Where and when the eff am I in time and space?
I landed in Johannesburg, South Africa yesterday, and after a jet-laggy day and a half or so, I’m now at the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History (nee Transvaal Museum) in Pretoria. It’s winter here in the southern hemisphere, and when I’d landed yesterday, Joburg was in the midst of the kind of mists no one misses (left, Joburg from my hotel). It was seriously super gray and cold, it was like being back in Michigan. The hotel was pretty nice. Here’s a view of sunrise this morning (which I saw since I’m still not adjusted to the time change).
Big trip 2011
Drimolen dental analysis was published yesterday in Journal of Human Evolution, and in the class I’m TAing we’re talking about A. robustus. So I’ve been thinking about A. robustus lately. Here’s a picture of SK 63 I drew this summer. It’s a juvenile, with a nice molarized deciduous first molar, tall ascending ramus with posteriorly-pointing coronoid process.
SK 62 sketch
Copying John Hawks, here’s a picture I drew a few weeks ago while looking at some of the juvenile Australopithecus robustus material from Swartkrans. This cute little bugger is SK 62. On the left it preserves the deciduous (a.k.a. “baby”) left second incisor through the deciduous second molar; on the right are the deciduous canine and molars. The permanent (“adult”!) central incisors are in the process of erupting, and the left permanent first molar is visible in its crypt behind the dm2. What I like about its deciduous canines (I think most or all A. robustus juvenile canines are like this) is that they are quite asymmetrical, with the bulk of the crown displaced mesially, and a little lingual tubercle/ridge distally. Looks like a mitten. The corpus is tallest anteriorly but gets shorter as it runs posteriorly–this pattern is slightly less marked in adults. It appears to have a weak ‘chin,’ huh?
I’ve been pretty busy since classes let out, so it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. Two years of grad school down, n more to go. Hopefully no more than four more….
In a few hours, I leave lovely Ann Arbor, MI for my summer research, to the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria, South Africa. So far as I can tell, this museum has good collections of cultural artifacts, recent mammals, and tons of fossils. Many hominin remains are curated here as well, namely Australopithecus from the region–A. africanus from Sterkfontein and Makapansgat, and A. robustus from Swartkrans, Kromdraai, and I think also maybe Cooper’s Cave(?).
I’ll be focusing on the A. robustus collection. As with many fossil groups, the sample is largely teeth, and most other cranial remains are highly fragmentary–there are only a few relatively complete crania (including a remarkably well preserved skull, DNH 7 from Drimolen, which I don’t think is at the Transvaal and that I doubt I’ll get to examine. Oh well). The main project will examine the relative independence of many of the cranial, facial, and dental features in A. robustus, since these have been important in debates about whether the A. robustus and A. boisei (the latter from E. Africa) are more closely related to one another than to other hominins. Basically I’m going to test a few developmental/functional models that have been proposed, by applying a resampling procedure (that I’m still sort of in the process of developing). Hopefully it will be an interesting (and successful…) way of examining morphological integration in a fossil sample.
There are a few other projects, but this is the one I’m most interested in. I’ll do my best to keep Lawnchair readers (whoever they might be) updated. Here’s to what I hope will be a productive summer!