Open Questions: Human Evolution

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See also: Evolutionary theory

Introduction

Earliest hominids

First "real" humans

Homo erectus

Homo floresiensis

Neanderthals

Modern humans

Early migrations of modern humans


Recommended references: Web sites

Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

Recommended references: Books

Introduction

The question of human origins exerts a widespread fascination. It is a lot like our curiosity about our much more recent family genealogy. We want to know who our ancestors were, what kind of people they were, in order to understand ourselves better.

What exactly might we hope to learn from such studies? What might they enlighten us about?

Our habits, our behavior, our instincts, for one thing. Why do humans fight so viciously among themselves, for example? And why, at other times, are they capable of almost unparallelled cooperation and generosity within their social units? When and where did we acquire our noteworthy skills, such as language, foresight, and abstract thought?

Questions like these are almost endless. They are the province of the field known as evolutionary psychology. But in order to pursue this avenue of investigation we first need to determine (as best we can) the actual facts of our evolutionary history.


Earliest hominids


First "real" humans


Modern humans



Recommended references: Web sites

Site indexes

Open Directory Project: Human Evolution
Categorized and annotated links. A version of this list is at Google, with entries sorted in "page rank" order. May also be found at Netscape.
Human Evolution Websites
Excellent list of links with good annotations, from the Look at Modern Human Origins site.
Links in Paleoanthropology, Paleontology, Evolution, and Related Subjects
Moderate number of links with good annotations. Part of the Smithsonian's Human Origins Program site.
The Leakey Foundation: External Links
Covers anthropology, general science, and primate behavior, as well as human origins and evolution.
Galaxy: Human Evolution
Categorized site directory. Entries usually include descriptive annotations.

Sites with general resources

Fossil Hominids: The Evidence for Human Evolution
Also known as the Talk.Origns Archive, a FAQ page for the talk.origins newsgroup. Contains a variety of articles on paleoanthropology, lists of hominid species and fossil finds, paleoanthropology links, other external links, and other useful material.
A Look at Modern Human Origins
A very good site on the subject, by David Kreger. Features include a research papers, a message board, and external links.
The Smithsonian Institution Human Origins Program
Best feature of this site is the educational and tutorial material in the Hall of Human Ancestors. Also contains some external links.
Archaeology.info
A major site devoted to human origins and evolution. Site features include a general overview, human evolution timeline, hominid fossil gallery, external links, and a glossary of pertinent terms.
Ape-man
Excellent BBC site (in spite of the title) with a variety of features on human evolution. Includes external links, frequently asked questions, fact files, a reading list, news stories, and a glossary.
Walking with Cavemen
Another BBC site about human evolution, based on a four-episode TV series.
Evolution: Humans
Material from part of a PBS series. Includes a large number of articles, interviews, videos, recommended readings, and links. Best accessed through the library page.
The Institute of Human Origins
"The Institute of Human Origins (IHO) conducts, interprets and publicizes scientific research on the human career." There is a FAQ about "Lucy". Educational information on human origins is located at the Becoming Human Web site.
Becoming Human: Paleoanthropology, Evolution, and Human Origins
Overloaded with "multimedia", but it does claim to offer news, external links, and a "learning center". Contains lists of resources: glossary, bibliography, and external links. Developed by the Institute of Human Origins.
The Leakey Foundation
"The mission of the Leakey Foundation is to increase scientific knowledge and public understanding of human origins and evolution." Site includes information on foundation programs and activities, plus educational resources, such as a bibliography, glossary, and external links.

Surveys, overviews, tutorials

Evolution of Homo sapiens
Article from Wikipedia. See also Single-origin hypothesis, Multi-regional origin.
Behavioral and Biological Origins of Modern Humans
Very good overview lecture by Richard G. Klein, at the BioForum site. It's a pretty good place to start.
Human Evolution
A chapter from the On-line Biology Book by M. J. Farabee. Some external links included.
The Evolution of Man
Brief overview. Part of the Hooper Virtual Paleontological Museum.
Toumai - 'The Hope of Life'
Transcript of a July 2002 radio program that discussed the recent discovery of the ancient hominid Sahelanthropus chadensis.
Salvaged DNA adds to Neandertal's mystique
April 2000 Science News news article about an analysis of Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA.
DNA's evolutionary dilemma
February 1999 Science News article about the use of DNA to make inferences about human evolution.
Hobbit Hubbub
August 2006 Scientific American In Focus article, subtitled "New study stirs debate over mini human species."
Was the Hobbit Just a Sick Modern Human?
September 2006 Scientific American Sidebar about the contention that "Hobbit" fossils are actually the remains of a modern human with microcephaly.
Y Chromosome Study Suggests Asians, Too, Came from Africa
May 2001 Scientific American news article about evidence that supports the "out of Africa" hypotheses for the origins of modern humans.
"Out of Africa" in Asia
May 2001 news article about genetic studies of the Y chromosomes of 12,127 East Asian men that support the out of Africa model of modern human origins.
Another blow for Out of Africa?
February 2001 news article about an analysis of fossils from China that are at least 620,000 years old and suggest evolution of modern humans outside of Africa.
The Modern Human Origins Morass
January 2001 Scientific American In Focus article that considers implications of new findings about Neandertal mitochondrial DNA.
Further controversy on human origins
January 2001 news article about an analysis of fossil skulls from Australia, central Europe, and other locations outside of Africa that suggests modern humans may have evolved independently outside of Africa.
Paleolithic Pit Stop
December 2000 Scientific American article subtitled "A French site suggests Neandertals and early modern humans behaved similarly".
Rooting the Human Family Tree in Africa
December 2000 Scientific American news article about mitochondrial DNA evidence for the "out of Africa" hypothesis.
Global Positioning
August 2000 Scientific American article subtitled "New fossils revise the time when humans colonized the earth".
Old Bones, New Connections
August 1999 Scientific American Explore article, subtitled "A recently unearthed fossil has scientists rethinking early hominoid evolution."
Is Out of Africa Going Out the Door?
August 1999 Scientific American In Focus article which presents arguments in favor of the "multiregional hypotheses" and against the "out of Africa hypothesis" of modern human origins.
Out of Africa, Into Asia
January 1999 Scientfic American story, subtitled "Controversial DNA studies link Asian hunter-gatherers to African pygmies".
Ancestral Quandry
January 1998 Scientfic American story, subtitled "Neanderthals not our ancestors? Not so fast".
Rambling Road to Humanity
June 1997 Scientific American Explore article, subtitled "Anthropologists debunk another myth of evolutionary progress."
Fossil Skull Diversifies Family Tree
March 2001 article in Science News about a 3.5 million year old fossil skull believed to be a representative of a type of australopithecine.
Ancient Asian Tools Crossed the Line
March 2000 artile in Science News about discovery of relatively sophisticated hand axes in China.
Fossil may expose humanity's hybrid roots
May 1999 news article in Science News, about discovery of a 24,500-year-old skeleton that could be a hybrid between modern humans and Neanderthals.
Early man lived on varied diet
January 1999 news article about the variet diet that may have been consumed by Australopithecus africanus.


