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  • Human Paleontology and Prehistory

  • Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology Series

    Edited by

    Eric Delson Vertebrate Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History

    New York, NY 10024, USA

    Eric J. Sargis Anthropology, Yale University New Haven, CT 06520, USA

    Focal topics for volumes in the series will include systematic paleontology of all vertebrates (from agnathans to humans), phylogeny reconstruction, functional morphology, Paleolithic archaeology, taphonomy, geochronology, historical biogeography, and biostratigraphy. Other fields (e.g., paleoclimatology, paleoecology, ancient DNA, total organismal community structure) may be considered if the volume theme emphasizes paleobiology (or archaeology). Fields such as modeling of physical processes, genetic methodology, nonvertebrates or neontology are out of our scope.

    Volumes in the series may either be monographic treatments (including unpublished but fully revised dissertations) or edited collections, especially those focusing on problem-oriented issues, with multidisciplinary coverage where possible.

    Editorial Advisory Board Ross D.E. MacPhee (American Museum of Natural History), Peter Makovicky (The Field Museum), Sally McBrearty (University of Connecticut), Jin Meng (American Museum of Natural History), Tom Plummer (Queens College/CUNY).

    More information about this series at

  • Human Paleontology and Prehistory

    Contributions in Honor of Yoel Rak


    Edited by

    Assaf Marom Department of Anatomy and Anthropology, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel

    Erella Hovers Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel

  • Editors Assaf Marom Department of Anatomy and Anthropology Sackler Faculty of Medicine Tel-Aviv University Tel-Aviv Israel

    Erella Hovers Institute of Archaeology The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Jerusalem Israel

    ISSN 1877-9077 ISSN 1877-9085 (electronic) Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology Series ISBN 978-3-319-46644-6 ISBN 978-3-319-46646-0 (eBook) DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-46646-0

    Library of Congress Control Number: 2016952889

    © Springer International Publishing AG 2017 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made.

    Cover Illustration: Amud Cave during the 1992 excavation season. (Photo Erella Hovers)

    Printed on acid-free paper

    This Springer imprint is published by Springer Nature The registered company is Springer International Publishing AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

  • Dedicated to Yoel Rak on the occasion of his 70th birthday, from his many friends and colleagues

    Yoel Rak and Skull 5 from Dmanisi (Photo Avishag Ginzburg)

  • Foreword

    On a Personal Note

    I am grateful to Erella Hovers and Assaf Marom for the invitation to jot down these thoughts and to Erella for playing back many shared memories of our years of friendship with Yoel.

    I first met Yoel Rak in 1978, shortly after he began his graduate studies in Clark Howell’s lab at UC Berkeley. At that time I was a graduate student at Kent State University and research assistant to Don Johanson in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s physical anthro- pology lab. Clark called me one day to ask if I could host a student who was going to be visiting the lab to study the Hadar fossils of the newly minted species Australopithecus afarensis, which were then on loan for research from the Ethiopian government. “He’s Israeli and doesn’t speak English all that well,” Clark explained in his inimitable matter-of-fact way, “but he’s interested in the skull, so you two will get along fine.” And so we did, and thus was born a lasting professional partnership and deep friendship that I am proud to celebrate on the occasion of Yoel’s retirement from Tel Aviv University.

    Yoel’s dissertation was on the facial structure of Australopithecus – he was (and is) fascinated by the unusual anatomy of the robust australopiths. His research (published as The Australopithecine Face, Academic Press, 1983) displayed a connoisseur’s appreciation of morphology that has become his trademark: meticulous attention to detail and an unsurpassed ability to describe it beautifully in prose and synthesize it in visually arresting graphics. (More than 30 years later, I still insist that my graduate students read Yoel’s book as a hedge against the rush to 3-D digitizing, which, as Yoel would say, “misses the morphology between the measurement points!”) His work revealed previously unappreciated distinctions between southern and eastern African “robust” australopiths and detected in the face of Australop- ithecus africanus unique morphological ties to Australopithecus robustus (cognoscenti will recall the buzz around the “anterior pillar”), which supported the still-fresh Johanson-White phylogenetic proposal.

    Spurred by the discovery of the Kebara skeleton in 1982, Yoel turned his sharp eye to the Neanderthals, in whose unique skull and pelvic morphology he found compelling evidence for a deep-rooted phylogenetic separation from modern humans. (As the physical anthropologists on the Kebara project divided up the new skeleton for study, Yoel was offered the pelvis, at that point the only complete and undistorted Neanderthal specimen. “After everybody got the part they wanted, they gave me the tuchus,” Yoel used to say, “but it was the weirdest, most interesting part of the skeleton.”) Fascinated by the mechanical workings of morphology, Yoel always seeks functional explanations for apparently anomalous anatomy on the wayward branches of our family tree and then weaves these into sharply etched evolutionary scenarios. Yoel’s collaboration with Bill Hylander on the biomechanics of the Neandertal mandible is one recent outcome of this perspective.


  • Yoel and I have worked together in the field since the early 1990s, in both Israel (Amud Cave) and Ethiopia (Hadar). I think one of his proudest professional moments was his dis- covery of the long-anticipated complete skull of Lucy’s species, A. afarensis, at Hadar in 1992. Up to that time, most of our knowledge about the A. afarensis skull had come from fragments found in the 1970s at the A.L. 333 locality; recovering an intact skull was one of our top priorities during renewed field work in the 1990s.

    I vividly recall Yoel’s excitement at the moment of discovery. We had been out on survey one afternoon when he came across two small fragments of a hominin subadult’s occipital bone in a gully at the base of an outcrop. Suspecting that additional pieces might be lying on the adjacent hillside, he climbed up to find skull fragments clumped in a recently cut rivulet. (These, it turned out, were from a second individual, fully adult, that became known as the “first” adult skull of A. afarensis, A.L. 444-2.) I was sieving at a hominin locality nearby when I heard excited shouts from several of our team’s local Afar fossil collectors—always a signal of an important discovery. I headed toward the uproar, and rushing around an outcrop, ran head-on into Yoel, who was coming the other way. “I can’t believe it, I found a f—ing skull,” he cried (his colloquial English had improved by then). When we reached the locality, climbing the outcrop, we saw pieces of the maxilla and cranial base poking out of the gully infill, with other vague shapes just visible beneath the colluvial crust. It took weeks of hard work to extract all of the pieces of the skull from the sediment, and, after months of cleaning and reconstruction in the National Museum in Addis Ababa, we had assembled the skull of a huge adult male of A. afarensis.

    Yoel holds strong, sometimes controversial, opinions about the fossil record, but he is humble about his knowledge and revels in new discovery. Our study of the A. afarensis skull, published in a 2004 monograph (with Don Johanson), was the result of an intense period of collaboration. We argued and we cajoled, but not a day passed without my learning something new. Joining Yoel at a table full of fossils is an amazing learning experience, and I can honestly say that, still, after working together all these years, I am stunned by his observational skills and insights. The shape of the foramen rotundum? Well, of course. The times we’ve shared with the fossils are the most cherished of my career.

    The practicalities of fieldwork were a challenge