Fossil Analysis

This assignment fulfills two roles in this course: as a written paper and your final exam.

You Found A Fossil!

The year is 2021. You are a paleoanthropological graduate student working in east Africa. While excavating the Kibish Formation near the Omo River you and your team discover over two-hundred fossilized bones representing as many as 20 individuals.  The fossil remains include both adult males, females and juveniles.  The sediments date to between 2.8-3 million years old. Your first assessment suggests they could be possible human ancestors (hominins).  

Osteological Data:


  • Centralized foramen magnum
  • Brain size is around 600 cubic centimeters
  • Face is prognathic (compared to humans but much less when compared to apes)

Dentition (Teeth):

  • Mandible and maxilla 
    • teeth show apical and occlusal (grinding) wear
    • jaws lack diastemas
    • jaws show medium-small canines 
    • large flat molars with rounded cusps but only 50% larger than a modern humans
    • thick enamel
  • The teeth show 
    • a microscopic wear pattern of light scratching

Post-cranial (below the skull) characteristics:

  • The skeletons show
    • arms slightly longer than their legs
    • hands have small slightly curved phalanges
    • Pelvis is bowl-like
      • It has a short robust ilium that curves front to back
      • It has a short robust ischium
    • Femur with
      • a long femoral neck
      • bicondylar angle
      • obturator externus groove
  • It has a robust tibia
    • Foot with
      • a convergent toe
  • The male skeletons are approximately 20 percent larger than the female skeletons.

Paleo-environmental Data

  • Analysis of the fossilized pollen you collected from your site suggests the environment these fossils lived in consisted of pockets of wooded areas, interspersed throughout a very large, open grassy landscape. There are many predators including lions, hyenas, snakes, birds and even large bodied primates. The wooded areas offered a variety of trees and shrubs that appeal to a range of insects, birds and small mammals as well as fruits, grasses leaves and roots.

Stable Isotope Data

· Stable isotope data from the teeth shows a C4 signature.   

Cultural Data

  • Located at the same site, you also found some rocks
    • Some are thick, pebble-like with battered, sharp edges 
    • Some are thinner, with sharp edges
    • Others are round stones that fit in the hand but have evidence of percussion marks (small scars on the rock)
    • The rocks are not uniform. They vary in size and shape.
  • Near the rocks you found some highly fractured animal bones. You find a lot of
    • leg bones 
    • skulls
  • Under a microscope you see that the animal leg and skull bones show
    • long abrasions 
    • some of the abrasions have a V-shaped shape to them
    • on top of many of the V-shaped abrasions, there are abrasions with sides that are parallel to each other.

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