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Posts Tagged "human origins"

Observations

The Fossil That Revolutionized the Search for Human Origins: A Q&A with Lucy Discoverer Donald Johanson

Don Johanson and Maurice Taieb with Lucy

Forty years ago today, a young American paleoanthropologist named Donald Johanson made the discovery of a lifetime in the arid badlands of Ethiopia’s remote Afar region: a 3.2-million-year-old skeleton of a small-brained creature that walked upright like we do. It was a primitive hominin, a member of the human family. To scientists it is known [...]

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Observations

Ancient Indonesian Cave Paintings Force Rethink of Art’s Origin

Cave painting of a babirusa

Archaeologists have determined that artwork found in limestone caves on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi is far older than previously thought. First documented in the 1950s, the images–stencils of human hands and depictions of animals—were assumed to be less than 10,000 years old. Paintings older than that would not survive in such a tropical environment, [...]

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Observations

Debate Flares over Identity of Celebrated Human Fossils

Australopithecus sediba lower jaws

CALGARY—In 2010 paleoanthropologists announced to great fanfare that they had recovered from a South African cave two partial skeletons of a previously unknown member of the human family that lived nearly two million years ago. The skeletons—a young male and an adult female referred to as MH1 and MH2, respectively–were said to exhibit a striking melange [...]

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Observations

Sex with Neandertals Introduced Helpful and Harmful DNA into the Modern Human Genome

Neandertal skull

Over the past few years a number of studies of ancient and contemporary genomes have reached the same stunning conclusion: early human species interbred, and people today carry DNA from archaic humans, including the Neandertals, as a result of those interspecies trysts. Now two new analyses of modern human genomes are providing insights into how [...]

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Observations

The Most Fascinating Human Evolution Discoveries of 2013

Sahelanthropus tchadensis

Wow. I’ve just spent the last couple days going through the paleoanthropology news that broke in 2013 and I must say it was a banner year. There were so many exciting new findings that bear on scientists’ understanding of just about every chapter of humanity’s seven-million-year saga—from our ancestors’ first upright steps to the peopling [...]

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Observations

Co-Discoverer of Homo sapiens’s Little Hobbit Cousin Leaves Large Scientific Legacy

Mike Morwood

Leading Australian archaeologist Mike Morwood, co-discoverer of the extraordinary human “hobbits,” has died. He was 62. Morwood, who passed away on July 23 from cancer, made important contributions in research areas ranging from the rock art of Australia’s Kimberly region to the seafaring capabilities of Homo erectus. But he will be best remembered for a [...]

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Observations

Space Ape Parody Shows Why Aquatic Ape Theory Is All Wet

chimp astronaut

This past weekend the misguided aquatic ape theory surfaced for air, only to get sunk in the most entertaining way.  The theory holds that many traits of humans—including our naked skin, upright posture and large brains–evolved as adaptations to living in an aquatic environment. But fossil and archaeological evidence simply does not support this scenario, [...]

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Observations

Is Australopithecus sediba the Most Important Human Ancestor Discovery Ever?

Australopithecus sediba

Three years ago researchers added a new branch to the human family tree: Australopithecus sediba, a nearly two-million-year-old relative from South Africa. By all accounts it was a dazzling find—two partial skeletons, an adult female and young male, from a site called Malapa just outside Johannesburg. And it has been making headlines regularly since then [...]

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Observations

The Most Fascinating Human Evolution Discoveries of 2012

Australopithecus sediba skull

Recent years have brought considerable riches for those of us interested in human evolution and 2012 proved no exception. New fossils, archaeological finds and genetic analyses yielded thrilling insights into the shape of the family tree, the diets of our ancient predecessors, the origins of art and advanced weaponry, the interactions between early Homo sapiens [...]

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Observations

Ancient Tartar, Other Dental Clues Reveal Unexpected Diet of Early Human Relative

sediba skull

Last fall, on a reporting trip to Johannesburg for a story on the discovery of fossils representing a previously unknown member of human family called Australopithecus sediba, the researchers I met with were buzzing with excitement about, of all things, tartar. That’s right, the crusty deposits that the dentist scrapes off your teeth when you [...]

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