Greetings from Paris! I had two work goals this week. The first was to fill in a few gaps in my extant primate sample with a small number of difficult-to-find primate species, particularly certain lemurs such as sifakas (Propithecus diadema) and indris (Indri indri), at the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle. Unexpectedly, and continuing the theme of community from previous posts, I ran into another IHO graduate student here in the comparative collection—Emily Hallett, a PhD student of Dr. Curtis Marean. She is preparing for her six-month data collection trip at an early modern human site in Morocco. Did I mention “we” are everywhere? The phrase “My name is IHO, we are many” comes to mind.
Anyway, the comparative collection is located in a large, square room with an open ceiling full of skylights. The walls are lined with wooden drawers from floor to ceiling, complete with a twisting staircase to reach the upper loft. In addition to primates, other animal groups are also housed here: bats, birds, and the occasional lion. The natural light and openness of the room are worth mentioning, because for the most part, the osteological collections I have been working in have kept me in small, windowless rooms with florescent bulbs. This area was a nice breath of fresh air.
My second goal was to measure two Neandertal specimens for my fossil sample from the collections of the Musée de l’Homme. The Kebara 2 skeleton includes a complete set of cervical vertebrae (1–7) and represents a more eastern population of Neandertals, discovered at a site in Israel. The more well-known La Ferrassie skeleton also has a complete set of cervical vertebrae and represents the classic Western European Neandertals found at a site here in France. Unfortunately, as a graduate student, I am not able to hold and measure the fossil specimens. Who can handle fossil material varies across collections and institutions, and this particular collection is one of the few with such strict policies. Thus my Neandertal measurements were acquired from high-quality casts of the specimens. It is perhaps not ideal, but it will work for my purposes.
My stay in Paris has also allowed me to practice my limited French, as the researchers and students I came into contact with varied considerably in their English-speaking abilities. The vast majority spoke better English than my French, so I think communication was pretty successful. I am headed back to the States at the beginning of July and will be spending three weeks in NYC at the American Museum of Natural History. Let’s see if I run into any ASU/IHO folks there!