Lab 11 - Evolution of the Genus Homo- Part II.docx - ANT...

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ANT 3514C – Introduction to Biological Anthropology Lab 11: Evolution of the Genus Homo : Part II Lab Objectives: Assess the morphological variation seen in hominins during the transition to anatomically modern Homo sapiens (AMH). Interpret the relationship between environment and the anatomical differences observed between Neandertals and Homo sapiens. Describe the mosaic of features found in recently discovered species of the genus Homo . Evaluate the implications of genetic evidence indicating admixture between Neandertals and H. sapiens. Purpose: To be able to morphologically distinguish recent species in the genus Homo . The majority of the story of human evolution was written in Africa: from the attainment of bipedalism, to the first large brains, to the earliest stone tools, to the first evidence for controlled fire. However, until the 20 th century, no hominin fossils were known from Africa. In Darwin’s time (the late half of the 19 th century), the only hominin fossils known were a few Neandertal fossils from Europe, where they had been discovered in mining operations in the Neander Valley (“Neandertal”). These Neandertal fossils were intensely debated with some scholars arguing they represented the human link with other apes, and others arguing that they could not be granted the genus name Homo because they were incapable of morality. The views of this time were not prepared for the many diverse transitional forms that have emerged from the fossil records of Africa and Asia since. Darwin argued, without any direct fossil evidence, that human ancestors must have evolved in Africa, since this is where modern chimpanzees and gorillas reside. Yet many of his peers argued that orangutans represented the closest relatives of humans. Eugene Dubois of the Dutch army, agreeing with this latter perspective, believed human fossils could be found in the tropics of Asia. After sailing to the other side of the world in 1891 his initiative was rewarded with the discovery of H. erectus fossils, which rocked the established views on human evolution. It would still be another 30 years before Raymond Dart would find the first hominin fossil on the African continent in 1924 (the Taung child). Fossils which are more modern than H. erectus , but morphologically different from anatomically modern humans (AMH) can be described as “premodern humans”. Neandertals fall into this category, but so do a myriad of fossils which have cranial capacities similar to AMHs, yet share features with H. erectus and H. neanderthalensis . These fossils are often lumped into the taxon H. heidelbergensis , but splitters have proposed several additional taxa due to the great variation within this species. We now appreciate fossil species such as H. neanderthalensis, H. heidelbergensis and the erectines (H. erectus and H. ergaster) for the ways in which they resemble modern humans compared to the bipedal ancestors that preceded them. Perhaps most exciting is the recent genetic

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