Virtual Hominids

By Anderson, Robert | Natural History, November 1999 | Go to article overview

Virtual Hominids


Anderson, Robert, Natural History


Physical anthropologists may not have taken to the Internet with the same enthusiasm as have astronomers and planetary scientists, but the medium has great potential for teaching about human evolution. I found, for instance, a substantive page devoted to Neanderthals, those stocky, beetle-browed honimids who inhabited Europe and western Asia from about 150,000 to 35,000 years ago. Neandertals: A Cyber Perspective (thunder.indstate edu/~ramanank/index.html), created by Kharlena Maria R-amanan, of Indiana State University, draws on many sources to show us how they might have lived and even talked. In addition to being well laid out, the site offers a range of perspectives on our distant relatives' hunting methods, tools, music, and mammoth-bone architecture.

What I was really looking for, however, was a Web site that uses the new medium to display the fossil evidence showing our common lineage with the apes. The anthropology department of the American Museum of Natural History has done a nice job. "On Becoming Human," an article in Antliro News by curator Ian Tattersall (www.amnh .org/enews/headl/el_ h15.htm1), has a good summary of human evolution, profiles of a dozen hom-mids, and a link to the full text of Tattersall's lecture "The Origin of the Human Capacity." Click on any branch of the hominid family tree and see, side by side, ancestral and modern skulls. …

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