Human evolution: Skull 1470, it turns out, has a multiple personality disorder
|August 9, 2012||Posted by News under Human evolution, Intelligent Design, News|
With respect to the skull in this story, “Two possible new homo species unearthed from time of homo erectus?”, it has been kicking around a lot and we were reminded this afternoon of what Jonathan Wells had to say about it in Icons of Evolution (2000), by a reader who says, “Yes, indeed. Skull 1470 has long been notorious for its ability to assume different shapes depending on how it is reconstructed.”
One famous fossil skull, discovered in 1972 in northern Kenya, changed its appearance dramatically depending on how the upper jaw was connected to the rest of the cranium. Roger Lewin recounts an occasion when paleoanthropologists Alan Walker, Michael Day, and Richard Leakey were studying the two sections of ³skull 1470.² According to Lewin, Walker said: ³You could hold the [upper jaw] forward, and give it a long face, or you could tuck it in, making the face short…. How you held it really depended on your preconceptions. It was very interesting watching what people did with it.² Lewin reports that Leakey recalled the incident, too: ³Yes. If you held it one way, it looked like one thing; if you held it another, it looked like something else.² 
Just recently, National Geographic magazine commissioned four artists to reconstruct a female figure from casts of seven fossil bones thought to be from the same species as skull 1470. One artist drew a creature whose forehead is missing and whose jaws look vaguely like those of a beaked dinosaur. Another artist drew a rather good-looking modern African-American woman with unusually long arms. A third drew a somewhat scrawny female with arms like a gorilla and a face like a Hollywood werewolf. And a fourth drew a figure covered with body hair and climbing a tree, with beady eyes that
glare out from under a heavy, gorilla-like brow. 
 On the variable appearance of skull 1470, see Roger Lewin, Bones of ontention, Second Edition (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1997), p 160; see also Ian Tattersall, The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know About Human Evolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), p.133.
 The drawings of Homo habilis by four different artists are in “Behind the Scenes,” National Geographic 197 (March, 2000): 140. The drawings are actually on an unnumbered page, buried among the advertisements at the end of the issue; the page number cited here was obtained by extrapolating from the last numbered page.
The thing is, why are they so desperate? Why does it matter so much? Is it just the summer and the need for hot weather stories or something?