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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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

A team led by Utah State University's Stefani Crabtree modeled human movement to understand the most likely routes that ...
05/04/2021
We mapped the 'super-highways' the First Australians used to cross the ancient land

A team led by Utah State University's Stefani Crabtree modeled human movement to understand the most likely routes that the earliest Indigenous Australian used as they populated the continent tens of thousands of years ago - creating more than 125 billion possible pathways from everywhere on the continent to everywhere else in the largest movement simulation of its kind ever attempted.
https://theconversation.com/we-mapped-the-super-highways-the-first-australians-used-to-cross-the-ancient-land-154263

We now have a glimpse into where early Indigenous Australians likely travelled all those tens of thousands of years ago.

A recent study by a team led by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Ron Shaar confirmed that early humans were making O...
05/03/2021
Researchers unveil oldest evidence of human activity in African desert cave

A recent study by a team led by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Ron Shaar confirmed that early humans were making Oldowan stone tools inside Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa 1.8 million years ago. Wonderwerk is unique among Oldowan sites because it is a cave and not an open-air occurrence. The team also dated the shift to making Acheulean tools and the deliberate use of fire at Wonderwerk to 1 million years ago. https://phys.org/news/2021-04-unveil-oldest-evidence-human-african.html

Few sites in the world preserve a continuous archaeological record spanning millions of years. Wonderwerk Cave, located in South Africa's Kalahari Desert, is one of those rare sites. Meaning "miracle" in Afrikaans, Wonderwerk Cave has been identified as potentially the earliest cave occupation in th...

A recent study led by Arizona State University's Claudine Gravel-Miguel used an agent-based model and ran over 2,400 sim...
04/29/2021
New research suggests projectile weapons were used regularly during the Middle Stone Age

A recent study led by Arizona State University's Claudine Gravel-Miguel used an agent-based model and ran over 2,400 simulations, and concluded that even the small numbers of projectile weapons discovered in early archaeological sites may indicate that projectile weapons were used daily. This is because the majority of projectile tools are consistently lost during hunting and only a few tools are discarded at habitation camps, which are locations that would likely accumulate enough other artifacts to be archaeologically visible. https://news.asu.edu/20210412-new-research-suggests-projectile-weapons-were-used-regularly-during-middle-stone-age

The number of stone points used as projectiles by hunters in the Middle Stone Age fluctuates at archaeological sites, making it difficult to define when this technology was first widely adopted. A new model suggests it is because they were used regularly but discarded widely in the ancient landscape...

A recent study led by Keck School of Medicine of USC's Kristian Carlson using micro-CT scans determined that the bones o...
04/28/2021
Analysis of famed fossil helps unlock when humans and apes diverged

A recent study led by Keck School of Medicine of USC's Kristian Carlson using micro-CT scans determined that the bones of the shoulder girdle (the shoulder blades and joints and collarbones) of the 3.67 million-year-old "Little Foot" fossils from Sterkfontein, South Africa suggests it limbed trees, hung below branches, and used its hands overhead to support its weight. Those conclusions mean that the structural similarities in the shoulder between humans and African apes are much more recent, and persisted much longer, than has been previously proposed. https://news.usc.edu/184862/little-foot-fossil-analysis-human-ape-evolution-usc-research/

The USC-led study uncovered new evolutionary insights via the shoulder assembly of Little Foot, an Australopithecus that lived more than 3 million years ago.

A study by a team led by The University of Arizona's David Enard analyzed DNA from more than 2,000 people and determined...
04/27/2021
Hints of an ancient coronavirus outbreak appear in modern East Asian DNA

A study by a team led by The University of Arizona's David Enard analyzed DNA from more than 2,000 people and determined that an ancient coronavirus, or a closely related pathogen, triggered an epidemic among ancestors of present-day East Asians roughly 25,000 years ago. The study was recently presented at the online American Association of Physical Anthropologists conference. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/ancient-coronavirus-epidemic-east-asia-dna-covid

An ancient viral outbreak may have left a genetic mark in East Asians that possibly influences their responses to the virus that causes COVID-19.

A recent study led by UMBC's Erle Ellis (and including Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's archaeologist To...
04/26/2021
New Study Pushes Origins of Human-Driven Global Change Back Thousands of Years

A recent study led by UMBC's Erle Ellis (and including Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's archaeologist Torben Rick) concluded that human-driven global landscape change began at least 12,000 years ago. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/blogs/national-museum-of-natural-history/2021/04/19/new-study-pushes-origins-human-driven-global-change-back-thousands-years/

Understanding people’s past land use strategies could help us better conserve global biodiversity now.

Today's Friday fun reading post is an article in The Conversation by Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human Histo...
04/23/2021
Archaeology in West Africa could rewrite the textbooks on human evolution

Today's Friday fun reading post is an article in The Conversation by Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History's Eleanor Scerri, outlining the importance of West Africa in the study of human evolution. https://theconversation.com/archaeology-in-west-africa-could-rewrite-the-textbooks-on-human-evolution-157610

New evidence affirms that significant, long-standing inter-group cultural differences shaped the later stages of human evolution in Africa.

