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

Hot off the presses in the PLOS SciComm blog! Our own Ella Beaudoin and Briana Pobiner write about the top 9 discoveries...
12/23/2020
Top 9 Discoveries in Human Evolution, 2020 Edition - PLOS SciComm

Hot off the presses in the PLOS SciComm blog! Our own Ella Beaudoin and Briana Pobiner write about the top 9 discoveries in human evolution published in 2020 using 4 lines of evidence: footprints, fossil primates, fossil hominins, and Denisovan DNA! http://https://scicomm.plos.org/2020/12/23/top-9-discoveries-in-human-evolution-2020-edition/

2020 has been… quite the year! The pandemic changed a lot about the world including the ways in which paleoanthropologists, archaeologists, and…

In contrast to earlier research by another group but in support of earlier research undertaken by this group, a recent g...
12/21/2020
Genetic research reveals Neanderthals could tolerate smoke

In contrast to earlier research by another group but in support of earlier research undertaken by this group, a recent genetic study led by Universiteit Leiden / Leiden University's Jac Aarts concluded that Neanderthals were not more vulnerable to toxins from smoke than modern humans. https://phys.org/news/2020-11-genetic-reveals-neanderthals-tolerate-toxins.html

The idea that modern humans displaced Neanderthals because they were better protected against toxic smoke components is now under fire. An earlier study that put forward this suggestion has now been refuted by genetic research by scientists from Leiden and Wageningen. This new research was published...

Today's Friday fun reading post is TrowelBlazers' feature on Dr. Agness Onna Gidna, Senior Curator of Paleontology at th...
12/18/2020

Today's Friday fun reading post is TrowelBlazers' feature on Dr. Agness Onna Gidna, Senior Curator of Paleontology at the National Museum of Tanzania! Read about her career path -she is the first Tanzanian woman to hold a doctorate in physical anthropology and the first Tanzanian woman to direct research at Olduvai Gorge, where she has been a co-PI of The Olduvai Palaeoanthropology and Paleoecology Project (TOPPP) since 2017; her research on topics including taphonomy, zooarchaeology, early herding in northern Tanzania; and her additional roles and activities supervising students, engaging in outreach, and exhibit curation. https://trowelblazers.com/agness-gidna/

Since tomorrow is National Twin Day, we want to tell you about this 31,000 year old grave in Austria, recently studied b...
12/17/2020
31,000-Year-Old Grave Reveals Oldest Known Baby Twin Burial in The World

Since tomorrow is National Twin Day, we want to tell you about this 31,000 year old grave in Austria, recently studied by a team led by NhM Naturhistorisches Museum Wien's Maria Teschler-Nicola, which may represent the oldest burial of twins on record. https://www.sciencealert.com/world-s-most-ancient-known-twins-discovered-buried-in-an-old-stone-age-austrian-grave

An ancient grave in Austria may represent the oldest burial of twins on record, a new study finds.

A new study led by Luc Bordes revives the debate about human involvement in the ~130,000 year old Cerutti mastodon site ...
12/15/2020
New Evidence Supports Controversial Claim of Humans in The Americas 130,000 Years Ago

A new study led by Luc Bordes revives the debate about human involvement in the ~130,000 year old Cerutti mastodon site in California; the team claims to have found traces of ancient mastodon bones on the upward facing sides of two cobble stones collected from the site. If verified, the evidence from this site would push back the earliest evidence for humans in the Americas by ~100,000 years. https://www.sciencealert.com/mastodon-residue-supports-controversial-theory-about-the-first-settlers-in-america

Three years ago, a team of archaeologists in the United States proposed an extraordinary idea: the first human settlers in the Americas arrived at least 100,000 years earlier than we thought.

A new study led by Yale University's Advait Jukar concludes that on the Indian subcontinent, like the patterns seen in A...
12/14/2020
Why do elephants and tigers still roam in India? Study offers clues

A new study led by Yale University's Advait Jukar concludes that on the Indian subcontinent, like the patterns seen in Africa, the persistence of some large animals ('megafauna') is related to the long coexistence of these animals with humans. https://news.yale.edu/2020/12/08/why-do-elephants-and-tigers-still-roam-india-study-offers-clues

A new analysis suggests that megafauna on the Indian Subcontinent were able to avoid extinction due to co-evolution with human populations.

