Paige Madison, a PhD candidate studying the history of paleoanthropology at the Center for Biology and Society, has spent the last few months conducting dissertation research. In August 2016, Madison received a grant funded by the John Templeton Foundation, titled “Seeking Humanness in Fossils: What Does it Mean and How Do We Know?” For the grant research, Madison has spent much of this academic year traveling to England, South Africa, and Indonesia to learn more about the stories of fossil human ancestors.
Madison is searching for answers to tough questions about controversial fossils—where are they found, how are they studied, and, most importantly, what makes them so contentious? Archival research at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa allowed her to dig into the story of the controversial Taung Child (Australopithecus africanus), a proposed “missing link” discovered in 1924. She examined the papers of Taung’s discoverer, Raymond Dart, as well as the papers of many of his colleagues and supporters.