Using organic residue analysis, a team led by University of Bristol's Julie Dunne found that much of the 3,500 year old ...
04/22/2021
West Africans Hunted for Honey 3,500 Years Ago | Archaeology | Sci-News.com

Using organic residue analysis, a team led by University of Bristol's Julie Dunne found that much of the 3,500 year old pottery used by people from the Nigerian Nok culture were used to process or store beeswax - indicating they were exploiting honey. http://www.sci-news.com/archaeology/nok-people-honey-09558.html

A team of researchers from the University of Bristol and Goethe University analyzed lipid residues from 458 prehistoric pottery vessels of the Nok culture, Nigeria, West Africa.

A team led by American Museum of Natural History's Ashley Hammond secured the age of a fossil 𝘏𝘰𝘮𝘰 𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘴 skull fragmen...
04/21/2021
New, and old, hominin fossils from Kenya

A team led by American Museum of Natural History's Ashley Hammond secured the age of a fossil 𝘏𝘰𝘮𝘰 𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘴 skull fragment found nearly 50 years ago in East Turkana, Kenya, at 1.9 million years old - and found two new 𝘏𝘰𝘮𝘰 𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘴 fossils (part of a pelvis and a foot bone) close by to where the skull fragment was found These new fossils may be the earliest known postcranial fossils of 𝘏𝘰𝘮𝘰 𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘴. https://natureecoevocommunity.nature.com/posts/early-appearance-of-homo-erectus-in-eastern-africa

Detective work sorts out the context of an important hominin fossil recovered from Kenya in the 1970s. The presence of this hominin at ~1.9 million years ago in East Turkana answers essential questions. It raises new ones too.

A team led by Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology's Benjamon Vernot and Matthais Meyer extracted Neandert...
04/19/2021
DNA from cave dirt tells tale of how some Neanderthals disappeared

A team led by Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology's Benjamon Vernot and Matthais Meyer extracted Neanderthal nuclear DNA from 105,000 year old cave dirt from Galería de las Estatuas (Estatuas cave) in Spain. The ancient DNA suggests that one group of Neanderthals replaced another in the Spanish cave about 100,000 years ago, perhaps after a climate cooling. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/04/dna-cave-dirt-tells-tale-how-some-neanderthals-disappeared

First nuclear DNA from sediment shows turnover, migration among ancient cave dwellers in Spain

Today's Friday fun reading post is a Scientific American article by Lydia Denworth about what monkeys can teach humans a...
04/16/2021
What Monkeys Can Teach Humans about Resilience after Disaster

Today's Friday fun reading post is a Scientific American article by Lydia Denworth about what monkeys can teach humans about resilience after disaster. The article is based on a study led by University of Pennsylvania's Camille Testard of how rhesus macaques on the island of Cayo Santiago near Puerto Rico recovered after Hurricane Maria hit in September 2017. Spoiler alert: they became more social, more accepting of each other, and built new relationships, despite fewer available resources and potentially greater competition. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-monkeys-can-teach-humans-about-resilience-after-disaster/

Following Hurricane Maria, a Puerto Rican colony of rhesus macaques broadened their social networks. Could humans do the same post-COVID?

A team led by University of Zurich's Marcia Ponce de León analyzed high resolution brain endocasts of five 𝘏𝘰𝘮𝘰 𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘴 ...
04/15/2021
Our earliest ancestors weren’t as brainy as we thought, fossil skulls suggest

A team led by University of Zurich's Marcia Ponce de León analyzed high resolution brain endocasts of five 𝘏𝘰𝘮𝘰 𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘶𝘴 skulls from Dmanisi, Republic of Georgia, currently the oldest fossil skulls from outside of Africa dating at between 1.85-1.77 million years ago, concluded that the frontal lobes of these individuals were less like modern humans and more like living great apes and earlier 𝘈𝘶𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘭𝘰𝘱𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘤𝘶𝘴 species. They also studied endocasts of 34 other fossils from various species of 𝘏𝘰𝘮𝘰 dating to between 2 million and 70,000 years ago and found that fossils younger than 1.5 million years old often had more modern human-like frontal lobes, perhaps indicating that our lineage developed the capacity for complex language at that time. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/04/our-earliest-ancestors-weren-t-brainy-we-thought-fossil-skulls-suggest

Homo erectus endocasts reveal a mixed bag of primitive and modern brain features

Don't miss this American Museum of Natural History free online James Arthur lecture by evolutionary anthropologist Lesli...
04/14/2021
Lecture: Expensive Tissue Hypothesis Revisited - 4/28/21 | AMNH

Don't miss this American Museum of Natural History free online James Arthur lecture by evolutionary anthropologist Leslie Aiello on Wednesday, April 28th at 5:00 pm ET. Aiello will discuss the current significance of the Expensive Tissue Hypothesis, which she developed with Peter Wheeler in 1995, to our understanding of the evolution of humans and the human brain. https://www.amnh.org/calendar/expensive-tissue-hypothesis-lecture

Anthropologist Leslie Aiello explores advances in evolutionary biology since the introduction of this influential theory 25 years ago.

