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Bernard Wood, Dandy Doherty, and Eve Boyle

The clade (a.k.a. twig of the Tree of Life) that includes modern humans includes all of the extinct species that are judged, on the basis of their morphology or their genotype, to be more closely related to modern humans than to chimpanzees and bonobos. Taxic diversity with respect to the hominin clade refers to evidence that it included more than one species at any one time period in its evolutionary history. The minimum requirement is that a single ancestor-descendant sequence connects modern humans with the hypothetical common ancestor they share with chimpanzees and bonobos. Does the hominin clade include just modern human ancestors or does it also include non-ancestral species that are closely related to modern humans? It has been suggested there is evidence of taxic diversity within the hominin clade back to 4.5 million years ago, but how sound is that evidence? The main factor that would work to overestimate taxic diversity is the tendency for paleoanthropologists to recognize too many taxa among the site collections of hominin fossils. Factors that would work to systematically underestimate taxic diversity include the relative rarity of hominins within fossil faunas, the realities that many parts of the world where hominins could have been living are un- or under-sampled, and that during many periods of human evolutionary history, erosion rather than deposition predominated, thus reducing or eliminating the chance that animals alive during those times would be recorded in the fossil record. Finally, some of the most distinctive parts of an animal (e.g., pelage, vocal tract, scent glands) are not likely to be preserved in the hominin fossil record, which is dominated by fragments of teeth and jaws.


Sandy Toussaint

Water in all its permanent, temporary, colored, salt and freshwater forms, is vital and life-sustaining to human and other living species. Ethnographic research has, by necessity, always included water in all its variations, whereas ethnographies of water describe and analyze not only accounts about water’s intrinsic value to life, but also how different societies conceptualize, sustain, use, control, and attribute meaning to it. Water as a cultural ethnographic lens reveals how both the presence and absence of water is managed, as well as how it is believed to have originated and should be cared for. Practices such as the regular enactment of religious rituals, the development of irrigation, origin narratives, understandings of hydrological movements, and the problem of drought and flood, all convey a complex of water-inspired stories. Water’s relationship to other elements—air, wind, fire, cloud, and smoke—are also part of the depth and breadth embedded in ethnographies of water, constituting a richness of narratives, especially when explored from country to country, and place to place, as new generations and circumstances across time and space converge. These inevitably include the impact of global warming, the technology revolution, and globalization, alongside the curiosity, rigor, and insight that is the long-term hallmark of anthropological inquiry.