About the Project
The idea for "Field Notes from the Pleistocene" came from a year's worth of reporting on discoveries in paleoanthropology. With new hominin discoveries being dug up across the world as well as continual advances in genomics and ancient DNA, the subject seemed ripe for a story that could go beyond the facts. That story is told on this website, with blog posts, newsletters, and immersive details like sketches from the explorers' field notes. But almost everything is based on actual science, which you can explore alongside the fictional tale of two scientists traveling back in time.
So what's fact and what's fiction?
The entire story is based heavily on actual scientific research, but of course all of it is blended with the fiction of the story. None of the characters exist, nor does the Origins Mission or the Megatherium Society (although it was inspired by a real group, the Megatherium Club). This means the Mission Control Blog is almost entirely fiction. And unfortunately we haven't figured out time travel yet. A brief list of some items that are entirely factual:
- The timeline of sites and places that the achroniologists are visiting is based on real archaeological sites where fossils have been found
- Most of the hominin species being described are real, including Homo erectus, Paranthropus boisei, Homo floresiensis, Homo naledi, and Homo neanderthalensis. The story with Homo heidelbergensis is a little more complicated, as some paleoanthropologists argue its fossils should be placed in another group. That's actually an ongoing issue in the field: how to classify new discoveries, and where to draw the boundary lines between species that only exist in the fossil record.
- The research questions Andrea and Evelyn occasionally pose are real questions researchers are trying answer.
- Most (but not all) of the plants and the animals described in the Field Notes have been found in the fossil record.
If you want all the details on how science informs the story, visit the "Dig In" blog or subscribe to the newsletter at a higher rate to receive a weekly bibliography that will accompany the story.