Discovery of a New Species of Human? Paige Madison Heads to Indonesia
PhD candidate Paige Madison has been quite busy so far this year.
Madison kicked off 2018 by hosting an workshop on the history of paleoanthropology. The workshop, which was titled "Beyond Human Evolution: Understanding the Science of Our Family Tree," was funded by the John Templeton Foundation and supported by the Center for Biology and Society. Over the course of three days, an international group of scientists and historians came together to reflect on the history of paleoanthropology, exploring the unspoken assumptions that often underlie the science.
In conjunction with the workshop, Madison arranged a public lecture, which was given by Dr. Ian Tattersall, paleoanthropologist and emeritus curator at the American Museum of Natural History. Tattersall’s lecture, titled "The Pensive Primate: Emergence of Modern Human Cognition," Tattersall surveyed the current evidence concerning how and when humans acquired our uniquely complex ways of thinking.
Following the workshop, Madison traveled to Flores, Indonesia, where she is currently visiting an excavation site in a cave known as Liang Bua. As part of her dissertation research, Madison is studying the history of the discovery at Liang Bua of a new species of human, Homo floresiensis. She is conducting oral history interviews with members of the Liang Bua team, led by Dr. Thomas Sutikna and Dr. Matthew Tocheri and organized by the National Archaeological Research Center (Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional). Madison is asking questions about what the divisive floresiensis discovery can reveal about the conflicts that can occur at the intersection of science and society.
Looking ahead, Madison has received a Fulbright Study/Research Award to spend a year in Indonesia. Beginning in September, Madison will travel to Java to work with historians at Universitas Indonesia and anthropologists at the National Archaeological Research Center to further her research on the history of paleoanthropology in the archipelago.
Madison’s project will situate the history of science on Flores within the larger context of Indonesian and colonial history. While there, Madison will conduct archival research, examining years of field notes from Liang Bua, as well as enroll in a language school. Additionally, Madison’s project will aim to further discussions between international researchers and the people of Flores about the renowned fossil discoveries of Liang Bua. Thus, she will work towards translating her work into Indonesian, while also giving public lectures on the global impacts of Indonesian science, particularly on humans’ evolutionary history.
For more information, please contact Paige Madison (Paige.Madison@asu.edu)