Fossil Analysis

Using information about, primate and hominin anatomy and behaviors you will evaluate the description of a hypothetical fossil described below and explain to your reader what these skeletal characteristics tell you about the potential behavior of these fossilized skeletons.

Using the information [osteological data, paleoenvironmental data, stable isotope data and cultural data] presented above, you will analyze and discuss the following five behaviors/factors:

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Locomotion: How did they move about their environment?
Diet: What kind of food did they eat? Territoriality over food?
Tool Use: Did they use tools? If so, what kind of tools and what were they used for?
Social Structure/Mating Pattern: Noyau, pair-bonded, polyandry, s-m polygyny, m-m polygyny? How many males/females mated and other possible behaviors (choice, mate-defense, promiscuity, dominance hierarchy, alpha-males regulating other male mating behavior, sneaker males etc…); Territoriality?
Taxonomy: Are your fossils hominins? If so, assign them to a taxonomic group (genus, species). You can assume all of the skeletons belong to the same genus and species. Use popper binomial nomenclature (i.e. yours is Homo sapiens)

*Please analyze each behavior/factor independently of all others! Please head each section of your analysis with the behavior you are analyzing. NOTE: There will be overlap and repetition in your analysis, it is okay.

Instructions Continued
When discussing the possible anatomical and social behaviors of these fossils, please consult your book and past lectures in the Primate and Hominin sections of the course. It is here that you will find the information you need in order to explain the possible “behaviors” of your fossils.

Remember to support your discussion with evidence from the readings as well as the described skeletal characteristics above. Do not just list or briefly discuss possible anatomical/social behaviors. For example, if you think the rocks are tools, why do think so, how do you know? If you think these fossils are hominins how do you know this, what evidence (physical, environmental, cultural etc.) indicate this?

Useful readings include:

Primate Social Systems/Communication
Primate Mating Systems
Primates as Models for Early Human Behavior
Comparative Anatomy
Reconstructing Ancient Environments, Locomotion and Diet
Australopithecine and Early homo lectures

Fossil Analysis

You Found A Fossil!

The year is 2020. You are a paleoanthropological graduate student working in east Africa. While excavating the Kibish Formation near the Omo River you and your team discover over two-hundred fossilized bones representing as many as 20 individuals. The fossil remains include both adult males, females and juveniles. The sediments date to between 2.8-3 million years old. Your first assessment suggests they could be possible human ancestors (hominins).

Osteological Data:
Centralized foramen magnum
Brain size is around 600 cubic centimeters
Face is prognathic (compared to humans but much less when compared to apes)

Dentition (Teeth):
Mandible and maxilla
teeth show apical and occlusal (grinding) wear
jaws lack diastemas
jaws show medium-small canines
large flat molars with rounded cusps but only 50% larger than a modern humans
thick enamel
The teeth show
a microscopic wear pattern of light scratching

Post-cranial (below the skull) characteristics:
The skeletons show
arms slightly longer than their legs
hands have small slightly curved phalanges
Pelvis is bowl-like
It has a short robust ilium that curves front to back
It has a short robust ischium
Femur with
a long femoral neck
bicondylar angle
obturator externus groove
It has a robust tibia
Foot with
a convergent toe
The male skeletons are approximately 20 percent larger than the female skeletons.

Paleo-environmental Data
Analysis of the fossilized pollen you collected from your site suggests the environment these fossils lived in consisted of pockets of wooded areas, interspersed throughout a very large, open grassy landscape. There are many predators including lions, hyenas, snakes, birds and even large bodied primates. The wooded areas offered a variety of trees and shrubs that appeal to a range of insects, birds and small mammals as well as fruits, grasses leaves and roots.

Stable Isotope Data
Stable isotope data from the teeth shows a C4 signature.

Cultural Data
Located at the same site, you also found some rocks
Some are thick, pebble-like with battered, sharp edges
Some are thinner, with sharp edges
Others are round stones that fit in the hand but have evidence of percussion marks (small scars on the rock)
The rocks are not uniform. They vary in size and shape.
Near the rocks you found some highly fractured animal bones. You find a lot of
leg bones
Under a microscope you see that the animal leg and skull bones show
long abrasions
some of the abrasions have a V-shaped shape to them

on top of many of the V-shaped abrasions, there are abrasions with sides that are parallel to each other. For more information on Fossil Analysis visit this:

Fossil Analysis

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