107 NE Monroe Peoria, Illinois 61602-1070

What Does It Mean To Be Human?

Coming to Peoria Public Library Main Library Gallery June 17-July 14, 2016

Smithsonian's Human Origins Program


The new traveling exhibition will inspire people to contemplate their place in the natural world and reflect on how human ancestors such as Homo neanderthalensis, Homo heidelbergensis and Homo erectus evolved to adapt in a variety of climates over millions of years. “Exploring Human Origins: What Does It Mean to Be Human?” was developed by the Smithsonian Institution and American Library Association and will appear at 19 public libraries across the country between April 2015 and April 2017.
Credit: Smithsonian's Human Origins Program

Free public events in June and July will feature a variety of speakers from the Smithsonian Institution and Illinois scientists. In addition, exhibits created by Dr. Fred Smith, courtesy of Illinois State University, will be on display at each Peoria Public Library Branch beginning in May. 

A private event will be held for clergy on Thursday, June 23 at 10:00 a.m.  and an Educator's Workshop with Smithsonian staff  will be held on Friday, June 24 from 9:30 a.m. to noon.  For more information or to register, email programmingdept@ppl.peoria.lib.il.us or call (309)497-2141.

The new traveling exhibition will highlight key milestones in the journey of human evolution such as symbolic language development, as depicted in this artist’s rendering of a Homo sapiens creating an outline of his hand on a cave wall.
Credit: Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program

Special Events

Friday, June 17 -10:00 a.m.

Peoria Public Library Main Library Gallery

Dignitaries will officially open the exhibit and attendees are invited to stay and tour the Gallery.

Monday, June 20 – 6:00 p.m.
Peoria Public Library Main Library Auditorium LL2
Native American Rock Art of Illinois 
Dr. Mark J. Wagner - Director, Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
Illinois contains almost 100 Native American rock art sites with new ones being discovered every year. Archaeologists at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) have been involved in documenting sites in the southern part of the state for the past 20 years including using portable X-ray fluorescent (Pxrf) analysis to determine the types of pigments used to make prehistoric paintings without harming them. This talk provides an overview of the types of rock art sites contained within Illinois, their age, and their importance to the archaeological heritage of the state.  These artistic endeavors provide a fascinating perspective on the beliefs and behaviors of the earliest inhabitants of Illinois.

Thursday, June 23 -5:30 p.m.
Peoria Public Library Main Library Auditorium LL2
Exploring Human Origins: What Does It Mean To Be Human?
Dr. Rick Potts – Smithsonian Paleoanthropologist and Curator of the Exhibit
How can scientific discoveries on human evolution connect with larger understandings of what it means to be human?  Join Dr. Rick Potts, paleoanthropologist and curator of the traveling exhibit, as he explores the main themes and messages of the traveling exhibit in a program for the general public. The talk and following conversation will explore how fossils, archeological remains, and genetic studies shed light on our connection with the natural world and the origins of sharing, caring, and innovation.

Saturday, June 25, 2016 -10:00 a.m.
Peoria Public Library Main Library Auditorium LL2
Exploring the Meanings of Human Evolution: A Community Conversation
Dr. Connie Bertka, Jim Miller, Dr. Rick Potts, Dr. Briana Pobiner- Smithsonian Human Origins Program
How do scientific discoveries about human origins relate to people’s personal understanding of the world and their place in it?  Join Drs. Connie Bertka and Jim Miller, co-chairs of the Smithsonian Institution’s Broader Social Impacts Committee, as they encourage a community conversation about human evolution that helps us to understand each other’s perspectives, to identify areas of common interest or concern, and to explore the variety of ways human evolution connects to personal meaning. They will be joined by Drs. Rick Potts and Briana Pobiner from the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program.

