An exhibit next spring at the Museum of Anthropology will explore early hominids in Africa and how recent findings question the evolution of humans.
"Early Us in Africa," which opens March 30, 2002, and runs through Aug. 18, 2002, takes a look at the genus Australopithecus.
"They're the early hominids, a group of primates that includes humans but not all humans are hominids," said Mary Adair, interim director of the museum.
"There's been recent studies in Africa, where they are only found," Adair said. "New remains really question this evolutionary tree. There's been so many discoveries and analyses and differences of opinions on this."
Curated by Kansas University anthropology professor David Frayer, the exhibit will focus on hominids found in Africa from about 6 million to 1 million years ago. The exhibits will include casts of original tools and fossils, photographs, two-dimensional models and other devices.
Adair hopes the exhibit will answer, or at least pose, questions about Australopithecus.
"Were they hunted or the hunter, and how did they fit into the competition for survival? What was their body shape and life expectancy? Did they walk on two feet?" she said.
Other exhibits planned at the museum this academic year are:
13th Annual Lawrence Indian Art Show: A Juried Competition," Sept. 8-Oct. 21. The benefit opening will be Sept. 6, earlier than usual. The exhibit is comprised of two- and three-dimensional artworks by contemporary American Indian artists from across the United States.
"Los Dias de Los Muertos (The Days of the Dead)," Oct. 26-Nov. 25. The exhibit will include a replica of an ofrenda, sand paintings, cut-paper banners, a collection of calaveras and toys related to the Hispanic celebration that marks the reunion of family members with their deceased loved ones.
"This is very popular," Adair said. "While we do it every year, it's enlarged over the years."
"American Indians of the Northwest Coast," Dec. 8-March 8. The exhibit contains monumental wood carvings, such as totem poles, and artifacts donated to the museum in 1926 by George W. Reed.
"The items are primarily from one donor, but it's put into context from an anthropological point of view," she said.
"From Reservation to Corporate Office: A Donation of Southwest Art," Jan. 25-Aug. 18, 2002. The exhibit will show 28 art objects donated to the museum in 1998 by Security Benefit Group of Companies from Topeka. Items include ceramics, textiles, jewelry, katsinas, paintings and sand paintings.
"They donated the items to the museum because they were redecorating the corporate office," Adair said. "They now wanted it to be used to benefit research and the public."
Adair said the museum is used by anthropology students and faculty for research projects, which sometimes turn into exhibits and are sometimes funded in part by the museum.
"We are more than just a gallery or exhibit," Adair said. "We are a research facility."
Some studies by faculty and museum staff include:
Jeannette Blackmar, archeology collections manager at the museum, is doing research into paleoindians, or early man in North America.
Adair said Blackmar is looking at the Great Plains, and helped with an excavation on a paleoindian site in western Kansas this summer.
John Hoopes, associate professor of anthropology, is working on mapping an early formative site in Costa Rica that is being destroyed by urban expansion.
Ginny Hatfield, a doctorate student in anthropology, was in the Attu Islands in southwestern Alaska this summer making Global Information Systems maps.
Jack Hofman, associate professor of anthropology, also is researching paleoindians in the High Plains of North America.