We all have that one family member who, no matter what, finds a way to get us both in and out of trouble. Maybe he’s a cousin Vinney, clumsily arguing you out of a crime you didn’t commit, Or, maybe he’s a little further down the family tree and able to help us decide where the hominin lineage lies.
You know those occasions where you and your friends are all drinking and having a good time? Where, at some point in the evening, someone suggests something that at the moment is an excellent idea but in hindsight probably not the best? Well, fast forward to exactly that. A week later and now I’m on a boat about to jump in shark-infested waters.
Almost everyone has been the “new kid” at some point in their life. And, we can probably all agree that whether it was in a new school, neighborhood, on a sports team, etc., being the new kid meant everyone was interested in you. But, why are we so interesting as the new kid? As someone who is unknown to a group, the new kid enkindles curiosity, which encourages others to better understand them so they can be comfortably classified into a form of the taxonomic system. Likewise, every few years a new hominin fossil typically emerges, and the rush to classify this “new kid” begins among paleoanthropologists. Recently, the discovery of Homo naledi (H. naledi) has led researchers to attempt to classify and place it within the context of our lineage.
The air is hot and dry, the ground dusty. All around young graduate students are cautiously sweeping the dirt away in hopes of finding hominin fossil fragments and quenching their thirst for fame and knowledge. They are paleoanthropologists. Individuals who strive to better understand and catalog human ancestry.