Life & Death of Australopiths

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Life & Death of Australopiths

#1  Postby Spearthrower » May 04, 2022 7:27 pm

Review and overview of australopiths, and generally a good channel for palaeoanthropology.

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Re: Life & Death of Australopiths

#2  Postby tuco » Jun 29, 2022 9:22 pm

Cosmogenic nuclide dating of Australopithecus at Sterkfontein, South Africa - https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.2123516119
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Re: Life & Death of Australopiths

#3  Postby Macdoc » Jun 30, 2022 1:31 am

Image

fantastic read ...both about Ardi, the discoverers and the insane politics of anthropology....ya learn a fair bit about Ethiopia too :thumbup:
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Re: Life & Death of Australopiths

#4  Postby Spearthrower » Jun 30, 2022 2:49 pm

Just to note for clarity that the book is about the discovery of Ardipithecus ramidus, and thus a different genus than the video in the OP about australopithecines.

The book is an insight into the very robust interactions that routinely occur in the field of palaeoanthropology; the only surprise should be that no one's died yet!
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Re: Life & Death of Australopiths

#5  Postby Spearthrower » Jul 01, 2022 6:46 am

tuco wrote:Cosmogenic nuclide dating of Australopithecus at Sterkfontein, South Africa - https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.2123516119



This is something I want to get round to discussing at some point, but it's technical and is going to take some time to lay out. I'm keeping tabs on a bunch of specialists to see what their analysis is too, but so far, this has made more noise in the public press than in anthropological circles. I don't know why - it seems pretty important!
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Re: Life & Death of Australopiths

#6  Postby tuco » Jul 01, 2022 9:32 pm

I'd be interested in reading that since I cant contribute beyond the article that reminded me of this thread.
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Re: Life & Death of Australopiths

#7  Postby Spearthrower » Jul 02, 2022 6:36 am

Let me just give a little context - I still haven't worked through all the implications, and honestly, I doubt I have the depth of knowledge ever to be comprehensive. I'll be looking for specialist responses to this, even though there doesn't seem to be a peep at the moment!

So this new dating technique (which may take more technical evaluation regarding its error bars) has produced a date for the sediment in which Australopithecus afarensis fossils were found here, and that date is around 3.5mya.

This is, as far as we believed according to the evidence available, around the same time as australopithecus genus first evolved, with various fossils from other sites now being repositioned as up to a million years after these Sterkfontein individuals. It's also worth mentioning that the Sterkfontein site is actually the most abundant site of australopithecines ever discovered, so a very important site in terms of making statements about available evidence.

The dating we had before for australopithecines would have had them overlapping in time and space with early Homo, plus given the older dating of East African australopithecines, the picture was of S. African australopiths descending from East African groups.

These dates change both of the above. Most significantly, I think, is that if this dating is true, then these individuals were not extant at the time of Homo, and thus there's an extra million years of evolutionary time Plus, the last common ancestor between the various australopithecus species is much older and as yet undiscovered.
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Re: Life & Death of Australopiths

#8  Postby Spearthrower » Nov 27, 2022 8:44 pm

I am still nowhere near at a point of understanding here. The implications seem stunning - the kind of breathless headline you'd find in a science article in a non-scientific magazine or newspaper - but it really is an example of 'if true, this changes everything' - yet the paper itself seems to have produced relatively little impact with very few citations. I can't find out why barely anyone is talking about it... because barely anyone is talking about it! Usually, you'd expect to see treatments of this from public palaeoanthropologists within days, but even nearly a year later, few seem to have considered it worth discussing, at best merely reporting it. The best answers from those who have attempted some kind of treatment of it are really concerned mostly with methodology, not suggesting that this specific dating is mistaken, but rather suggesting that the contradictions between different dating techniques regarding this site are currently irresoluble, and something like a double-blind analysis needs to be performed to begin assessing the accuracy and error bars produced by the different techniques.
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