Ancient Hominoid Discovery Subject of Chautauqua Program Slated for Friday
For the Gazette
AMHERST — Homo Naledi, one of the most exciting recent finds in paleoanthropology, the study of ancient humans, will be the subject of a free discussion given by Dr. Sarah Traynor at the Jensen Center in Amherst on Friday April 27 at 7 pm.
Ms. Traynor, a researcher from UW Madison, was on site in South Africa during the excavations of the fossils in 2013 as well as being participant in the resulting research study, published in 2016, that has totally shifted the timeline for features we have come to identify as modern human. The artifacts date from 230,000 to 330,000 years ago and show features that are surprisingly modern given their ancient origins. In fact, when first discovered, researchers, which Ms. Traynor captures on film discussing their finds, were sure they were more recent, only to be flabbergasted later when dating revealed their true antiquity.
As part of the program, Ms. Traynor will show images of the team working in South Africa on location, and reveal the lively interaction between specialist researchers as they work towards a group understanding of what they have just discovered.
“It is a fascinating process to watch for the layperson, but also documents an open and collaborative research method that this particular UW Madison project pioneered. With researchers openly sharing discoveries and discussions in real time through internet discussions, many new voices could join the scientific conversation.”
In addition, many volunteers were able to participate, including a caving group with very diminutive statures, tiny enough to squeeze through tortuous passages to finds deep within the cave.
The special expertise Dr. Traynor brought to the Homo naledi project was as a paleoanthropologist who studies the limb proportions and locomotor adaptations in the newly discovered hominin species. She will discuss her specific findings in detail as well as the results of other specialists on the team that led to the conclusions of the full study.
Before this project, she had studied the original fossils of Neandertals and excavated at Australopithecus and early Homo sites. Her work has taken her to institutions in the US, Tanzania, Denmark, Croatia, and South Africa. She is currently an Assistant Anatomy Lecturer at the School of Medicine and Public Health, UW-Madison as well as working on paleoanthropology projects.
The program is presented by Tomorrow River Chautauqua and is free and open to the public.