Human Evolution

human evolution

From boom to bust in Neolithic Europe

As agricultural practices spread from the Fertile Crescent across Europe, gradually expanding west and north starting about 8,500 years ago, they brought increased and localized food production to a continent where nomadic hunter-gatherers had long made their living subject to the whims of climate and the environment. With agriculture, long-term settlements developed, fertility rates rose and, thus, populations grew steadily. Or at least that’s been the conventional wisdom.

20 Mar 2014

Down to Earth With: Naomi Levin

Stable isotope geochemist Naomi Levin, a native New Yorker, says she could easily imagine alternate career paths that would have been more in line with her urban roots. But the hands-on nature of both fieldwork and lab work lured her to geology and anthropology. And after working with a string of prominent geochemists — including Jay Quade, Thure Cerling and John Eiler — as a graduate student and post-doctoral researcher, Levin has quickly moved to the top of her field.

09 Jan 2014

Science denialism: The problem that just won't go away

In lieu of doing a "year in review" issue this year, EARTH asked our staff and some frequent contributors to write a short commentary on something that grabbed their attention in 2013. We gave everyone carte blanche. What follows is a collection of extremely varied, often very personal insights into how the planet impacted each individual. In this commentary, EARTH contributor and cartoonist Callan Bentley discusses his run-ins with science denialism.

20 Nov 2013

Hydrological models locate ancient human migration routes

Archaeologists and geologists have long hypothesized that major river systems flowed north through the Sahara Desert about 100,000 years ago. These rivers would have provided a sort of network of “green corridors” across the Sahara that early humans could have traversed as they migrated out of Africa. Ancient lake records, fossil river systems, and radioisotope data have offered evidence for the existence of flowing water in the region.

01 Nov 2013

Hominin skull discovery fuels debate about early human evolution

Hailed as a find for the ages, a rare skull of a 1.8-million-year-old human relative could provide answers to longstanding questions about the lineage of our species. It also fuels debate over what differentiates one hominin species from another, and could mean that Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis and other early bipedal hominins may all be members of Homo erectus, rather than distinct species.

17 Oct 2013

Oceanic records paint a more complex picture of human evolution

It has long been hypothesized that human ancestors evolved the ability to walk upright — a feature that appeared about 6 million years ago — in response to African landscapes changing from forests to grasslands. Now, a group of scientists has assembled the most continuous timeline of landscape evolution and grassland development over the last 12 million years near the African Rift Valley in northeastern Africa — and the timeline contradicts conventional hypotheses.

17 Jun 2013

Modern humans arrived in South Asia 25,000 years later than previously thought?

Figuring out when modern humans left Africa and migrated throughout the world is a complicated task. For example, some evidence suggests modern humans may have migrated out of Africa and into Asia as early as 120,000 years ago. Further evidence puts modern humans in India and other parts of South Asia prior to the super-eruption of Mount Toba in Sumatra, which took place 74,000 years ago.

13 Jun 2013

New dates place Spanish cave art as oldest in Europe

But were the artists modern humans or Neanderthals?

Scientists have studied Paleolithic cave art for more than a century, but new research suggests paintings and carvings in some Spanish caves are thousands of years older than previously thought, which would make them the oldest cave art in Europe. The new evidence has left researchers wondering if the artists were modern humans or Neanderthals.

14 Jun 2012

Voices: Defending science: The link between creationism and climate change

What do creationists and climate change deniers have in common? Over the past few years, this riddle has been on our minds a lot at the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit that has fought for more than a quarter-century to defend the teaching of evolution in the public schools. Now, we’re expanding to defend the teaching of climate change — and with it, science in general.

30 Apr 2012

Voices: An old Earth for all Muslims but how does evolution fit in?

It’s no secret that many of the protests and rebellions in North Africa and the Middle East this year have been dominated by globally connected, young, educated Muslims. One of the stated goals of many of these young people is improving the science and technology programs in their countries. They understand that to compete in the global marketplace, strong science and technology programs are necessary. That bodes well for these countries’ futures.

24 Oct 2011