Quote: Yves Coppens on the invasion of paleontologists in East Africa13 Jul 2016
Virginia Morell’s excellent biography of the Leakey family, Ancestral Passions, includes a great discussion of the aftermath of the innovation of potassium-argon dating which demonstrated that the Zinjanthropus skull was much older than anyone had assumed. This quote from Yves Coppens is well worth sharing, as he recounts the field’s usual reaction to any new discovery (snarky disbelief), and their subsequent actions (p. 196):
Everyone said the dates were good for the lava, but not for the skull. But as paleontologists are very clever as you know, they thought there must be many australopithecines in East Africa. So there was a sort of "bone rush" like the gold rush in the far West. Officially, the paleontologists were saying, "No, no, it's too old," but behind their backs they were packing their suitcases to go to East Africa. They came like locusts.