Today's Friday Fun reading post is TrowelBlazers' feature on Dr. Emma Mbua from the National Museums of Kenya! Read abou...
12/12/2020

Today's Friday Fun reading post is TrowelBlazers' feature on Dr. Emma Mbua from the National Museums of Kenya! Read about her career path, her research at the Kantis Fossil Site in Kenya and her role in co-founding the East African Association of Paleoanthropology and Paleontology. https://trowelblazers.com/emma-mbua/

Lars Holger Pilø and team recently discovered dozens of ancient arrowheads, arrow shafts, and other artifacts made of bo...
12/10/2020
Melting Ice in Norway Reveals Ancient Arrows

Lars Holger Pilø and team recently discovered dozens of ancient arrowheads, arrow shafts, and other artifacts made of bone, slate, iron, and mussel shell dating to as old as 6,000 years ago - in some cases even preserved with the twine and tar used to hold the arrow together - melting out of the Langfonne ice patch in southern Norway. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/melting-ice-norway-reveals-ancient-arrows-180976411/

Finds from reindeer hunts span 5,000 years, from the Stone Age to the medieval era

Humans are the only primates without fur - but how did we evolve our unique sweat-friendly, bare skin? Find out by watch...
12/09/2020
How Humans Lost Their Fur

Humans are the only primates without fur - but how did we evolve our unique sweat-friendly, bare skin? Find out by watching this Eons • PBS video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E76vqlhmBlc

We’re the only primate without a coat of thick fur. It turns out that this small change in our appearance has had huge consequences for our ability to regula...

12/08/2020
SAPIENS Submission Manager

Calling all creative writer anthropologists! SAPIENS is seeking poetry and experimental prose submissions from anthropologists who are of the African diaspora for a collection of 5–8 pieces that will be published at SAPIENS magazine in the spring or summer of 2021. Deadline is March 17, 2021 and an honorarium of US$100 will be offered to those whose work is published in the collection. https://sapiens.submittable.com/submit

ANTHROPOLOGIST CONTRIBUTORSAPIENS’ mission is to bring anthropology to the public—people like your neighbor, cousin, and barista—to make a difference in how nonanthropologists see themselves and the people around them. Our stories blend anthropological research and perspectives with rich story...

This week's fun Friday reading post is a recent interview in The Guardian with paleoanthropologist Meave Leakey, profess...
12/04/2020
Meave Leakey: 'Definitely, Africa is where it all began'

This week's fun Friday reading post is a recent interview in The Guardian with paleoanthropologist Meave Leakey, professor at Stony Brook University and director of field research at the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya. Read about how she got into paleoanthropology, how she balanced research and motherhood, some of her important discoveries, what her ultimate find would be - and why her new memoir "The Sediments of Time: My Lifelong Search for the Past" doesn't include a family tree diagram. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/nov/21/meave-leakey-definitely-africa-is-where-it-all-began

The renowned fossil hunter on the anti-African prejudice in palaeontology, her dream discovery, and bathing her daughter beside a baby hippo

Are you a dog owner? Would you like to contribute to a new study on canine communication and co-evolution with humans ou...
12/03/2020

Are you a dog owner? Would you like to contribute to a new study on canine communication and co-evolution with humans out of the Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology, GW? Participation involves a consent form, taking a 5-minute survey, and recording a total of two minutes' worth of videos of your dog. For more info, visit http://howdogstalk.org.

A new study led by University of Kent's Ameline Bardo and published in Scientific Reports used 3D mapping to analyze the...
12/01/2020
Neanderthals may have used their hands differently from humans

A new study led by University of Kent's Ameline Bardo and published in Scientific Reports used 3D mapping to analyze the joints between the bones responsible for thumb movement in Neanderthals and modern humans and found that we used our hands differently than our evolutionary cousins; they were probably not as good at using precision grips as we are. https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/27/world/neanderthal-human-hands-thumb-grip-scn/index.html

If you were to greet a Neanderthal with a handshake, it might feel a little awkward. Homo neanderthalensis had chunkier fingers compared to human digits -- and used their hands differently from us, a new study suggests.

Another recent SAPIENS piece: this one describing a new study led by Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II's Pasq...
11/30/2020
Climate Change May Have Been a Major Driver of Ancient Hominin Extinctions

Another recent SAPIENS piece: this one describing a new study led by Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II's Pasquale Raia that suggests at least two species of 𝘏𝘰𝘮𝘰 may have gone extinct due to their increased vulnerability to climate change. https://www.sapiens.org/archaeology/hominin-extinctions/

A new study suggests at least two close relatives of Homo sapiens may have died out as their environments changed.

Today's Friday fun reading post features Mirriam Tawane, Curator of the Plio-Pleistocene collection at the Ditsong Natio...
11/27/2020
Conversations with: Dr Mirriam Tawane

Today's Friday fun reading post features Mirriam Tawane, Curator of the Plio-Pleistocene collection at the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History. in South Africa! Read about her journey to become the the first black South African female to qualify as a paleoanthropologist in 2012, her research in dental morphology of hominins, her passion for public engagement in human evolution (including presenting human evolution workshops at schools), one of her current efforts - a national project to get museums in South Africa curating all Humanities related collections working together for the benefits of the heritage objects in the country, and what she considers the best thing about her job: teaching! "When you present a tour of the collection to scholars with little knowledge about evolution; and you start to observe them grasping the concept; and the confusion slowly disappears from their faces...". https://conversationsinhumanevolution.wordpress.com/2020/10/22/conversations-with-dr-mirriam-tawane/

