“Rise of” My Interest in Paleoanthropology

“What do we have today…well we have more monkeys than we can put in a barrel” – Dr. Relethford

I just had the pleasure of watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a great movie that I would like the comment on, but the rest of the post will address my interest in paleoanthropology.

Film and Related Entertainment

As I said before, I found the movie to be very entertaining. Having not seen any of the original Planet of the Ape movies (something I plan on fixing) I clearly cannot comment on how well it fit the established story line. But, it fit the story I was expecting. Apes get smart, smart apes rebel against us silly humans. There was type casting in this movie that had me chuckling on the inside. Tom Felton’s character was full of hate and snarled too often, Mike Dopud had a gun, and David Hewlett could never catch a break. That aside I thought it was just all around entertaining, good story, good acting and fun apes!

If you want other ape inspired entertainment I would recommend reading Micheal Crichton’s Congo. Not my favorite of his works but considering he wrote Jurassic Park that is not surprising. It is a good read, and since this is mostly a geology blog  I will mention that he does attempt to include some geology into the story. Diamonds, volcanoes, all those good things!

Paleoanthropology / Biological Anthropology

My interest in the subject of human evolution began first semester freshman year of college. I was enrolled in Introduction to Biological Anthropology taught by Dr. Relethford (Author of Reflections Of Our Past and The Human Species: An Introduction to Biological Anthropology). I had enrolled in the class because it was a prerequisite for paleoanthropology, and with the goal of study dinosaurs, I figured any paleontological experience would help me along.

Learning about the behaviors of various monkeys and apes was certainly interesting (see Chimp Generosity) and kept me excited for class (as did Dr. Relethford’s endless stories and statements, some of which I wrote in my notes, many I sadly did not), but it wasn’t until we started discussing human evolution more directly that I really was ‘turned on’ so to speak. My interest is hard to explain, as a lover of paleontology, human evolution is a natural branch of the subject, but there is something about studying where we come from that has a certain beauty and appeal to it. I get to study the past through fossils, but not just any past, my past.

From Proconsul, one of the earliest apes (I recommend reading The Ape in the Tree by Alan Walker and Pat Shipman) to Ardipithecus ramidus (a personal favorite of mine, data was released in 2009 in the journal Science) the human line is full of incredible species that leave no shortage of puzzling questions to study. Of course we can’t leave the Neanderthals (see recent genetic research) and Homo floresiensis better known as the Hobbit.

Homo floresiensis is an especially interesting individual.  Its small size, isolate located and recent existence has ignited heated debate in the scientific community (see Hobbit or Deformed Human?). I am actually about to start reading A New Human by Mike Morwood in order to get a better understanding of this unique critter.

As I moved on from Introduction to Biological Anthropology to Human Origins and eventually paleoanthropology and Human Skeletal Anatomy, I gained a stronger desire to study human evolution in my career. But I am a geologist, and I have always wanted to study dinosaurs since I was about four. Well, I have already placed myself on a career path to study paleontology from the geology side of the field. I have since reconciled myself with the idea that I can apply my geological skills to the collecting and studying human evolution just as easily as I can dinosaurs (aside from the fact that the location of human ancestors makes the field anything but easy!). However I welcome any advice on how to mesh my interests!

By now I am just rambling, tossing out genus/species in an attempt to convince myself that I am not as rusty as I know I am. It has been a couple of years since I took paleoanthropology and it is time I dust of my copies of The Human Lineage and Humankind Emerging and brush up on my history.

“I’m not saying you would say…Oh My God, there is a Neanderthal on the subway!” – Dr. Relethford

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About Geology Melange

I am a senior at the State University of New York at Oneonta double majoring in Geology and Anthropology. My main interests are in paleontology with a focus on dinosaurs, trilobites and human evolution. Like many geologists, I find that I am fascinated with a wide variety of topics within geology and related fields and thus my posts will likely involve a wide variety of geology tropics. Enjoy!
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One Response to “Rise of” My Interest in Paleoanthropology

  1. amirazara says:

    I enjoyed your post!
    Check out my archaeological blog post of the day. It refers to Neanderthals and their physicality.

    http://amirazara.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/new-manners-of-thinking/

    Follow me!

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