Smithsonian's Human Origins Program

Smithsonian's Human Origins Program The Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian is dedicated to understanding the scientific evidence for how the traits that make us human evolved.
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Welcome to our page! Please feel free to share thoughts about our posts, ask us questions, or tell us about your visit. We hope you’ll contribute to this interactive forum and to our ongoing conversation about the work we do to further the Smithsonian's mission to increase and diffuse knowledge. While on-topic discussion is encouraged, we ask that you express yourself in a civil manner and treat other users with respect. The Smithsonian also monitors and may remove posts consistent with its terms of use, as described at http://si.edu/Termsofuse#user-gen. For our Privacy Policy: http://www.si.edu/Privacy Wondering about our cover photo? These 4 skulls represent 4 species of early human, all found in East Africa (northern Kenya), which overlapped in time. While we are the only species of human left on earth, our family tree was once diverse. The skulls are (from left to right): KNM-ER 1813, Homo habilis, about 1.9 million years old KNM-ER 3733, Homo erectus, about 1.8 million years old KNM-ER 1470, Homo rudolfensis, about 1.9 million years old KNM-ER 406, Paranthropus boisei, about 1.7 million years old

Operating as usual

Check out the Human Biology Association's Sausage of Science podcast episode 94: "The Theatrics and Quantitative Genetic...
10/12/2020
SoS 94 - The Theatrics and Quantitative Genetics of Dental Anthropology with Leslea Hlusko

Check out the Human Biology Association's Sausage of Science podcast episode 94: "The Theatrics and Quantitative Genetics of Dental Anthropology with Leslea Hlusko". https://soundcloud.com/humanbiologyassociation/sos-94-the-theatrics-and-quantitative-genetics-of-dental-anthropology-with-leslea-hlusko

Dr. Leslea Hlusko is currently the Vice President of the American Association of Physical Anthropology and a professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley. She will soon be joining Centro Nacional d

We're especially excited for this week's Friday Fun reading post, because it features our own Dr. Rick Potts, Director o...
10/09/2020
Conversations with: Professor Rick Potts

We're especially excited for this week's Friday Fun reading post, because it features our own Dr. Rick Potts, Director of the Smithsonian's Human Origins Program! Read about his research on understanding how Earth’s environmental change affects early human adaptation, his variability selection hypothesis, his career path, his current research projects in Kenya, and where he'd go if he had a time machine (spoiler alert - not the past. but 100 years into the future!). https://conversationsinhumanevolution.wordpress.com/2020/07/31/conversations-with-professor-rick-potts/

Today, it is my pleasure to introduce Dr. Rick Potts, the Director of the Smithsonian Institution Human Origins Program! Rick joined the Smithsonian in 1985, and has since focused his research towa…

Read this Popular Archaeology article about the new findings of a team led by University of Louisville's Jonathan Haws w...
10/08/2020
Popular Archeology - Modern humans reached westernmost Europe 5,000 years earlier than previously known

Read this Popular Archaeology article about the new findings of a team led by University of Louisville's Jonathan Haws which use stone tools from Lapa do Picareiro, Portugal to document that modern humans arrived in westernmost Europe between about 41,000 - 38,000 years ago - 5,000 years earlier than previously known, and at a time when Neanderthals were previously thought to be present in the region. https://popular-archaeology.com/article/modern-humans-reached-westernmost-europe-5000-years-earlier-than-previously-known/

Discovery may indicate modern humans and Neanderthals lived in the area concurrently.

Join Tina Lasisi from Penn State for our Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History HOT topic webinar series on We...
10/07/2020

Join Tina Lasisi from Penn State for our Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History HOT topic webinar series on Wednesday, October 21st from 11:30am - 12:30pm EST. Preregistration required!

Lasisi will discuss how a closer look at variation in scalp hair texture can uncover the complexity of human diversity. Using computational image analysis, we can look at hair variation without invoking racial terminology (e.g. Caucasian or "Afro" hair) or relying on subjective descriptions of hair. Find out more about the fascinating biology of human scalp variation! https://www.si.edu/events/online?trumbaEmbed=view%3Devent%26eventid%3D148371469

A new genetic association study by Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology's  Hugo Zeberg and Svante Pääbo fo...
10/06/2020
Neanderthal genes increase risk of serious Covid-19, study claims

A new genetic association study by Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology's Hugo Zeberg and Svante Pääbo found that gene cluster on human chromosome 3 that triples the risk of developing severe COVID-19 was passed on from Neanderthals to modern humans. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/sep/30/neanderthal-genes-increase-risk-of-serious-covid-19-study-claims

Strand of DNA inherited by modern humans is linked to likelihood of falling severely ill

Check out this Popular Archaeology write-up of three human trackway sites from the Cape south coast of South Africa rece...
10/05/2020
Popular Archeology - Tracking Early Modern Humans in South Africa

Check out this Popular Archaeology write-up of three human trackway sites from the Cape south coast of South Africa recently discovered by a team led by Charles Helm of Nelson Mandela University! The dates are not yet certain, but are likely to be between 79,000 - 148,000 years ago. https://popular-archaeology.com/article/tracking-early-modern-humans-in-south-africa/

A research team discovers new evidence in South Africa for what may be the earliest known footprints of behaviorally modern humans.

