December 3, 2012
It can be hard to find gifts for lovers of human evolution. They aren’t as easy to find as, say, dinosaur gifts. So I spent some time cruising the Internet looking for some unusual and unique options for the holidays this year. Here’s what I found.
Something to read:
Over the last year, several books on how modern humans took over the world were published. Lone Survivors by anthropologist Chris Stringer weaves archaeology with genetics to explain why Homo sapiens became the last hominid left on Earth. The Last Lost World by father-and-daughter duo Stephen and Lydia Pyne considers how hominids evolved during the ice ages of the Pleistocene epoch and how scientists’ understanding of this period, lasting some 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago, has changed over time. Anthropologist Ian Tattersall takes an even broader look at the rise of humans, surveying the last 8 million years or so of human evolution in Masters of the Planet. In Homo Mysterious psychologist David Barash examines a number of evolutionary puzzles, including why humans have big brains and why women tend to live longer than men.
If you’re shopping for an uber-hominid fan, consider this simple “I Heart Hominids” bumper sticker, or maybe human evolution decals to jazz up a boring lapotop. I’m hoping for a hominid skull to put in my office: made out of chalkboard, they come in various species and colors. Candle lovers might be intrigued by this unusual candle holder. And who wouldn’t want a Neanderthal piñata?
Some hominid gifts can be fun and practical. Need a bag to carry groceries? How about this “I Love Lucy” cotton tote with a picture of the Lucy skeleton. It comes in several different sizes. Or maybe your loved one would like a pewter key chain of a Paranthropus boisei or Homo erectus skull, which a reader of last year’s Hominid Hunting holiday gift guide suggested. These colorful glass coasters are also useful.
Something to hang on the wall:
I think I’ve said this before–the Taung Child is my favorite hominid fossil. If you know someone else who really digs the specimen, check out this framed drawing of the skull. These woodcut prints of hominid skulls are another good way to spruce up an empty wall. A Bigfoot skeptic (or a believer with a sense of humor) might like this print from Society 6.
Last year, the big ticket items in my gift guide were hominid fossil reproductions. This year, you can give someone his/her genome. With only a sample of saliva, the genetics company 23andMe analyzes an individual’s complete set of DNA to trace the geographic origins of that person’s forefathers and to look for Neanderthal ancestry.
What would you like for the holidays?
December 12, 2011
Last week, my colleague at Surprising Science offered holiday gift suggestions for science lovers. I decided to borrow the idea. Here are some fun, some might say nerdy, things for the paleoanthropology fan on your holiday shopping list.
Something to Wear: There’s a lot of human evolution apparel and accessories out there, if you know where to look. Men who have to wear business suits to work might appreciate a necktie decorated with human and ape skeletons or one adorned with a map of Africa highlighting the origins of different genetic lineages. For your friends and family members who believe the arrival of modern humans in Europe led to the extinction of Neanderthals, consider the T-shirt that proclaims, ”Support Neanderthals for the Reclamation of Europe!!! Homo sapiens Go Home!” Or maybe they would prefer an “LB1 is not microcephalic!” T-shirt, to show which side of the Homo floresiensis debate they support. (LB1 refers to the scientific name of the hobbit fossil; scientists who are skeptical that the hobbit is a unique species think it’s a human suffering from a developmental disorder.) If you have a little more money to spend, hominid sneakers are an option. And if your special someone wants some hominid bling, check out this Lucy necklace and stone tool earrings.
Something Fun: If you know someone whose interest in our ancestors is just budding, consider The Human Evolution Coloring Book by Adrienne Zihlman, an anthropologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The book follows the same material as traditional introductory human evolution text books—the principles of evolution, the basics of genetics, primate behavior and ecology, and a survey of hominid fossils—but it’s much more entertaining given the opportunity to color in all of the illustrations. (FYI, the book was last updated in 2000, so some of the topics may be a little outdated.) If your loved ones prefer painting to coloring, maybe the Amazing Neanderthal Art & Science Kit will please them. The kit includes a Neanderthal figurine and tools to paint and decorate, a cave diorama to display them in and an activity book that tells the Neanderthal’s story. Warning: I can’t vouch for the kit’s scientific accuracy. I also can’t do that for the board game Origins: How We Became Human. The game appears aimed at those who love Risk, the Settlers of Catan and other strategic games that can last into the wee hours of the night. Origins begins 120,000 years ago, and as players advance through time, they experience climate change, disease, the origins of language, the birth of agriculture and the development of civilization. It looks very complicated. For something simpler, there’s the Neanderthal eraser, a fun toy for any office cubicle.
Something for Diehard Hominid Fans: Perhaps the ultimate gift to give a hominid nerd is a fossil replica. Bone Clones offers a complete catalog of high-quality hominid fossil replicas made from a polyurethane resin. The one drawback: The casts don’t come cheap. For example, a Homo habilis foot is $162, a Cro-Magnon skull is $280 and a completely assembled Neanderthal skeleton will set you back $13,900. A poster of a hominid fossil might be a more budget-friendly alternative.
Have I missed anything? What’s your favorite hominid-themed gift?