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Evidence and Interpretation in Paleoanthropology

In a search to find our ancestors, several anthropologists have found evidence to support their conclusions. In the films about Don Johanson’s discovery of Lucy in Hadar, one may be very intrigued by the first film but very disturbed by the second film.

I was very intrigued by the findings of the Australopithecines. The idea that Lucy, the skeleton found in Hadar, Africa, was closely related to the human species was amazing. Lucy was bipedal and her brain was smaller than that of modern humans. Lucy resembled an ape and was able to make tools to find food and weapons.

Hadar, Africa was believed to be a heavily vegetated area but had evolved into a dry and desolate desert. After Lucy died, it was difficult to find her remains due to erosion and sediment in the body of water in which she died. Johanson and his team worked were able to use the advancement of technology to calculate about how old Lucy’s remains were.

The second film by Johanson seemed to disturb me because it discussed how some believe that all primates are killers and it portrayed this idea in film and in television. I disagree with the idea that all primates are predators and are always hunting harmless animals and destroying things. I understand that some primates must rely on hunting as a source of survival but I believe the portrayal of primates as barbaric in the film was unnecessary. In the second film, the primates were shown destroying piles of bones and throwing large objects.

Johanson’s film disturbed me in others parts. For example, when Lucy was killed by a lion and dragged into a tree. It seemed almost as if Lucy’s hearing was not keen enough and therefore she was unable to escape the lion. It is a very crucial portion of the circle of life but the idea of Lucy being killed and dragged into a tree to become dinner for a hungry lion bothers me because of the direct link of Lucy to humans.

I believe that Lucy is one of the first Australopithecines closely related to the human species for several reasons. Although she had a small brain, Lucy could make tools, use a fire for heat, and use sticks to gather termites for food. Lucy using other tools to benefit her for food was one of the traits that the chimps in the Jane Goodall film were using. Lucy also was able to walk upright and has a pelvic structure similar to that of a human.

Stringer and McKie believe that unlike monkeys, who are still arboreal, apes were forced from trees, which is why they have evolved walking upright. In the films, it never suggested that Lucy was arboreal. For the beginning of the film, Johanson showed the audience an erect, bipedal Lucy. The idea that Lucy was bipedal refutes Stringer and McKie’s theory that our ancestor evolved from trees. I have to say that I agree with the idea that humans evolved walking but I do not think that our ancestors were arboreal. I think that our ancestors were probably quadripedal and then became more erect but I do not believe that humans evolved from trees. The comparisons between the book and the film are unusual because I find myself believing the studies from the film.


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