A105 Fall 2004
Assignment 2: Interpreting Ancient Evidence
15% of your grade will be based on this written assignment.
It is DUE in your last discussion section, the week of November 29
The goal of this assignment is to give you some experience learning to interpret fossil evidence for early hominids (and to help you summarize and review for the final exam!) Choose ONE of the following three topic options (2a or 2b)
2A. Steven Squealberg has decided to make another blockbuster film about human evolution called "We Were Not Alone," because he's intrigued by the idea that the human family used to be much more biologically diverse than it is today, and he wants to explore how different species would have lived and reacted to each other. He hires you as a consultant, to help him design one of the following major scenes:
(1) a scene with Australopithecus boisei and Homo erectus living in Africa around 1.5 million years ago, or
(2) a scene with Homo sapiens neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens sapiens living in the Near East or Europe around 50,000 years ago.
He wants to know what types of environments should be featured in the movie, and he wants you to give the acting coach and makeup artist advice on how the different hominid actors should look and behave. The Director is particularly interested in how different the hominid species would appear and act compared to each other, and compared to living chimpanzees and bonobos (in the case of the 1.8 million year old scene), or compared to modern humans, in the case of the 60,000 year old scene. For example, could he use the same costumes for all the species (to save money), or could he use trained chimps for some of the scenes instead of paying (more expensive) human actors? Could modern humans portray neanderthals effectively? Would males and females of each species look and behave the same or differently? These are only some of the questions Squealberg has in mind, but he'd like you to fill him in on other interesting similarities and contrasts that might catch the imagination of the movie-going public.
Citing specific information from your readings and lectures, advise Squealberg about the following types of behavior that you would recommend he portray for one of the two pairs of the species he wants to focus on:
Squealberg is a detail-oriented guy, so write a ~5 page essay for him that describes a scene portaying the anatomy and behavior of each species, and support each part of your description with arguments based on specific evidence (e.g. fossil morphology and archaeological evidence from tool sites you have read about) and logic (e.g. inferences based on comparisons with current primate behavior patterns).
You can create this either in the form of a written story (or story-board sequence), or as a proposal or "pitch" to Squealberg. In either case about half your essay should be description and about half should be devoted to justification.
2B. Film Review
Over the years, many film-makers have tried to portray the lives of prehistoric humans. The films obviously have mixed entertainment value, but the scientific accuracy of these films has also been highly variable, and is not necessarily obvious to the movie-going public.
We have three motion pictures available for you to watch as videos that are on reserve in the Media Reserves (Kent Cooper Room, ground floor of Main Library):
Clan of the Cave Bear neanderthal populations encounter modern human migrants
Ice Man modern scientists grapple with the "humanity" of a neanderthal
Quest for Fire PN 1997 .Q489 1990 neanderthals meet modern humans for the first time (and a few others "archaic" human groups too) and discover many things
Each of these movies portrays encounters between modern humans (either alive today, as in Ice Man, or prehistoric, but anatomically modern people, in the other two) and "archaic" humans like neanderthals.
Review ONE of these films from a scientific perspective. Based on your understanding of the fossil and archaeological evidence, write an essay that evaluates how realistically this movie portrays the "humanity" of neanderthals.
Your assignment is to evaluate the scientific accuracy of a motion picture portraying prehistoric humans, and write an essay that would explain the strengths and weaknesses of this film, from an anthropological point of view, to a fellow IU student who has not taken A105. Your essay should be ~ 5 pages long and focus specifically on scientifically evaluating the portrayal of the following traits of all the different proto-human species portrayed in the film
Here are some additional, general questions to consider as you write your review:
IMPORTANT NOTE: You cannot review just any film of your choosing for this assignment. We recommend that you review one of the following films which are available in the Media Room of the Main Library. In order to review a different film, you must ask your AI to approve your choice of film to review in advance. (We don't want you to review Encino Man, for example!)