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DR. JOHN E. YELLEN
FEBRUARY 20, 1980
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee :
TO UNDERSTAND THE SOCIAL, CULTURAL, AND PHYSICAL
That's a thumbnail definition of anthropology.
social anthropology, physical anthropology and archaeology.
cross-cultural approach makes the discipline unique. Anthropologists study a wide range of different societies in the
the Time magazine with Richard Leakey on the cover was the
largest-selling 1ssue in 1977.
New fossils and new ways of
them have dramatically changed the picture of where we
In the spring of 1978, the Foundation sponsored a conference
which brought together a very broadly based group of human
18 that our understanding of the past has increased enormously
Only several years ago, unique fossils could dramatically change our understanding of human evolution. One could use
example the advanced australopithecine skull (known in the trade
as "1470") which the Richard Leakey and Glyn Isaac group found in
On the basis of that one skull a number of ideas went
Such a situation, it could be argued, characterizes
a science in its infancy.
When one unique bit of data can have
such a tremendous effect, it 18 probably the most exciting stage
of the science, but not necessarily the most productive.
Over the last several years,
the numbers of relevant foss118 have
One can now, for the first time, start
to talk about sample size and criteria for selection.
shows Doa Johanson at Hadar in Ethiopia.
From one linited time
period he's discovered remains from 36 individuals who were
possibly members of a single social group.
In her testimony
submitted to this committee, Dr. Clark discussed "Homo
afarensis", a newly described species which is now the earliest
form of human known.
The Hadar finds provide the material on
which the species 18 based.
two slides illustrate not only why human origins
research has advanced the way it has, but also why some aspects
of it are
The real secret to its success lies
la carefully organized and integrated multidisciplinary research.
One of the things such an ap roach does is allow for the more
efficient search for fossils.
This slide shows how paleonagnetic
reversal data from the Siwalik Hills in Pakistan can be used to
isolate just those strata in which early australopithecine
remains might be found.
This permits effective concentration of
At long intervals the North and South poles
periodically reverse their position and geophysicists can isolate
strata which date to individual magnetic periods.
techniques permit one
to establish absolute chronologies, and to
to show what the landscape looked
11ke when these early hominids were roaming over it.
Th18 811de presents a detailed, though of course, tentative
reconstruction of the East Turkana landscape as
was in " 14708"
The gray shaded area in the smaller of the two insets
shows the relevant stratum left today, and the large inset
termed "Ecological Anthropology" to show how good basic research
can also yield information with direct utility in developing
are learning in Central America is really intriguing
Anthropologists have long been
because it is
interested in the Mayan empire, how it rose, functioned, and then
very rapidly declined.
Mayans lived in relatively large groups
and it has been difficult to understand how such high population
densities could be maintained in lowland tropical environments.
Many of these same
areas today are uninhabited.
In the last several
years, aerial photographs have revealed
extensive field systems, in
cases directly associated with
classic Mayan sites.
The raised fields and intervening water
filled ditches are associated with terraces and agricultural
features as well as house mounds.
Dr. Robert Turner from Oklahoma and Bruce Dahlin from Catholic
two of a number of scientists trying to figure out
how these raised fields worked and what was grown on them.
appears that most had a layer of crushed limestone, which may
have acted as fertilizer, and it has been hypothesized that the
canals may have been used to raise fish. Thus, research directed
Many (in fact, nost) ecological studies are focused on the
Anthropologists from SUNY --Binghamton are
currently engaged in a long-term study of Turkana pastoralists of
This region has a basically Sahelian environment
- the same
as that of drought-plagued Western and Central Africa,
where malnutrition and starvation are
cattle, goats, sheep, camels
lie at the
core of a
Social organization and values
around the herde.
as Turkana, it would not be hard for a
range management expert to devise a successful ranching strategy.