paleo (MLA).docx - Hinskey 1 Devan M Hinskey Amy...

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Hinskey 1 Devan M. Hinskey Amy DeWys-VanHecke Anthropology 131-05 22 April 2014 The Dawn of Man “Where do we come from?” has been one of the many questions that have been plaguing man’s subconscious since he first began to form and exchange thoughts and ideas. Classic myths of mankind being created by gods are a staple in every religion. It wasn’t until the 19 th century that Charles Darwin came up with the ‘radical’ idea that human beings are descended from a common ancestor closely related to apes such as chimpanzees. However, since that time, many paleontologists and anthropologists have dug up and studied the fossilized remains of hominids (humans and their relatives), and have been able to prove Darwin’s theories correct, in a scientific process known as paleoanthropology. Here, we will focus on the discoveries of certain hominid fossils and how they contribute to the evolution of mankind. One of the earliest important finds in paleoanthropology was that of a skullcap and fragments of limbs belonging to a species identified as Homo neanderthalis , better known to the public as Neanderthals, which helped to fuel the very idea of human evolution. They were uncovered in a cave just above the Neander Valley, the Neanderthal’s namesake, in 1856. Following later finds of their fossilized bones, Neanderthals have “become recognized by most anthropologists as representing a distinct group of the genus Homo which became differentiated probably in the latter part of the Middle Pleistocene period…” (Clark 60). In 1927, Alex Hrdlicka theorized that the Neanderthals were the missing link between primitive ape and Homo
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Hinskey 2 sapiens . Then, between 1997 and 1999, Matthias Krings and colleagues “estimated the date for the human-Neanderthal split to be four times greater than that estimated for the common ancestor of all modern humans.” (Sawyer and Deak 218) This was done based on comparisons between DNA extracted from Neanderthal remains and that of modern man, and as a result put Hrdlicka’s ‘missing link’ notion to an end. According to Clark’s descriptions, a Dutch physician by the name of Eugene Dubois discovered a skullcap, teeth and even a thighbone in Trinil in the island of Java. (89) At first, based on the low, sloping forehead and brow ridges on the skull, he thought the creature was some sort of ape. However, when he examined the thighbone’s shape and proportions, plainly human and suited for bipedal movement, he concluded that they belonged to an ancient predecessor to human beings and dubbed the specimen Pithecanthropus erectus , meaning “erect ape-man”. (Haviland et al. 172) Many scientists ridiculed DuBois’s theory, claiming the evidence came from different individuals. He kept his specimen hidden under the floorboards of his dining room as a result, where they remained until more fossils provided more evidence that DuBois was correct. However, the Trinil skullcap and later fossils were dubbed
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