Kent State professor discusses strong link between humans and primates

Justin Armburger

Kent State professor Dr. C. Owen Lovejoy gave a keynote speech last night in the Kiva titled “The Chimpanzee has no Clothes: A deeper look at human origins.” Lovejoy spoke about developments of the human fossil record and how humans emerged on a distinctl

Credit: Jason Hall

If given a choice to see the future or travel back in time, many may choose to see their destiny. Owen Lovejoy, professor of anthropology, however, would choose to go back to the past.

“Unfortunately, I have it on higher authority that I can’t go back,” Lovejoy said, as a quote from President George W. Bush appeared on a screen behind him that read, “I think we can all agree the past is over.”

The crowd of more than 100 people laughed as Lovejoy gave his keynote address titled “The Chimpanzee Has No Clothes: Integrating the Ancient Roots of Human Behavior,” at the second night of the 12th Annual Celebration of Scholarship last night in the Kiva.

“This is probably the prime event of our week-long celebration,” said John West, vice president for research and dean of graduate studies. “(Lovejoy) really exemplifies the best of scholarship.”

Lovejoy, an internationally known anthropologist for his work reconstructing the skeleton “Lucy,” spoke to the crowd about the close relation of humans to the chimpanzees.

“Lucy,” a near-complete fossil of a human ancestor that walked upright more than three million years ago, leaves scientists such as Lovejoy wondering.

“Why did she become bi-pedal (walk upright) is the ultimate question,” Lovejoy said.

Anthropologists all over the world can share in the excitement of a discovery such as “Lucy.”

“Two weeks ago, a member of our group reported stunning evidence of a gorilla-like primate at an age of about 10.5 million years,”Lovejoy said.

Lovejoy has been a professor at Kent State for almost 30 years.

“He is one of the best and brightest from Kent State,” West said. “He is one of the most quoted authors in his field.”

Kyle Xenias, sophomore anthropology major, said Lovejoy is a major influence on the anthropology department at Kent State.

“He is the guy that has built our department to what it is today,” Xenias said.

While Lovejoy makes a living discovering connections between humans and primates, one thing is for certain.

“There is a sea of differences between humans and chimpanzees,” Lovejoy said.

Contact science reporter Justin Armburger at [email protected].