Tracking Lineage Through a Bramble

From The New York Times:

Don Those stars among the hunter-gatherers of fossils related to human origins, Donald C. Johanson and Richard Leakey, returned last week to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the scene of a bitter televised brawl between the two 30 years ago. They were older, presumably wiser and definitely much more temperate. The title of the program, “Human Evolution and Why It Matters: A Conversation with Leakey and Johanson,” signaled that this was not to be a re-enactment.

At the start, Mr. Leakey called attention to scars on his face and a thick bandage on his scalp, the result of skin-cancer treatment. With a smile and a wink in his voice, he said, “I assure you this was the work of a doctor, not a colleague.” Everyone laughed, including Dr. Johanson, and relaxed for the next hour and a half as the two paleoanthropologists conducted a tour of their science’s unfinished business, from the search for the last common ancestor of the chimpanzee and human lineages to a deeper understanding of how early modern Homo sapiens developed the gift of symbolic thinking and language. In a field as contentious as theirs, it was probably inevitable that by 1981 the two men, both in their mid-30s, had become rivals who clashed over interpretations drawn from the meager sampling of bones coming to light. Dr. Johanson was riding a wave of fame as the discoverer of the skeleton nicknamed Lucy, then the earliest known hominid species and judged by him to be a direct ancestor of humans.

More here.