are believed to be from about 3.3 million years ago, that means that the Homo naledi came after that time, so I wonder whether they used tools. I know that their hands were definitely capable of manipulating such things, but there was nothing other than human remains found. Like you, I was surprised by the variety in all these discoveries. It goes to show that archaeology encompasses way more than we knew!

  2. When I first read this piece I had immediately thought of Lucy as well! You are very lucky to have seen the skeleton of Lucy in person. It is interesting to discover the lives of those in the past just by looking at the structure of the bones. The fact that scientists are able to definitively say that she walked upright as much as she walked in through the trees is fascinating. I did not know how Lucy was named, but that little tidbit about the song is so cool! Continuing to find skeletons that fill in the gaps of the past will help us understand the evolution of the human species. The tools that were found were interesting to learn were older than the oldest skeleton species found by humans. This makes me wonder what species then made those tools. Was it the Homo naledi or an even older species? I wonder if there is an older species if the skeletons would be found further under where the Homo naledi was found, or if they would be located in another area of the continent or even another area of the world. All of the articles were interesting in their own way, but the pretzel was probably the most interesting for me because of the preservation of the baked good.

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