Students in Lyn Lord’s anthropology class recently studied ancient bones up close during a visit with Jeremy “Jerry” DeSilva, where they discovered the history of the first apes and early human ancestors through his bone lab at Dartmouth College.
DeSilva, an associate professor of anthropology and widely published paleoanthropologist, specializes in the locomotion of the first apes and early humans; his expertise in human feet and ankles continued and broadened discussions about bipedalism that students began earlier in the semester.
“He had a great personality and the experience was more of a conversation than a lecture,” says Jordyn ’22 of DeSilva. “He let us be hands-on and I loved that. Everyone picked up a skull and got to see it from all angles, which I didn’t expect.”
“You could instantly tell Jerry was devoted to his craft,” says DJ ‘22. “He compared different skulls and explained to us how he knew their ages based on their teeth. He was so into it, it made the class get into it, too.”
Lord, who often takes classes to nearby Dartmouth College, hasn’t seen a single student who came away from the experience unaffected.
“Many students, no matter what experiences they come from, have never been exposed to this kind of study,” Lord says. “The ones you would least expect to be were totally moved by the lab, particularly the skulls.”
The class prepared for the visit with coursework covering primatology, the great apes, and the work of Diane Fosse and Jane Goodall. Lord explained the science behind primate behaviors and assigned Daniel Quinn’s Ishmaelas a reading assignment to complement the experience awaiting her students in DeSilva’s bone lab.
While Lord frequently integrates carefully curated books and films into her class to help them contextualize the many facets of her field, handling genuine artifacts adds a dimension of learning that is unique to the KUA experience. In the coming weeks, Lord’s class will begin studying climates and she hopes to reconnect her students with Dartmouth through either an additional trip to campus or by hosting the head of its climate lab for a class visit.