Unearths Truths About Human Evolution
1, 2000 -- Although she'll only be 19 when she graduates
from the University of Virginia on May 21, Amy Lynn Rector is already
engaged in world-class research that will likely shed insights on
the origins of humans.
18 she was accepted by the Institute for Human Origins to participate
in a field study in South Africa, where a team of top scholars in
the human origins field is attempting to reconstruct the environment
that existed three million years ago when hominids, the group of
human-like species from which humans likely evolved, roamed the
area. Camping for six weeks near an old hyena den, team members
searched for fossils and identified bones and animals in an effort
to understand the ecology that supported the early hominids. Rector
may be one of the youngest people to work at such an excavation
recognition of such pioneering work, the Institute for Human Origins
has awarded Rector a six-year fellowship to pursue a master's
and doctorate in paleoecology, the study of ancient environments,
at Arizona State University after she earns a B.A. in archaeology
from U.Va. It appears she will be a stand-out in the small, highly
competitive field of human evolution, her advisor, Jeffrey Hantman
will be among the first generation to conduct research in South
Africa after Apartheid," said Hantman, director of U.Va.'s
archaeology program. "With her combination of motivation, maturity
and intelligence, as well as her ability to ask the bigger philosophical
questions, Amy Rector has it all."
love of archaeology began in the third grade after reading the novel,
"Clan of the Cave Bear" -- a book that Hantman assigns
to students in his U.Va. class. "After reading that book, there
was no turning back. I've wanted to study human evolution ever
since," Rector remembers.
daughter of Dean and Kathy Rector of Richmond, she enrolled at 15
in the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted at Mary Baldwin College.
She transferred as a second-year student to U.Va. at 16. "Those
in the orientation session for transfer students teased me when
they found out how old I was, but it's never been a problem
since. I think they've forgotten how old I am," Rector
said, noting that the students are now her roommates and best friends.
by evolution because it encompasses so many disciplines, such as
geology, biology, philosophy and religion, Rector thrived on the
hard work at the South African site. Team members rose at dawn to
engage in such practices as breaking rocks with sledge hammers to
look for fossils or excavating a mountaintop site to gain clues
about the animals and vegetation that existed three million years
ago. The researchers are trying to piece together an understanding
of what environment the hominids evolved and prospered in.
such experience Rector wrote a distinguished-major thesis on the
basic methods of environmental reconstruction. "Ten years from
now I think Amy will have contributed tremendous field work and
publications on our human ancestors in Ethiopia and South Africa,"
devoted to the study of human evolution, Rector has pursued other
interests at U.Va. She has been active in the Honor Society and
in club sports. She has served as vice president and president of
Phi Eta Sigma sorority, and she is a member of the Golden Key and
the National Society for Collegiate Scholars.
Despite her many accomplishments, Rector is modest. If pressed to
offer advice to other young, gifted students, she suggests, "Never
be arrogant. Just do the work."
more information, Rector can be reached through May 12 at (804)
Ida Lee Wootten, (804) 924-6857