Lecture 5 Ch 7 - Lecture 5 Chapter 7 Fossils and Their...

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Lecture 5 Chapter 7 Fossils and Their Place in Time and Nature and Some Methods and Techniques CHAP. 7 NOT ON THE MID-TERM
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Outline What are fossils? How can we ‘read’ the fossil record? How do we establish temporal context?
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What are fossils ? (‘dug up things’) -Physical remain of once-living organisms -the remains of organisms chemically changed into minerals (esp. iron and silica) or rock -They have become mineralised by the replacement of organics (and inorganics) with new inorganic materials (esp. through ground water)
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Microfossils (e.g. corals and marine creatures shells) provide inclusions in flint and chert – some fossils LATER noticed by ancient tool makers either in drawing attention to the fossil or being angry that the tool broke because of it – many of these NATURAL items date back to 500-345mya – well before the dinosaurs
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Palaeontology is the study of fossils (in general, although Larsen sometimes seems to imply non-primate fossils in specific) Palaeoanthropology is the study of extinct humans and their ancestors
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How are fossils formed? Taphonomy (‘laws of burial’) is the study of what happens to an organism’s remains after death Describes what circumstances are necessary for fossilization to occur Fossilization requires an anoxic environment, where decomposition is limited
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Fossils are found in different types of rock - esp. sedimentary rock (esp. made up of ancient sediments and bodies of creatures deposited in oceans) BUT also as in ancient cave sites (e.g. South Africa) where bones accumulated
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What are the limitations of the fossil record? Always bias (esp. preservation and recovery bias) in palaeoanthropology and archaeology -representation bias (not all kinds of animals will be well represented everywhere - not always appropriate sediments/environments for survival of fossils) -e.g. Fayum Depression in Egypt fossil primates only of 37-31mya – gaps before and after -the fossil records present a “ snapshot ” of life in the past -recognition of this limitation is critical in interpreting the fossil record
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How can we ‘read’ the fossil record? Reconstruction of fossil skeletons
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Much of the record comes from dentition (number, arrangement, size) Dental formula (e.g. 2.1.2.3) Note retention of P3 (third premolar) in more recent ape mandible, but loss of P2 (and P1 earlier) from earlier ape forms
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Cusp morphology Enamel thickness e.g. Fossil pig and fossil mammoth molar morphology/size/shape/ridges changes (pp. 214-215)
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How can we ‘read’ the fossil record? Comparison of fossilised skeleton to living primates: Arboreal vs terrestrial quadrupeds, vertical clingers and leapers, brachiators, bipeds
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Morphologies offer
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This note was uploaded on 03/01/2011 for the course ANTHRO 1A03 taught by Professor Eveningclass during the Spring '08 term at McMaster University.

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Lecture 5 Ch 7 - Lecture 5 Chapter 7 Fossils and Their...

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