Human Evolution

human evolution

Nothing is clear about who left marks on ancient bones

An ongoing debate regarding the origin of scrape marks on ancient animal bones has taken a new turn. The marks were first thought to have been made by early hominid butchers, then by trampling, and now it’s looking like crocodiles might have been responsible, according to a recent study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

05 Jan 2018

Mysterious Miocene bipedal footprints found in Crete

A curious set of 5.7-million-year-old bipedal footprints found in western Crete — far from the cradle of humanity in Africa and dating to the Late Miocene, long before hominins are thought to have walked upright — has paleoanthropologists scratching their heads.

27 Dec 2017

19th-century discovery now reveals modern human arrival in Sumatra

Modern humans began journeying out of Africa by at least 75,000 years ago, eventually expanding across the planet. Evidence of these early human travels, including fossils and artifacts, is typically spotty and difficult to find. But one such discovery more than a century ago has shed new light on the appearance of humans in Southeast Asia.

19 Dec 2017

Bipedalism left its mark on human skull: Kangaroos and upright rodents show same signs

The transition to bipedal walking in our ancestors changed the hominin skeleton in many ways. New research looking at how upright walking affected the structures at the base of the skull in both early humans and other bipedal mammals, like kangaroos, is shedding light on a once-controversial marker for bipedalism.

04 Jul 2017

Lucy liked hanging out in trees

Lucy, the 3.2-million-year-old human ancestor discovered in Ethiopia in 1974, is one of the most complete early hominin skeletons ever found. Still, despite the skeleton’s completeness, debate continues about how Lucy got around: Did she spend most of her time walking on the ground or climbing in trees? In a new study, scientists studying Lucy’s upper limb bones have found that she likely spent more time in trees — and was a more capable climber — than later hominin species like Homo erectus and Homo sapiens.

13 Apr 2017

Geologic Column: Evolution of an ape-man

From Java Man to Piltdown Man to Nebraska Man to the many incarnations of Tarzan, our views on the “ape-man” have evolved.
12 Apr 2017

Dental plaque reveals later start date for hominin cooking

Ancient teeth have long been a source of information about ancient diets, mainly through analyses of isotopic compositions and wear patterns. In a new study published in the Science of Nature, researchers studied microfossils of food particles extracted from the teeth of a 1.2-million-year-old unidentified hominin found at the Sima del Elefante site in northern Spain. The microfossils include traces of raw animal tissue, uncooked starch granules from grasses, pollen grains from a species of pine tree and insect fragments. The lack of charring of the recovered fibers and an absence of micro-charcoal suggest the bearer of the teeth neither cooked his or her food nor spent significant time around a fire source.

30 Mar 2017

Early humans dealt with Ethiopian supervolcanoes

About 200,000 years ago, modern humans evolved in East Africa, including in what’s now Ethiopia. They — like earlier hominins who had preceded them — likely encountered occasional explosive eruptions spewing ash and lava into the air and onto the landscape, according to a new study in Nature Communications.

17 Feb 2017

Green corridors led humans out of Africa

A trail of fossil, archaeological and genetic clues suggests that modern humans, who first evolved in East Africa about 200,000 years ago, may have made forays outside Africa via the eastern Mediterranean and the Arabian Peninsula as early as 120,000 years ago. But most fossil and archaeological evidence suggests they didn’t begin widely populating the rest of the world until about 60,000 years ago.

26 Dec 2016

Redefining Homo: Does our family tree need more branches?

Paleoanthropologists have traditionally used four traits to classify hominins as members of the genus Homo. But none of the criteria are very stringent, leading to an assortment of hominins with widely varying features being counted in the same genus. Some researchers think it’s time to scrap Homo and start over.
21 Aug 2016