By: Matthew Battles
March 6, 2013

Via kottke, a curious case of appropriation art: a morphing tour through a selection of faces of human ancestor species. The video was made by an SEO company; they seem to have scraped the images from an online exhibition, Faces of Our Ancestors, at Discovery News. Discovery’s piece is a slide show of static images, 11 of 27 made by researchers at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt as reconstructive images of individual specimen skulls reaching back some seven million years. Thus they’re idiosyncratic, as the third-from-last face demonstrates with its gaping mouth and lined skin. The individual in question is the classic Neanderthal specimen known as the “Old Man of la Chapelle,” who was toothless and arthritic in his forties.

The specimens’ provenances span the globe, and represent variously overlapping and distinct lineages; the eleven faces in the video above are not all in a direct evolutionary line of descent (we didn’t evolve from the Neanderthals; rather, neanderthalensis and sapiens share a common ancestor). Set to a contemplative piano track, it’s a trip through the wonder discourse of deep time, and a tour of the uncanny valley.

I’m curious, though: what’s in it for an SEO company? I suppose this post is a partial answer.


Codebreaking, Uncanny