Monday, June 27 - 6:00 p.m.
Peoria Public Library Main Library Auditorium LL2
The Human Body – Ancient or New?
Dr. Daniel L. Gebo   -Board of Trustees Professor of Anthropology, Northern Illinois University
Description:  The human body is a historical museum of our evolutionary past. Our bodies are a mosaic of assembled pieces that range from the beginning of primates, some 55 million years ago, to the origin of our own species, Homo sapiens, about 200,000 years ago.  Our body, like that of all animals, is a collection of adaptive changes that we can review and examine.  Beginning with early features such as finger nails to our much later big brains, each part of the human body has a date of origin.  Perhaps two of our more impressive anatomical changes occurred when we modified our upper body for arm-swinging and later when we converted our lower body for upright walking.  For better or worse, the human body has adapted its current form from its ancestral past.  It was never a free form engineering project. This program will review the anatomy of the human body in an evolutionary context.

DATE CHANGE! Due to the reopening of the Illinois State Museum, the date of Dr. Wiant's talk has been changed from June 30 to July 12.

Tuesday, July 12, 6:00 p.m.
Peoria Public Library Main Library Auditorium LL2
Understanding the Development of Human Culture in Illinois
Dr. Michael D. Wiant -  Director, Dickson Mounds Museum, Illinois State Museum
To the best of our knowledge, human beings arrived in Illinois about 12,000 years ago.  They survived by developing means and strategies to cope with seasonal variation and the uneven distribution of desired resources.  This hunting and gathering way of life sustained Native Americans for thousands of years.  By 4,000 years ago, they had domesticated a variety of plants and forever changed their relationship with nature.  Harnessing the power of plants to produce surplus that could support life during lean times of the year is now the foundation of an increasingly urban population facing a suite of extraordinary challenges unknown to distant generations of our fore bearers.

Wednesday, July 6,  6:00 p.m.
Peoria Public Library Main Library Auditorium LL2
Neandertals and the Origins of Modern Humans

Dr. Fred H. Smith - University Professor of Anthropology and Biological Sciences Emeritus, Illinois State University
Neandertals are often portrayed as bumbling, semi-human brutes, but the truth of the matter is that they were highly intelligent people, well-adapted both biologically and culturally to the demanding environments of Europe, the Near East, and central Asia during the middle and late Pleistocene.  The debate over the Neandertal role in the emergence of people like us is one of the oldest on-going debates in science, extending back to the discovery of the first Neandertal specimen to be recognized in 1856. The most captivating recent evidence relating to this debate is the ability to directly study Neandertal and early modern human genomes.  We will discuss what we know about Neandertals and their adaptations, in light of current evidence, and investigate what this evidence tells us about their relationship to us.

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Our Speakers

Dr. Connie Bertka holds a Ph.D. in Geology from Ari¬zona State University and a M.T.S., Master of Theological Studies, from Wesley Theological Seminary. She is cur¬rently an independent scholar and consultant with Sci¬ence and Society Resources, LLC. Connie has taught on contemporary issues in science and religion at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC and is a past director of the Program of Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion at the American Associa¬tion for the Advancement of Science. In addition to her research in planetary sciences, Connie has had a long-term scholarly and pragmatic interest in the relationships between science and religion and their influence on public understanding of science.  She currently serves as co-chair of the Broader Social Impacts Committee of the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Dr. Daniel L. Gebo   -Board of Trustees Professor of Anthropology, Northern Illinois University is a biological anthropologist/primatologist with interests in primate anatomy and evolution. His research focuses on understanding locomotor adaptation and evolution in living and fossil primates. Dr. Gebo has conducted field work in the western United States, Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. His most recent field projects have been collecting fossil primates from the Eocene of China. He was named a Presidential Research Professor in 1998, a Presidential Teaching Professor in 2008, and a Board of Trustees Professor in 2008 and 2013. In 2014, Dr. Gebo was honored with a US Professor of the Year award by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.Professor Gebo teaches courses in primate and human anatomy and evolution, and introductory physical anthropology.

