Is Ida the new \'human fossil\' just a PR campaign and not an authentic skeleton?

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Is Ida the new 'human fossil' just a PR campaign and not an authentic skeleton?

Ida the new 'human' fossil was found in 1992. Just why did it take 14 years to become public? Because it was so fragile, so destroyed, that it almost had to be totally remade. The backstory to this find pokes holes in the massive public relations and advertising campaign currently being run in the worlds media.
... Quote:
In 1992, the Middle Awash Research Team, co-led by [Tim] White, made a discovery that ended Lucy’s reign. About 75 kilometers south of Lucy’s resting place, at Aramis in the Afar depression of Ethiopia, the team found fossils of a chimp-sized ape dated to about 4.4 million years ago. … The team named this species Ardipithecus ramidus, drawing on two words from the Afar language suggesting that it was humanity’s root species. But skeptics argue that the published fossils are so chimplike that they may represent the long-lost ancestor of the chimp, not human, lineage.

Team member Yohannes Haile-Selassie found the first of more than 100 fragments that make up about half of a single skeleton of this species, including a pelvis, leg, ankle and foot bones, wrist and hand bones, a lower jaw with teeth—and a skull.

But in the past 8 years no details have been published on this skeleton. Why the delay? In part because the bones are so soft and crushed that preparing them requires a Herculean effort, says White.

The skull is “squished,” he says, “and the bone is so chalky that when I clean an edge it erodes, so I have to mold every one of the broken pieces to reconstruct it.” The team hopes to publish in a year or so, and White claims that the skeleton is worth the wait, calling it a “phenomenal individual” that will be the “Rosetta stone for understanding bipedalism.”

Of course a key feature in demonstrating that an organism was bipedal is the precise shape of its pelvis. But look at what one of the current media stories on A. ramidus is reporting about the original condition of the pelvis that was discovered:

One problem is that some portions of Ardi's skeleton were found crushed nearly to smithereens and needed extensive digital reconstruction. "Tim [White] showed me pictures of the pelvis in the ground, and it looked like an Irish stew," says Walker. Indeed, looking at the evidence, different paleoanthropologists may have different interpretations of how Ardi moved or what she reveals about the last common ancestor of humans and chimps.

The bones literally crumbled when touched. White called it road kill. And parts of the skeleton had been trampled and scattered into more than 100 fragments; the skull was crushed to 4 centimeters in height.

After Ardi died, her remains apparently were trampled down into mud by hippos and other passing herbivores. Millions of years later, erosion brought the badly crushed and distorted bones back to the surface. They were so fragile they would turn to dust at a touch. From http://www.evolutionnews.or...

So what has been presented as an authentic skeleton of a prehuman biped, may be only an interpretation of the actual bone fragments found.

Read more on this interesting topic here where the quote above derives

This article talks about the PR campaign that is being waged over this find, and that behind it there are serious doubts about the authenticity of the skeleton.

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By netchicken: posted on 3-10-2009

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