This week's Friday Fun reading post features  Oxford Brookes University's Simon Underdown! Read about his research on th...
10/02/2020
Conversations with: Dr Simon Underdown

This week's Friday Fun reading post features Oxford Brookes University's Simon Underdown! Read about his research on the co-evolution of humans and disease, specifically how patterns of past human-disease interactions can help reconstruct human evolutionary processes. Read about his career path, his current research projects in Africa and Arabia, his thoughts about how technology has transformed how we study human evolution, and what problem he would solve in academia if he had a magic wand (spoiler alert: more academic jobs for those who want them). Simon is also a passionate science educator, holding the position of Chair of the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Education Committee and is a Chartered Science Teacher. https://conversationsinhumanevolution.wordpress.com/2020/07/28/conversations-with-dr-simon-underdown/

This week, it is my pleasure to introduce Dr Simon Underdown, Reader in Biological Anthropology at Oxford Brookes University! His research primarily focuses on the co-evolution of humans and diseas…

Check out this episode of a new podcast called Digging In - it's all about Sterkfontein, an important hominin fossil-bea...
09/30/2020
Digging into Sterkfontein

Check out this episode of a new podcast called Digging In - it's all about Sterkfontein, an important hominin fossil-bearing site in South Africa. https://soundcloud.com/user-788558003/digging-into-sterkfontein

In this episode, we discuss Sterkfontein, an important hominin fossil-bearing site in South Africa. It was also the site where the first adult Australopithecine was discovered in Africa so tune in if

Check out this great summary of a recent study led by Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology’s Martiin Petr ...
09/29/2020
How Neanderthals lost their Y chromosome

Check out this great summary of a recent study led by Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology’s Martiin Petr Janet Kelso which studied the Y chromosomes of three Neandertals and two Denisovans wo further understand the relationships and population histories of ancient and modern humans, They found, surprisingly, that Neanderthal and modern human Y chromosomes are more similar to one another than they are to Denisovan Y chromosomes. This suggests hat Neanderthals and early modern humans met and interbred before the major out of Africa migration, starting somewhere around 70,000 years ago.
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/09/how-neanderthals-lost-their-y-chromosome

Homo sapiens’ Y chromosome spread through Neanderthal populations after early mating

This week's Friday Fun reading features UC Davis's Lynne Isbell, who is also the President-Elect of the American Society...
09/25/2020
Conversations with: Professor Lynne Isbell

This week's Friday Fun reading features UC Davis's Lynne Isbell, who is also the President-Elect of the American Society of Primatologists! Read about her research on primate socioecology,(the study of how ecology influences primate social organizations), her career path from studying ungulates to primates, her extensive fieldwork in Kenya and Uganda (as well as several other African countries), her mentors, her 'Snake Detection Theory', and her favorite memories from the field: watching the first trickle of a seasonal river run down a dry riverbed in Kenya and touching leopard (while collaring them to study their predation on primates). https://conversationsinhumanevolution.wordpress.com/2020/07/24/conversations-with-professor-lynne-isbell/

Today, I am very pleased to introduce Professor Lynne Isbell, a primatologist at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis)! Lynne currently holds the positions of Professor and Chair…

Check out the first story in this Nature podcast from last week, discussing a recent study led by Københavns Universitet...
09/24/2020
Genes chart Vikings' spread across Europe

Check out the first story in this Nature podcast from last week, discussing a recent study led by Københavns Universitet - University of Copenhagen's Ashot Margaryan that sequenced the genomes of 442 humans from archaeological sites across Europe and Greenland to understand the population genomics of the Viking world. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02659-w

Hear the biggest stories from the world of science | 17 September 2020

Check out this article in Popular Archaeology about a new study led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)'s Ain...
09/23/2020
Popular Archeology - Did our early ancestors boil their food in hot springs?

Check out this article in Popular Archaeology about a new study led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)'s Ainara Sistiaga, detailing evidence that hot springs may have existed in Olduvai Gorge around 1.7 million years ago - and suggesting that these hot springs may have enabled early humans to cook food such as meat and certain tough tubers and roots. https://popular-archaeology.com/article/did-our-early-ancestors-boil-their-food-in-hot-springs/

Scientists have found evidence of hot springs near sites where ancient hominids settled, long before the control of fire.

