Surprisingly, the number of students who attended my class tonight had not decreased very much compared to the first lecture. Let’s hope those eighty students who are still around will stay until the end of the course!
Tonight’s lecture focused mainly on the earliest known hominids, Sahelanthropus, Orrorin, Ardipithecus ramidus and Australopithecus anamensis and whether these were bipedal or not. But we also discussed the anatomical differences between humans and apes, and between early hominids and apes, and I even managed to talk a little bit about one of my favorite topics, the people behind each discovery. Too bad I did not have more time to talk about this, because each of these anthropologists has an interesting history ranging from betrayal and/or deep disappointment to enormous fame, from being the worst enemies to being good and supportive colleagues. Since I did not have enough time to dwell more on all these stories, here are some recommendations for further reading:
One of these is Anne Gibbon’s book The First Human. This is a book you don’t want to stop reading. Anne Gibbons describes vividly the race for finding the “missing link” and portraits the ambitious scientists behind the scenes.
Another recommended reading is Martin Meredith’s book Born in Africa. Meredith describes in a great way the different scientists, their discoveries, personalities, rivalries, and their endurance in the quest for finding the ‘missing link’ and early hominids.
My last recommendation for today is Tore Frängsmyr’s book Pekingmänniskan. I think that it is only available in Swedish, but would deserve to be translated into English. Frängsmyr describes the circumstances of the discoveries of the Homo erectus teeth at Zhoukoudian during the early 20th century, and how some young scientists from Uppsala become involved in excavations in China.