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STATEMENT OF

DR. JOHN E. YELLEN
PROGRAM DIRECTOR FOR ANTHROPOLOGY PROGRAM

BEFORE THE
SUB COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, RESEARCH, AND TECHNOLOGY

OF THE
COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

FEBRUARY 20, 1980

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee :

TO UNDERSTAND THE SOCIAL, CULTURAL, AND PHYSICAL
ADAPTATIONS OF HOMO SAPIENS, AND TO TRACE THEIR
DEVELOPMENT FROM EARLIEST ANCESTRAL FORMS...

That's a thumbnail definition of anthropology.

It includes

social anthropology, physical anthropology and archaeology.

Its

cross-cultural approach makes the discipline unique. Anthropologists study a wide range of different societies in the

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morning...

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the Time magazine with Richard Leakey on the cover was the

largest-selling 1ssue in 1977.

New fossils and new ways of

looking at

them have dramatically changed the picture of where we

came from.

In the spring of 1978, the Foundation sponsored a conference

which brought together a very broadly based group of human

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18 that our understanding of the past has increased enormously

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Only several years ago, unique fossils could dramatically change our understanding of human evolution. One could use

a8

an

example the advanced australopithecine skull (known in the trade

as "1470") which the Richard Leakey and Glyn Isaac group found in

Kenya.

On the basis of that one skull a number of ideas went

out

Such a situation, it could be argued, characterizes

the window.

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

increased dramatically.

One can now, for the first time, start

to talk about sample size and criteria for selection.

This slide

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.

The next

two slides illustrate not only why human origins

research has advanced the way it has, but also why some aspects

of it are

60 time-consuming.

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

search effort.

At long intervals the North and South poles

periodically reverse their position and geophysicists can isolate

strata which date to individual magnetic periods.

Other

techniques permit one

to establish absolute chronologies, and to

make tentative

reconstructions

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"

tine.

The gray shaded area in the smaller of the two insets

shows the relevant stratum left today, and the large inset

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termed "Ecological Anthropology" to show how good basic research

can also yield information with direct utility in developing

nations.

What we

are learning in Central America is really intriguing

Anthropologists have long been

because it is

80 unexpected.

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

8ome

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

University are

two of a number of scientists trying to figure out

how these raised fields worked and what was grown on them.

It

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

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Many (in fact, nost) ecological studies are focused on the

ethnographic present.

Anthropologists from SUNY --Binghamton are

currently engaged in a long-term study of Turkana pastoralists of

Northern Kenya.

This region has a basically Sahelian environment

- the same

as that of drought-plagued Western and Central Africa,

where malnutrition and starvation are

80 prevalent.

Livestock

cattle, goats, sheep, camels

lie at the

core of a

pastoralist's life.

Social organization and values

are centered

around the herde.

In an

area

8uch

as Turkana, it would not be hard for a

western

range management expert to devise a successful ranching strategy.

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