01
Feb
11

Book Review: Evolution of Homo Erectus

homo erectus

Across the planet

Evolution of Homo erectus by G. Philip Rightmire is a scholarly discussion of Homo Erectus’ evolution through time, across the planet, through his diverse global locations–China, Africa, Indonesia, Spain, Europe, including Trinil, Sangiran, Zhoukoudian, Ternifine, Sale, Turkana, Olduvai Gorge.  Rightmire has studied the major artifacts and provides a rigorous overview of each, including sketches, dimensions, various views, discussion and analysis. Dimensions include not only the major measurements, but breadth, height, diameter, of the parts of each artifact. On Page 6, he includes two tables that inventory the body parts of samples found in the principal Indonesian and Chinese localities, as well as Africa (northwest, east and south). I found those tables fascinating.

Most of the book is this type of quantitative objective analysis. Toward the back, in the few remaining pages, Rightmire shares trends in brain size for the species and summarizes his analyses in two pages. He is careful not to share anything that could be construed as an opinion, which disappointed me. I am an armchair paleoanthropologist. I’ll never have access to the studies and people that a figure such as Rightmire has in the subject, so I depend upon those smarter and better trained than I to help shape my thoughts on the subject. Rightmire is an internationally recognized expert on Homo erectus and the Middle Pleistocene era and the current Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at SUNY-Binghamton. I wanted his educated thoughts on the subject of Homo erectus’ migration across the globe. I  didn’t get that here. I think someone who wants a highly objective discussion of Homo erectus’ artifacts will get much more from this book than I did.

Still, here are some of my favorite parts:

  • the book tracks the transition from Homo erectus to a more advanced form of human. How this change occurred is certainly one of the more challenging questions facing paleoanthropologists
  • On the strength of a few isolated teeth, this new hominid was named Sinanthropus pekinensis
  • Studies of the cave sediments suggest that most of the deposits were accumulated during the Middle Pleistocene (near Beijing in China)
  • This famous specimen (from Trinil by Dubois) exhibits a large pathological excrescence toward its proximal end
  • Its superior aspect is shelf-like as in several of the Ngandong crania rather than rounded or simply roughened as in other Sangiran individuals (Sangiran 4)
  • OH9 is one of the larger Homo erectus skulls on record

Anyone have other books on the evolution of Homo erectus you’d recommend?

 

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