Paige Madison Studies Sensational Fossils

Paige Madison is a PhD candidate studying the history of paleoanthropology at the Center for Biology and Society. This summer, Madison is writing about her exciting research on the history of hominin fossils and preparing to begin a two-year grant that will continue her research.

After spending last summer sifting through archival documents from the mid-19th century, Madison is preparing two manuscripts for submission to be published. Both pieces tell stories about the discoveries of sensational fossils, the scientists who study them, and the ideas they generate about human evolution. One manuscript is currently submitted to the leading journal the British Journal for the History of Science, while another will be included in an edited volume to be published by Oxbow Press.

Madison is also engaging in public outreach, hoping to use history as a tool to spark interest and provide insight into science. She has written pieces for the anthropology outreach organization Sapiens, as well as the online magazine Aeon, which focus on stories of science, philosophy, and society. In these writing pieces, Madison has told stories of historical fossil discoveries that have the potential to tell us more about how we know what we think we know about human evolution. Her Sapiens piece, titled “The Birth of the ‘Neanderthals’” tells the story of the Gibraltar Neanderthal’s role in the discovery of our sister species, while her Aeon piece reminds us that ascertaining ages of fossils is—and always has been—difficult. 

Madison has recently received funding from the John Templeton Foundation that will support her continued research for two years. The grant, which Madison has titled “Seeking Humanness in Fossils: What Does it Mean and How Do We Know?” will allow her to travel to archives in South Africa, London, Australia, and more to conduct historical research on fossils that have dramatically altered the story of the human journey. Additionally, the grant will allow her to continue writing about her findings and engage with leading scholars. The grant will allow her to host a workshop at ASU that facilitates interdisciplinary conversations about fossils and ways of knowing about the human past.

To follow Madison's research as it progresses, or to learn more about her travels in search of knowledge of human origins, you can find her blog at and follow her on Twitter @FossilHistory. 

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Paige Madison