Fossil Faces Covered in Science

Can I submit an image for consideration as the cover of Science?
 Yes…The cover is usually related to a particularly significant Report or Research Article in the issue, or to the contents of a special issue. Images from significant papers that are striking to the nonspecialist have the best chance of being chosen. Images that cannot be used on the cover may be chosen for use on our table of contents or in the “This Week in Science” section.
Guidelines for submissions, Science Magazine

The cover of Science is nothing if not iconic.  With its full-page picture and specialized typography, the journal’s cover conveys intellectual gravitas and scientific legitimacy and has for decades.  Ever since Science introduced a picture as part of its cover in 1959, the publication has featured a plethora of images from thin-section slides and meteorological phenomena to pollen spores and technical instruments.

Although anthropological-archaeological matter hit the front of Science as early as October 1960, the first cover that highlighted a specific paleoanthropological hominin find was fairly recent 1998. 

In total, nine covers of Science have featured paleo-subjects.  That first one, in June 1998, was the color illustration of the two- and three-dimensional computer imaging showing the endocranial capacity of STW 505, Australopithecus africanus.  The second, from August 1999, shows the forelimb bones and jaw of a partial hominoid skeleton (Equatorius) from an ~15-million-year-old site at Kipsaramon, Kenya.  The next cover (2001) give faces to the 1.7-million-year-old male and female hominids from Dmanisi, Georgia.  The fourth and fifth covers (both 2009), show Ardi, Ardipithecus ramidus.  Covers six, seven, and eight (2010, 2011, and 2013, respectively) highlight different skeletal elements from Australopithecus sediba from Malapa, South Africa.  And the final paleo-cover to date, October 2013, is a photo of a 1.77-million-year-old complete adult skull from Dmanisi (early Homo.)

In short, this collection of featured paleo-subjects is a odd assemblage of the discipline’s specimens.  The covers do not organize around a historical timeline and do not, really, indicate particular research trends or interpretive tropes.  Sediba, for example, comprises a third of all of the covers where other species and specimens are conspicuously absent.  (There are, for example, no Neanderthals on the cover of Science…) 

The assemblage of covers is a fantastic cross-section of selection factors and is a most unexpected gallery of hominin portraiture, giving a face and body to fossil discoveries.