The basic ‘ Homo’ type was definitely there: of that, there was no question. A proficient climber, Homo habilis has certain skeletal proportions that led Johanson to confirm his measurements met with his hopes. With a skull very similar to what one finds in the world’ s baboons, Homo habilis has a very distinctive ear canal system, which to the Olduvai scientists meant that this newly found skeleton was of the species, related to the previous Olduvai find, Lucy, and was naturally capable of terrestrial bipedalism (Johanson and Shreeve, ibid). That is when it was alive - an exciting 200,000 years previous to Homo erectus - this creature was doing some serious climbing and walking upright. The gradual ability to stand erect and walk on two legs has always been an issue considered fundamental in the study of adaptations linked with a deviation of the column of hominids away from a common ancestor that the human lineage has with the apes of Africa.
The most persuasive of Johansen’ s strengths in this book is his ability to link findings with empirical data, and his way of regarding his findings and hypotheses as additions to an already impressive bank of details and studies by other scientists.
He does not make grand dramatic announcements. He manages, using half a femur, three bones from the radius and humerus, small pieces of a braincase, a fragment of the tibia, a couple of molars and a palate, to conjure a reasonable explanation. The fragments were taken from the dig and jigsawed together during the space of about four weeks. Although tenuous to some reviewers, it feels wholly plausible that these scientists could calculate the length of a thigh from the comparatively tiny part of it that was found; and that the femur originated from the same skeleton as the rest of the fragments. With measurements, dating, time-line and still steadfastly avoiding the temptation to leap to persuasive conclusions, Johanson, with Binford keeping him on the straight and empirical pathway, started to think differently about the commonly-held perspective of human evolution.
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