Check out this live Virtual Lab from Maropeng – Cradle of Humankind, South Africa, where scientists and preparators are ...
09/22/2020

Check out this live Virtual Lab from Maropeng – Cradle of Humankind, South Africa, where scientists and preparators are busily working to clean the fossils unearthed at the sites of Malapa and Rising Star! http://fossilpreplab.weebly.com/virtual-lab.html

Big news from last week: a recent publication by a team led by Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Sci...
09/21/2020
Prehistoric desert footprints are earliest evidence for Homo sapiens on Arabian Peninsula

Big news from last week: a recent publication by a team led by Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (and also a research associate with us in the Human Origins Program!) in Science Advances details ~120,000 year old human footprints in the Nefud Desert of Saudi Arabia, which are now the earliest evidence for 𝘏𝘰𝘮𝘰 𝘴𝘢𝘱𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘴 on the Arabian peninsula! https://theconversation.com/amp/prehistoric-desert-footprints-are-earliest-evidence-for-homo-sapiens-on-arabian-peninsula-146445

These findings represent the earliest evidence for Homo sapiens on the Arabian Peninsula, and demonstrates the importance of Arabia for understanding human prehistory.

Today's Friday fun reading post features University of Washington's Ben Marwick! Read about his research in Southeast As...
09/18/2020
Conversations with: Professor Ben Marwick

Today's Friday fun reading post features University of Washington's Ben Marwick! Read about his research in Southeast Asian and Australian archaeology, including hominin dispersals, forager technologies and ecology; his additional interests in how archaeology engages with local and online communities and popular culture, as well as techniques and methods for reproducible research and open science; how spending school holidays working in remote sheep shearing sheds in the southwest of Western Australia led to his interest in human evolution; his PhD research on stone artifacts and human ecology in Thailand; his current research prpjects in Vietnam, China, and Australia; and his advice to students interested in Southeast Asian paleolithic archaeology (spoiler alert: it's to aim for a sustainable balance between contributing to scholarly archaeology and the local community where you do your research). https://conversationsinhumanevolution.wordpress.com/2020/07/21/conversations-with-professor-ben-marwick/

I am delighted to introduce today Professor Ben Marwick, an archaeologist from the University of Washington! Specifically, Ben’s research interests are focussed within Southeast Asian and Aus…

A big congratulations to paleoanthropologists Wits - University of the Witwatersrand's Kimberleigh Ashley Tommy and Univ...
09/15/2020
Home - Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans

A big congratulations to paleoanthropologists Wits - University of the Witwatersrand's Kimberleigh Ashley Tommy and University of Johannesburg's Stephanie Baker, recently named as two of the Mail & Guardian's most influential 200 Young South Africans (ages 18-35) for 2020! https://200youngsouthafricans.co.za

Arts & Entertainment Business, Entrepreneurship & Tourism Civil Society Covid-19 Heroes Editor’s Choice Education Environment Film & Media Health Justice Politics & Government Science & Technology Sport 200 Young 2020 At the beginning of every year, we open up nominations for Young South Africans ...

Hot off the presses: the recent discovery of the earliest known ancestor of the modern-day gibbon, a new species of ~13 ...
09/14/2020

Hot off the presses: the recent discovery of the earliest known ancestor of the modern-day gibbon, a new species of ~13 million-year-old ape called 𝘒𝘢𝘱𝘪 𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘯𝘢𝘨𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘴𝘪𝘴, discovered at the site of Ramangar, India by a team led by Hunter College's Christopher Gilbert. https://leakeyfoundation.org/new-fossil-ape-discovered-in-india/

This week's Friday fun reading post features Ravi Korisettar, Senior Academic Fellow of the Indian Council of Historical...
09/11/2020
Conversations with: Professor Ravi Korisettar

This week's Friday fun reading post features Ravi Korisettar, Senior Academic Fellow of the Indian Council of Historical Research भारतीय इतिहास अनुसंधान परिषद् in New Delhi! Ravi has also held the position of Honorary Director of the Robert Bruce Foote sanganakkallu Archaeological Museum, Bellari, Karnatakain Karnataka since it’s establishment in 2010, and he is a key contributor to Indian Palaeolithic archaeology, specializing in geoarchaeological methods and approaches to understanding the relationship between prehistoric humans and their environments. Read about the formative moments along his career path, his current projects (which range from understanding the cognitive content of prehistoric rock art to re-examining Late Pleistocene hominin fossils from rock shelter excavations and assessing their potential for aDNA studies - and more), and what he would want to see if he had a time machine (spoiler alert: its the Big Bang!). https://conversationsinhumanevolution.wordpress.com/2020/07/17/conversations-with-professor-ravi-korisettar/

