The data set used within the present study includes hominin trackways that have been attributed to six distinct hominin species within two genera, spanning from the Pliocene to the Holocene. Even across such a broad sample of time and space, some aspects of track morphology are found to be remarkably consistent. However, between-sample differences were identified in three morphological aspects of the tracks. These differences are related to the prominence and position of the medial midfoot impression, the abduction angle of the hallux impression, and the length of the forefoot relative to the rest of the track. Generally, comparing sites across time from the Pliocene to the Holocene, the MLA is more prominent, the hallux is less abducted (this variable achieved the greatest discrimination between assumed species), and the forefoot is relatively shorter in more recent track samples. The linear dimensions classified the potential H. antecessor tracks from Happisburgh (pronounced Haysbra) as being most similar to the H. erectus prints from Ileret, suggesting the dimensions and shape of Pleistocene tracks were likely similar. Importantly, this is the first study to specifically examine the morphology of the Happisburgh tracks within such a broad comparative context. The Happisburgh tracks are found to be morphologically similar to other Early Pleistocene and Holocene hominin tracks consistent with the geological age of the site, yet distinct from the Pliocene tracks from Laetoli.
The History of Palaeoanthropology is dominated by an obsession of applying new latin genus and species names to nearly every fossil that made its way into scientific scrutiny. With the passing of the 20th century, this obsession dissipated as scientists began to realise such preoccupations were redirecting some much needed attention away from many important relevant questions. Today’s Eventlog reminds us of what had been. But first let me introduce three gentlemen.
W. C. B. Koolhoven was a Dutch Director of the Geological Survey of the Netherlands Indies. Franz Weidenreich (1873-1948) was a german anatomist and palaeoanthropologist, based for much of his life in Beijing, China and had a long association with the Homo erectus fossils of Zhoukoudian, China. Finally, let me introduce Gustav Heinrich Ralph von Koenigswald (1902-1982) a german palaeontologist, geologist and Palaeoanthropologist. Interested in geology and fossils from a young age, Gustav vonKoenigswald worked in Java propecting for hominin fossils. The Dutchman and two germans crossed paths in discussions about two Javan fossil mandibles. The debate centred around the size of the mandibles, which at that time seemed too big to be attributed to Homo erectus.
And so on this day the 15th of January 1942, Koolhoven wrote a letter to Weidenreich letting him know that vonKoenigswald was keen to attribute Sangiran 5 and 6a to Meganthropus palaeojavanicus. It would be eight years before vonKoenigswald would introduce the new genus and species formally. Over the next few decades, M. palaeojavanicus began its slow dissolution from scientific discourse, replaced by the hominin Homo erectus.