National Geographic : 1988 Oct
On Assignment N THE SEARCH for the origins of modern man, even experi enced journalists some times lose their way. Senior Assistant Editors MARY G. SMITH and JOHN J. PUTMAN consult a map beside the Dor dogne River in southern France. "We each thought the other knew where we were going," Mary explains. They were looking for Cave 16, a site being studied by Dr. Jean-Philippe Rigaud, director of prehistoric antiquities in Aq uitaine, and author of our article on Lascaux Cave. They soon found it, and picked up the fas cinating trail that leads through the millennia to today. As illustrations editor for our reports on Paleolithic man and Lascaux, Mary was pursuing an interest that has brought her into contact with most of to day's experts in paleontology. "This time, more than ever," she says, "I was struck by how intelligent and creative Ice Age humans were. The myth of the brutish knuckle-walker is totally false. Those people had the same conversations thousands of years ago that we have today, just about different things." As author of the Ice Age arti cle, John was impressed by the multiplicity of disciplines. "One group is busy analyzing fossil pollen to discover which vegeta tion existed, and thus what climate, while another studies the teeth of a certain species of mice to learn when they arrived in the Middle East. At the heart of it all is the ice, which choreo graphed a huge ballet of migra tion over thousands of years." A knack for putting people at ease gives photographer DAVID TURNLEY unusual access to the lives of his subjects. Knowing enough Afrikaans to exchange pleasantries was an additional asset in his work on our Afrika ners story. "It was a difficult assignment, but I tried to document as fairly as I could the diversity of their culture." Sent to South Africa by the Detroit Free Press in 1985, he reports, "My work covered a wide spectrum of society-news, photo essays on Archbishop Tutu and Winnie Mandela, and on ordinary lives. Then in 1987 I concentrated on the Afrikaners for the GEOGRAPHIC. Thus I very much lived the separation that is South Africa today."