NIU's Department of Anthropology houses an extensive human osteology teaching collection consisting of thousands of specimens documenting the extent of human and geographic variation, as well as a wide range of pathological conditions. The department also boasts a world-class collection of fossil human casts and is the largest university collection of its type in the Midwest. This cast collection spans the entire epoch of human evolutionary history from the earliest bipedal hominids (Ardipithecus, Australopithecus, etc.) up through the emergence of our own genus Homo, including specimens documenting the emergence of our own species.
Our fossil non-human primate cast collection is equally impressive, and provides the important comparative context for understanding the emergence of the human lineage. Additionally, we are fortunate to have several mounted skeletons of over 20 different species of primates, ranging from the smallest prosimians to the largest of apes.
Along with primates, NIU's collection also has skeletal material of several non-primate mammals including bats, various carnivores, fish as well as other specimens. All of the material in the collection is openly available for undergraduate and graduate student use during class, as well as for independent research.
Dan Gebo, a Board of Trustees Professor of Anthropology, led a team of researchers who discovered the fossils of 45-million-year-old, thumb-length primates. The find made the front pages of the New York Times, Washington Post and newspapers worldwide.