Blandford Town Museum’s research associates.
Prof. Peter Andrews
Dr Andrews is a research worker in human and primate evolution, palaeoecology of Neogene environments, and taphonomy of vertebrate bones. He worked at the Natural History Museum, London, where he was Head of Human Origins until his retirement in the year 2000. Since then he has been the curator of Blandford Museum while retaining emeritus positions at the Natural History Museum and the Universities of London and York. He has written and edited ten books and more than 200 articles in the scientific and popular press.
Peter’s book on the last common ancestor of apes and humans (An Ape’s View of Human Evolution, Cambridge University Press 2015) has just been published. In this he investigates human evolution from the point of view of apes, both living and fossil, and this approach differs from other books on the subject. He shows, for example, that human ancestors did not ‘come down from the trees’, and they did not ‘move from forest to savanna’ during their early evolutionary history, but on the contrary they were living in African woodlands for at least their first three million years, and while they were learning to walk upright on the ground they were still living primarily in the trees. They were using and making tools at this stage, but they had not learned stone tool technology. They were still heavily reliant on fruit for their diet, which they found in the trees that were still their home and refuge against predators.
Peter has also been working on the Atlas of Taphonomy with Yolanda Fernandez-Jalvo. This is a work long in preparation, about 6-7 years, but it has now gone through the review process and we have corrected the proofs. It may make the 2015 deadline, but more likely is that it will be published in 2016. The Atlas contains over 1000 images of fossil and recent bones, showing the ways in which they become altered during their preservation and fossilization.
Other work with Yolanda in 2010/2011 includes a paper on the importance of taphonomy to palaeoecology, and the second of a series of papers on the monitoring of taphonomic specimens in Wales, and this has been published. This work is based on a 25 year study of an area of wild moorland in Wales (shown here) to investigate what happens to animal bones in this kind of climate and environment.
Another taphonomic project is a paper on the small mammals of Karain Cave in Turkey with Arzu Gungor, one of the last of Peter’s students in Turkey. In addition, Peter has recently published a paper on the taphonomy of Rudabanya, Hungary, the result of field work with David Cameron now working in Australia, the taphonomy of fossil plants in Miocene deposits on Rusinga Island, Kenya, with Margaret Collinson and Marion Bamford, and a paper on a late glacial and early Holocene hunter-gatherer site in the Colne Valley with Barbara Ghaleb.
On the ecology front, Peter has two papers published recently on the ecology and palaeoecology of the Laetoli area of Tanzania, analyzing numbers of species in 16 ecological categories of recent mammals to identify patterns of distribution in relation to climate and vegetation. Some of the results are quite surprising, with some groups of mammals being much more highly correlated with vegetation changes than others.
The two Laetoli papers were published in a book on the results of field work at Laetoli, and they document the ecology and palaeoecology of the site. The African diversity paper came out in a monumental book on the palaeontology of Africa.
He has been working on six chapters on Azokh Cave in Nagorno Karabakh. He has been working with Tania King, a museum research associate, and Edrys Barkham, museum member, at this cave site with an international team from Spain, Ireland, UK and Armenia. He has specialized on the taphonomy and palaeoecology of this cave site, and found, for example, that the cave was in a woodland valley, and the evidence apparently contradicting this can be attributed to taphonomic bias, the animal assemblage being transported to the site from some distance away. This book has been delayed for political reasons, but it is now due out in 2016.
Felicity Baker – Artwork
Tessa Pearce – Exhibition Research
Heather Hinsley – Garden Club
Dr Sylvia Andrews – Education
Dr Hixson Andrews has degrees in both Biology and Anthropology and a PhD in Biological Anthropology. She has taught at the college and university level in both the U.S. and the U.K. She is a member of the Azokh Project team and her interests at the museum are in developing a strong education programme and in working with students to help them develop skills in museum and heritage work.