Hominid Gifts for the Holidays

Human evolution T-shirt, necktie, coloring book and board game are just a few of the hominid-themed gifts you can give your loved ones this holiday season

Perhaps necklaces
Perhaps necklaces of shell beads were among the earliest gifts our ancestors gave each other (as seen at the National Museum of Natural History). Image courtesy of Flickr user Ryan Somma

Last week, my colleague at Surprising Science offered holiday gift suggestions for science lovers. I decided to borrow the idea. Here are some fun, some might say nerdy, things for the paleoanthropology fan on your holiday shopping list.

Something to Wear: There’s a lot of human evolution apparel and accessories out there, if you know where to look. Men who have to wear business suits to work might appreciate a necktie decorated with human and ape skeletons or one adorned with a map of Africa highlighting the origins of different genetic lineages. For your friends and family members who believe the arrival of modern humans in Europe led to the extinction of Neanderthals, consider the T-shirt that proclaims, ”Support Neanderthals for the Reclamation of Europe!!! Homo sapiens Go Home!” Or maybe they would prefer an “LB1 is not microcephalic!T-shirt, to show which side of the Homo floresiensis debate they support. (LB1 refers to the scientific name of the hobbit fossil; scientists who are skeptical that the hobbit is a unique species think it’s a human suffering from a developmental disorder.) If you have a little more money to spend, hominid sneakers are an option. And if your special someone wants some hominid bling, check out this Lucy necklace and stone tool earrings.

Something Fun: If you know someone whose interest in our ancestors is just budding, consider The Human Evolution Coloring Book by Adrienne Zihlman, an anthropologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The book follows the same material as traditional introductory human evolution text books—the principles of evolution, the basics of genetics, primate behavior and ecology, and a survey of hominid fossils—but it’s much more entertaining given the opportunity to color in all of the illustrations. (FYI, the book was last updated in 2000, so some of the topics may be a little outdated.) If your loved ones prefer painting to coloring, maybe the Amazing Neanderthal Art & Science Kit will please them. The kit includes a Neanderthal figurine and tools to paint and decorate, a cave diorama to display them in and an activity book that tells the Neanderthal’s story. Warning: I can’t vouch for the kit’s scientific accuracy. I also can’t do that for the board game Origins: How We Became Human. The game appears aimed at those who love Risk, the Settlers of Catan and other strategic games that can last into the wee hours of the night. Origins begins 120,000 years ago, and as players advance through time, they experience climate change, disease, the origins of language, the birth of agriculture and the development of civilization. It looks very complicated. For something simpler, there’s the Neanderthal eraser, a fun toy for any office cubicle.

Something for Diehard Hominid Fans: Perhaps the ultimate gift to give a hominid nerd is a fossil replica. Bone Clones offers a complete catalog of high-quality hominid fossil replicas made from a polyurethane resin. The one drawback: The casts don’t come cheap. For example, a Homo habilis foot is $162, a Cro-Magnon skull is $280 and a completely assembled Neanderthal skeleton will set you back $13,900. A poster of a hominid fossil might be a more budget-friendly alternative.

Have I missed anything? What’s your favorite hominid-themed gift?

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