This week, I am delighted to introduce Professor Ravi Korisettar, Senior Academic Fellow of the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi! Ravi is a key contributor to Indian Palaeolithic ar…

Are you familiar with the The Leakey Foundation's podcast, Origin Stories? If not, you should be! Check out their most r...
09/10/2020

Are you familiar with the The Leakey Foundation's podcast, Origin Stories? If not, you should be! Check out their most recent episode, Episode 45, "Detective of the Dead" - all about the site of Atapuerca in Spain. You can find, in this one place, the oldest humans in Europe, the first murder in the archaeological record, and fossils that tell a range of stories from disturbing and grisly to tender and heartwarming. https://leakeyfoundation.org/originstories/

Don't miss this opportunity to hear University of Cape Town's Rebecca Ackermann talk about "Scientific sovereignty in pa...
09/09/2020
EVENT: Scientific sovereignty in palaeoanthropology - Griffith Sciences Impact

Don't miss this opportunity to hear University of Cape Town's Rebecca Ackermann talk about "Scientific sovereignty in palaeoanthropology: How contemporary events are exposing systemic inequalities" for the 5th Annual Raymond Dart lecture of Griffith University's Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution (ARCHE). This live streamed event will take place on Thursday September 17th at 4pm AEST. https://impact.griffith.edu.au/scientific-sovereignty-in-palaeoanthropology/

How contemporary events are exposing systemic inequalities The pandemic of 2020 is wreaking havoc on the scientific enterprise – for palaeoanthropologists, altering everything from where and how we give lectures, to whether we travel to conduct fieldwork or access fossils. But the pandemic is also...

What do asteroids, Neanderthals, and fossil atmospheres all have in common? They are topics in an upcoming Smithsonian's...
09/08/2020
Virtual Science Cafe: Asteroids, Neanderthals, and Fossil Atmospheres

What do asteroids, Neanderthals, and fossil atmospheres all have in common? They are topics in an upcoming Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History virtual science cafe this Thursday, September 10th from 5:00 - 6:16 pm EST! **Preregistration required** https://naturalhistory.si.edu/events/virtual-science-cafe-asteroids-neanderthals-and-fossil-atmospheres

From vast outer space, to the dirt beneath us, Smithsonian experts from the National Museum of Natural History take you into their world by sharing stories about the subjects they have dedicated their lives to exploring. Join us virtually for this science cafe, and set the stage at home with a drink...

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Comments

I love watching documentaries about, anthropology, archeology, geology, and paleontology but how do researchers today know what people thought hundreds, and thousands of years ago?
Facts
If you miss this webinar, you can now watch it on our Youtube channel:
Chuck, have you seen this?
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WG3Y83B Naked product placement, and because there doesn't seem to be much, an attempt at some paleolithic based Sci-Fi.
¿Existió realmente Homo antecessor?
To the Smithsonian's Human Origin Program, Past & Curious is a series of French cartoons illustrating the work of PhD students in archaeology. By participating in the adventure, I wanted to present part of my research in an accessible and scientific way to the general audience (colleagues, friends, family, kids and future researchers). This video allowed me to script and popularize the environmental background of my doctoral research and illustrate the ethnographic works of Ernest "Tiger" Burch that I study. It is always difficult to represent human groups, past or present, but thanks to this project I can share a positive and authentic representation of the Iñupiaq culture of Alaska. At present, for the rest of the project, the objective is to find a scholarship / funding to pay a native speaker speaking Inupiatun to achieve the subtitles of this video. Contacts have already been made with young people and students. If you know about any grants or scholarship that can help me support the payment for the translation and diffusion let me know. I hope to present one day this animation directly in Inupiat!
I like
NEANDERTHALS WERE NOT "HUMAN"! If they were they would exist in the modern-day African...which HAS NO Neanderthal DNA...yet we ALL come from Africans! EXPLAIN that
I love the realities & ongoing discoveries of the science of evolution.
Dear sir,Around the world all kind of human research making by age of skull.But i am an astrology researcher has discovered we the human and living things was created by PLANET EFFECTS.so the answer is ready for the world.To prove the same i want to work with you.could you provide some astronomers in this regard with your institution.from their help to make research of planets and earth from the beginning climates and circumstance of when humans created.for more visit www.marriagepair.in and reach about us and replay.you are the only research institution for human.so try it. thanks. akambaraswaran
So, where have all the giant human skeletons gone?