A team led by Griffith University's Michelle Langley analyzed bone tools from Riwi Cave in the Kimberley region of Austr...
04/13/2021
Bone tools from the Kimberley among oldest in Australia

A team led by Griffith University's Michelle Langley analyzed bone tools from Riwi Cave in the Kimberley region of Australia and found that they are among the oldest in the country, dating to between 35,000 and 46,000 years old. The bone tools were used for activities which don't typically leave other archaeological traces, like making baskets, working skins, and digging up or working resin. This new evidence of the tools’ significant age also demonstrates the deep history and powerful continuity of First Nations cultures in Australia. https://cosmosmagazine.com/history/archaeology/bone-tools-from-the-kimberley-among-oldest-in-australia/

A new study of bone tools found in a Kimberley cave has revealed they are among the oldest in the country, and carry marks that hint at their ancient uses.

Two exciting ancient genetic studies were published last week! In one, a team led by Max Planck Institute for Evolutiona...
04/12/2021
More than 45,000 years ago, modern humans ventured into Neanderthal territory. Here’s what happened next

Two exciting ancient genetic studies were published last week! In one, a team led by Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology's Mateka Hajdinjak and Svante Pääbo presented genome-wide data from three individuals dated to between 45,930 and 42,580 years ago from Bacho Kiro Cave in Bulgaria. They found that they belonged to a modern human migration into Europe that was not previously known from the genetic record, providing evidence that there was at least some continuity between the earliest modern humans in Europe and later people in Eurasia, and that all three individuals had Neanderthal ancestors a few generations back in their family history, confirming that the first European modern humans mixed with Neanderthals and suggesting that such mixing could have been common. In the other, a team led by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History's Kay Prüfer
and Johannes Krause from skull from Zlatý kůň cave in the Czech Republic dated to at least 45,000 years ago was no more closely related to ancient Asians than to Europeans. This suggests she came from an ancient population that had not yet differentiated genetically into Asians and Europeans. The new data show that all of the mod­ern human lineages in Europe vanished by the last ice age, which reached its peak about 20,000 years ago. After the ice melted, other modern humans from Eur­asia repopulated the continent. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/04/more-45000-years-ago-modern-humans-ventured-neanderthal-territory-here-s-what-happened

The oldest modern human genomes in Europe tell stories of diverse origins, ancient trysts

Today's Friday fun reading features University of Toronto's biological anthropologist Lauren Schroeder! Read about her r...
04/09/2021
Conversations with: Dr Lauren Schroeder

Today's Friday fun reading features University of Toronto's biological anthropologist Lauren Schroeder! Read about her research using innovative quantitative methods and theory from evolutionary biology to understand on evolutionary processes and variability in hominin morphological evolution, her engagement in decolonization initiatives aimed to transform the field of biological anthropology, how her early interest in dinosaurs led her to paleoanthropology, what she thinks the most revolutionary discoveries in paleoanthropology have been over the part 5 years, what she would want to see if she had a time machine, and what advice she would give to someone interested in studying paleoanthropology (spoiler alert: it needs to be your passion and make you happy). https://conversationsinhumanevolution.com/2021/04/01/conversations-with-dr-lauren-schroeder/

Today’s conversation is with Dr Lauren Schroeder, Assistant Professor in Biological Anthropology at the University of Toronto! Lauren received her PhD in Palaeoanthropology from the Universit…

A recent study led by Harvard University's Stephen Ferrigno suggests that baboons can solve abstract reasoning problems ...
04/07/2021

A recent study led by Harvard University's Stephen Ferrigno suggests that baboons can solve abstract reasoning problems using a cognitive tool called disjunctive syllogism (given A or B, if not A, then B) previously thought to be a uniquely human capacity among primates - and indicating that this capacity does not require language. https://www.technologynetworks.com/neuroscience/news/study-shows-baboons-like-humans-can-solve-abstract-reasoning-tasks-346926

A recent study led by Harvard University's Stephen Ferrigno suggests that baboons can solve abstract reasoning problems using a cognitive tool called disjunctive syllogism (given A or B, if not A, then B) previously thought to be a uniquely human capacity among primates - and indicating that this capacity does not require language. https://www.technologynetworks.com/neuroscience/news/study-shows-baboons-like-humans-can-solve-abstract-reasoning-tasks-346926

Check out this article about how France-Berkeley Fund recipients Leslea Hlusko and Jean-Renaud Boisserie explore hominid...
04/06/2021

Check out this article about how France-Berkeley Fund recipients Leslea Hlusko and Jean-Renaud Boisserie explore hominid evolution across millennia through fossilized teeth from the Omo Valley in Ethiopia. https://fbf.berkeley.edu/blog/hominid-evolution-omo-told-teeth

Check out this article about how France-Berkeley Fund recipients Leslea Hlusko and Jean-Renaud Boisserie explore hominid evolution across millennia through fossilized teeth from the Omo Valley in Ethiopia. https://fbf.berkeley.edu/blog/hominid-evolution-omo-told-teeth

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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?