The Orce Man

Controversy, Media and Politics in Human Origins Research


In The Orce Man: Controversy, Media and Politics in Human Origins Research, Miquel Carandell presents a thrilling story of a controversy on an Spanish “First European” that involved scientists, politicians and newspapers. In the early 1980s, with Spanish democracy in its beginnings, the Orce bone was transformed from a famous human ancestor to an apparently ridiculous donkey remain. With a chronological narrative, this book is not centered on whether the bone was human or not, but on the circumstances that made a certain claim credible or not, from both the scientific community and the general public. Carandell’s analysis draws on the thin line that separates success from failure and the role of media and politics in the controversy.

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Miquel Carandell Baruzzi, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and heritage curator at the Museu de Ciències Naturals de Granollers. He has published two books on Barcelona’s history of science and several papers on history of science topics.
“(The Orce Man) constitutes an excellent scholarly contribution to the history of science […] the book dives much deeper, highlighting the international, mass media, and political ramifications, while arguing that the study of the affair helps to understand how paleoanthropological research proceeds and provides insight into scientific controversies generally. "

----David M. Alba, Institut Catala de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, in: Journal of Human Evolution Volume 165, April 2022

“Para los historiadores de la paleontología, tan acostumbrados a concebir la evolución de su disciplina de una manera prácticamente lineal, este trabajo supone una bocanada de aire fresco puesto que muestra las complejidades de la aceptación o el rechazo de nuevas ideas y hallazgos de carácter paleontológico."

----Margarita Díaz-Andreu, ICREA y Universitat de Barcelona, in: ACTES D’HISTÒRIA DE LA CIÈNCIA I DE LA TÈCNICA 15 (2022): pp.185-190

“The real strength of The Orce Man comes in Carandell Baruzzi’s analysis of Orce Man within the context of Spain’s political history in the 1980s-1990s, highlighting the role that science and newly forming scientific institutions, specifically, had in the post-Franco twentieth century.”

----Lydia Pyne, University of Texas at Austin, in: Dynamis (2022) 42 (2): pp.639-641

“The Orce Man gives a details historical account of an interesting scientific story and the personal tales of the people involved. […] Carandell Baruzzi discusses how controversies can drive innovations such as the pioneering investigations performed on the Orce Man specimen.”

----Julie Lawrence, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, in: American Journal of Physical Anthropology (December 2021) 176 (4): pp.715-716
List of Illustrations
A Rough Guide to the Orce Man

0. Introduction - The Orce Man

1. Discovery (1976-1982)
1.1. Setting the scientific and political scene
1.2. ‘Look what we’ve found!’ The Orce Man among politicians, experts and the public
1.3. The ‘Spanish Olduvai’ and the discoverers’ reward
1.4. A great post-Franco discovery and a small but troubling crest

2. Controversy (1984-1987)
2.1. A painful trip to Paris: From man to donkey
2.2. A country’s ‘obsession’: ‘Is the Orce Man our ancestor?’
2.3. Science in a ‘different dimension’

3. Conference (1987-1996)
3.1. Gibert's research team and the conference preparation
3.2. An international conference as a ‘tool’ to convince
3.3. A triple victory (science, media and politics)
3.4. Scientific conferences: much more than debates among colleagues

4. End (1996-2007)
4.1. An unexpected attack
4.2. Control of the remains means control of the research
4.3. The process of isolation
4.4. The hominids that came from the south: Gibert's popular science book
4.5. The end of a long controversy

5. A ‘First’ American to compare with: The Pedra Furada controversy

6. Coda: The ‘Orce Boy’

7. The Orce Man: controversy, failure, media and politics

Annex I: Anatomical features of the Orce Man
Annex II: News from 1983 to 1999
Annex III: The travelling bone

I. Interviews
II: Archives
III: Secondary Literature
IV: The Press

All interested in history of science, science and technology studies, history of palaeoanthropology, social history of 20th century Spain, media studies and scientists working in human origins research and palaeoanthropology.
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