Today, I am delighted to introduce Dr Mirriam Tawane, Curator of the Plio-Pleistocene collection at the DITSONG: National Museum of Natural History in South Africa! Mirriam was awarded her Bac…

Are your favorite Thanksgiving foods "paleo"? Check out this short piece in Smithsonian Magazine from 2016 by our own Br...
11/26/2020
This Thanksgiving, Try the Real Paleo Diet

Are your favorite Thanksgiving foods "paleo"? Check out this short piece in Smithsonian Magazine from 2016 by our own Briana Pobiner to find out. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/blogs/national-museum-of-natural-history/2016/11/22/thanksgiving-try-real-paleo-diet/

With Thanksgiving almost here, many people are looking forward to turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. But as a scientist who studies what people ate in the deep past - the real paleo diet – I’m bracing myself for the inevitable questions from people who want to know what’s on t...

Our colleague Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History Curator of Archaeobotany Logan Kistler's research using D...
11/25/2020
Our Thanksgiving Menu has Lost a Few Crops

Our colleague Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History Curator of Archaeobotany Logan Kistler's research using DNA sequences of extinct domesticated crop seeds to understand how modern crops evolved is featured in this Thanksgiving-themed Smithsonian Magazine article. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/blogs/national-museum-of-natural-history/2020/11/24/our-thanksgiving-menu-has-lost-few-crops/

Studying the domestication of any crop that people once ate helps scientists reveal how modern crops have evolved.

Today's Friday fun reading post features University of Liverpool Paleolithic archaeologist Jennifer French! Read about h...
11/20/2020
Conversations with: Dr Jennifer French

Today's Friday fun reading post features University of Liverpool Paleolithic archaeologist Jennifer French! Read about her research on the European Middle and Upper Paleolithic, archaeological demography (including an approach that integrates the study of demography with the study of women and of gender in prehistoric contexts), and the integration of Paleolithic archaeology with the wider anthropological sub-field of hunter-gatherer studies, her career path and experiences as a first generation university student, a project “Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to Prehistoric Demography (CROSSDEM)" she is co-leading, and what she does and does not like about being an academic. https://conversationsinhumanevolution.wordpress.com/2020/09/11/conversations-with-dr-jennifer-french/

After a brief break, I am very pleased to introduce my next guest Dr Jennifer French, who is currently heading to the Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology at the University of Liverpo…

Has your cat been joining you during your Zoom meetings lately? (No, just us? 🤔) Well, a new study led by KU Leuven's Cl...
11/18/2020
Ancient feline DNA suggests cats have been man’s best friends for thousands of years: study

Has your cat been joining you during your Zoom meetings lately? (No, just us? 🤔) Well, a new study led by KU Leuven's Claudio Ottoni documented the spread of cats by humans through the world using ancient cat DNA and found that while humans and dogs seem to have had a strong influence on each other, "even the structure of a cat’s genes remains as aloof to humans as their personalities". https://www.pennlive.com/life/2020/11/ancient-feline-dna-suggests-cats-have-been-mans-best-friends-for-thousands-of-years-study.html

An extensive survey of ancient DNA cat analysis explores when and how cats became domesticated, as well as their genetic comparison to their feline ancestors.

Read this Guardian US article about amazingly preserved ancient artifacts found in melting glacial ice in Mongolia and o...
11/17/2020
Secrets of the ice: unlocking a melting time capsule

Read this Guardian US article about amazingly preserved ancient artifacts found in melting glacial ice in Mongolia and other glacial archaeology discoveries, as well as the Canadian Yukon Ice Patch Project, which partners six First Nations tribes in whose territory the ice fields are located. https://amp.theguardian.com/science/2020/nov/01/secrets-of-the-ice-unlocking-a-melting-time-capsule-archaeology-glaciers

As the Earth’s ice melts, large numbers of perfectly preserved ancient artefacts are being revealed. But time is running out and ‘glacial archaeologists’ are racing to find these fragile treasures

Our own Briana Pobiner is featured in the recent Bunch of Apes relaunch podcast episode, talking about paleodiets and mo...
11/16/2020
Relaunch Episode 1: Briana Pobiner. Expert in Early Hominin diets

Our own Briana Pobiner is featured in the recent Bunch of Apes relaunch podcast episode, talking about paleodiets and more - check it out on SoundCloud https://soundcloud.com/bunchofapes/pobiner20 or YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JnlJy-4tKw&fbclid=IwAR1ANZ9CUV7UcU3eylhT5nLITm34ZA1kEWGEbPm_z8f6CFQXWQ3E5WJUNsM!

In this first episode of the relaunch, I am joined by Briana Pobiner, research Scientist and Museum Educator at Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Briana studied Evolutionary Anthropolo

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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?