Rev. James Bradley Miller, PhD, is the president of the Presbyterian Association on Science, Technology and the Christian Faith.  He is an honorably retired ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA) with an MDiv from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Virginia and a Ph.D. in theology from Marquette University. For most of his career he served as a minister in higher education.  However, immediately following seminary, Jim worked for five years in the School of Engineering at North Carolina State University. From 1996-2006 he was the Senior Program Associate for the Program of Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Jim currently serves as co-chair of the Broader Social Impacts Committee of the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Dr. Briana Pobiner holds a B.A. in Evolutionary Studies from Bryn Mawr College and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Rutgers University. Her research centers on the evolution of human diet (with a focus on meat-eating), but has included topics as diverse as cannibalism in the Cook Islands and chimpanzee carnivory and she has done fieldwork in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Indonesia. Since joining the Smithsonian in 2005, in addition to continuing her active field, laboratory, and experimental research programs, she leads the Human Origins Program’s education and outreach efforts and manages the Human Origins Program's public programs, website content, social media, and exhibition volunteer training. Briana is also an Associate Research Professor of Anthropology at the George Washington University.

Dr. Rick Potts is a paleoanthropologist who directs the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, where he also holds the Peter Buck Chair in Human Origins. Since joining the Smithsonian in 1985, Rick has dedicated his research to piecing together the record of Earth’s environmental change and human adaptation. His ideas on how human evolution responded to environmental instability have stimulated wide attention and new research in several scientific fields.
Bridging across many research disciplines, Rick’s field projects are located in the East African Rift and in southern and northern China. His latest work in the Rift Valley of Kenya has gained international attention as the first project to obtain a long drill core from an early human site in Africa, which will provide a detailed climate record spanning the past 500,000 years. Rick received his Ph.D. in biological anthropology from Harvard University in 1982, after which he taught anthropology at Yale University and served as curator of physical anthropology at the Yale Peabody Museum. Rick is curator of both The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and a new, accompanying traveling exhibition called “Exploring Human Origins: What Does It Mean To Be Human?” He is also the author of the companion book, “What Does It Mean To Be Human?”

Dr. Fred H. Smith has worked on Neanderthal and early modern human fossil material for almost 40 years. His is particularly focused on the role of Neanderthals in the emergence of modern humans in western Eurasia. His publications number 7 books, over 150 professional articles, and numerous abstracts, notes and reviews. His 1984 book, The Origin of Modern Humans, was named best book in the life sciences that year by the American Association of Publishers, and his newest book , The Human Lineage (with Matt Cartmill), was published in 2009 by Wiley-Blackwell. Smith has carried out field and laboratory research in Europe, West Asia and Africa and has taught at the Universities of Hamburg and Tuebingen (Germany) and Zagreb (Croatia)

Dr. Mark J. Wagner is interested in the prehistory and early history of both Native Americans and Europeans in Illinois and the lower Ohio River Valley. He is particularly interested in culture contact issues between Native Americans and Euro-Americans and the variable outcomes contact had for members of both groups. Current projects include the investigation of an 1801-1802 U.S. Army post (Cantonment Wilkinson) that represented a reserve base for an invasion of the then Spanish-held Mississippi River Valley that never took place as well as the documentation of nineteenth century shipwrecks in the lower Ohio River. I also have a strong interest in Native American rock art sites focused around my belief that these sites represent largely untapped sources of information regarding prehistoric Native American spirituality and religious beliefs.

Dr. Michael D. Wiant is the Director, Dickson Mounds Museum, Illinois State Museum and was awarded the Professional Archaeology Service Award for 2006 which recognizes the recipient's commitment to public archaeology. Dr. Wiant presents lectures to the public on a wide range of topics in archaeology at locations across the state and started the Illinois State Museum monthly public lecture series in archaeology that is now known as the Paul F. Mickey Monthly Programs in Archaeology and Natural History. He has also contributed to a series of monthly radio programs featuring news and current research on Midwestern archaeology; initiated a very popular annual series of bus tours to various locations of archaeological interest around the Midwest; was instrumental in developing the IAAA's special publication Discover Illinois Archaeology (an edited summary of Illinois' cultural history); and is active on the statewide committee that organizes and promotes posters and local lecture series for the annual Illinois Archaeology Awareness Month each September.

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