Re: AAT QUESTIONS...
Phillip Bigelow (firstname.lastname@example.org)
24 Aug 1995 16:59:38 -0700
Elaine Morgan <Elaine@desco.demon.co.uk> writes:
>There is no lack of material for research into comparative anatomy. We
>all walk around with a bodyful of it.
I can accept this *with* *the* *qualifications* that:
1) We don't compare the anatomy of humans with some idealized picture
of what humans SHOULD be like. In other words, we don't make statements
that imply that modern humans are ill-suited to their environment, but are
better suited to an aquatic existence. Humans are the way humans are.
2) We should know what is an important trait for comparison purposes,
and what is not a good trait to use.
3) We should know at least the rudimentary evolutionary reasons for a
given trait that we want to compare. If we don't know the evolutionary
pressures that cause morphological radiation, then we should, for safety
sake, not read too much into the comparative anatomy of that trait (at
least, until we know more about it). Sweating, hair loss, come to mind
4)We should be certain that we really are comparing like-anatomical
traits (homologies) and not just convergent features that have no
>What discourages me about the fossil material is not the lack of it
>but the blinkered way in which it is written about. Don Johansen wrote
>a whole book about the discovery of Lucy, full of exciting material.
>Lots of information, lots of detail. The only detail which was nowhere
>mentioned or hinted at in the book was that Lucy died in the sand at
>the edge of the water, among crocodile and turtle eggs and crab
>claws. I do not accuse him of concealing the fact. It was there in
>the paper he wrote, albeit rather parenthetically and in the small
>print. I believe he simply did not see it as having any possible
>significance. People see what they expect to see. I am trying to widen
>the range of their expectations.
This may or may not be an intentional oversight on Johansen's part. If
you scan the anthropologic literature (recent stuff as well as early
in this century) you will notice a dearth of information on the depositional
environments of many sites. This is a cross-disciplinary problem, not a
problem unique to the AAT- debate. Good depositional environment studies
require the efforts of an on-site sedimentologist or at least a general
geologist. Only the better funded projects are so lucky.
Regarding the specific issue you raised about Lucy being found in
lacustrine/fluvial dune sand, among croc and turtle eggs and crab claws:
I think it is important to stress that *most* vertebrate material found in
the fossil record was deposited in water. The real
issue is whether the depositional environment truely reflects something
about how the animal lived. Not how it died. I don't want to second-guess
Johansen, but if giraff and elephant are also found in the same depositional
environment as Lucy (and these fossils were found)
then the fact that Lucy was found in a watery grave should hardly warrant a
raised eye-brow. Frankly, I think this Lucy-along-the-shore-with-crabs
evidence is leading some people not well-versed in the science of
depositional environment to some false logic.
(still getting scorched in the badlands