Imagining Hominid Aesthetics

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Archaeology and Material Culture

The unveiling of spectacular archaeological finds has now become a somewhat formulaic media event, and the recovery of early hominids nearly always includes some artistic imaginations of the skeleton.  Last week Sciencepublished a study on the fifth early hominid skull excavated from the medieval town of Dmanisi in Georgia since 2000.  Nearly all of the articles were graced by fascinating if predictable visuals of the finds:  photographs in situ, scans of skulls, video imaginations of the hominids, and reconstructions of the long-lost ancestors.  The Dmanisi press coverage is simply one of myriad popular narratives that illuminate how popular visual representations shape archaeological narratives—both for better and worse.

The 1.8 million year old skeletal remains from Dmanisi are among the earliest hominids outside Africa (excavations at Dmanisi were reported in 2002 and 2007), so they have significant implications on hominid evolutionary narratives.  Nevertheless, the popular…

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