Through the early Homo archives

I’ve enabled the search function for the site, which you’ll find at top right on each page of the site. The search index is still rebuilding, and as I write this has only indexed 4% of the site. That brings it up to late 2007, and it’s interesting to go back through the history of paleoanthropology that way.

For example, I ran across my comments (“Is a lack of fossils the problem with early Homo?”) on a John Noble Wilford piece from four years ago. Seems very timely in many ways. For example, the paucity of the fossil record of Homo before 1.6 million years ago was a major feature of the article. I directed my attention to the supposed “gap” between 3 and 2 million years ago:

[W]e actually have quite a lot of fossils from this time period. The entire South African A. africanus fossil record, with the exception of a few early specimens like STW 573, come from this "gap." A fairly extensive record of the appearance and evolution of early robust australopithecines comes from this time period in East Africa.
And, here and there, a few specimens look Homo-like. Wilford's article discusses AL 666-1. To this we can add the Uraha mandible, Omo 75-14, an additional series of teeth from Omo, and possibly the Bouri BOU-VP 35/1 skeleton.
Properly considered, the rarity of early Homo in these contexts is not a problem; it is information.

Of course, dates have changed. We now have good dates for Dmanisi, which make those fossils the earliest well-attested Homo erectus sample at 1.8 million years. STW 573 now looks late, not early. But the fact remains that people were looking for pure representatives of Homo in the fragments instead of exploring morphological diversity within the large and fairly complete samples at hand.