Recommended references: Magazine/journal articles

Water's Edge Ancestors
Bruce Bower
Science News, August 13, 2011
Human evolution's tide may have turned on lake and sea shores.
Homo Sapiens, Meet Your New Astounding Family
Jill Neimark
Discover, May 2011
Once we shared the planet with other human species, competing with them and interbreeding with them. Today we stand alone, but our rivals' genes live on inside us - even as their remarkable stories are only now coming to light.
Evolution's Bad Girl
Bruce Bower
Science News, January 16, 2010
Ardi shakes up the fossil record.
Mysterious Migrations
Bruce Bower
Science News, March 24, 2007
Our prehistoric ancestors journeyed out of Africa on contested roads.
Evolution's Mystery Woman
Bruce Bower
Science News, November 18, 2006
Disagreements rage about tiny ancient islanders.
The People Time Forgot
Mike Morwood; Thomas Sutikna; Richard Roberts
National Geographic, April 2005, pp 2-15
The article describes the startling recent discovery of the Homo erectus-like hominid species known as Homo floresiensis.
[Additional resources]
Faithful Ancestors
Bruce Bower
Science News, June 11, 2005
Researchers debate claims of monogamy for Lucy and her ancient kin.
The Littlest Human
Kate Wong
Scientific American, February 2005
Humanity's Strange Face
Bruce Bower
Science News, May 22, 2004
Stone Age skull stokes debate over what it takes to be human.
Family Ties
Josh Fischman
National Geographic, April 2004, pp. 16-27
Thousands of miles from the island of Flores 1.8 million year old skeletons of a very different branch of the Homo erectus lineage were discovered near Dmanisi in the republic of Georgia.
[Additional resources]
Stranger in a New Land
Kate Wong
Scientific American, November 2003, pp.
An Ancestor to Call Our Own
Kate Wong
Scientific American, January 2003,
Food for Thought
William R. Leonard
Scientific American, December 2002, pp.
How We Came to Be Human
Ian Tattersall
Scientific American, December 2001, pp. 56-63
In an excerpt from his book, The Monkey in the Mirror, the author argues that use of language and symbolic art are the most essential differences between humans and other animals.
Out on a Limb
Bruce Bower
Science News, November 25, 2000
The science of body development may make kindling out of evolutionary trees.
Who Were the Neandertals?
Kate Wong
Scientific American, April 2000, pp. 98-107
The notion that Neandertals were a completely separate species from modern humans may be wrong. Neandertals may have interbred with, and more closely resembled, Homo sapiens than is commonly supposed.
Once We Were Not Alone
Ian Tattersall
Scientific American, January 2000, pp. 56-62
During most of the over 4 million years that hominids have been around it was apparently common for several species to coexist in the same areas. The interesting question is how it happens that H. sapiens is the only hominid species remaining.
DNA's Evolutionary Dilemma
Bruce Bower
Science News, February 6, 1999
Genetic studies collide with the mystery of human evolution.
Early Hominid Fossils from Africa
Meave Leakey; Alan Walker
Scientific American, June 1997, pp. 74-79
A species of the Australopithecus genus recently discovered near Lake Turkana in Africa -- A. anamensis -- appears to have lived about 4 million years ago and to represent the oldest known bipedal hominid.
Out of Africa Again ... and Again?
Ian Tattersall
Scientific American, April 1997, pp. 60-67
Precursors of Homo sapiens may have emigrated from Africa more than once.
The African Emergence and Early Asian Dispersals of the Genus Homo
Roy Larick, Russell L. Ciochon
American Scientist, November-December 1996, pp. 538-551
New fossil evidence of hominids in Asia suggests an arrival time as long as 2 million years ago.
East Side Story: The Origin of Humankind
Yves Coppens
Scientific American, May 1994, pp. 88-95
Based on genetic evidence, humans and chimpanzees are each other's closest living relative. But the date of their last common ancestor is uncertain, with paleontology and molecular genetics suggesting very different dates. Conditions in the Rift Valley of Africa over the disputed time span may provide essential clues to the answer.


Recommended references: Books

William H. Calvin -- A Brain for All Seasons: Human Evolution & Abrupt Climate Change
University of Chicago Press, 2002
Calvin has written a number of books on the human brain and human evolution. In this one he considers the recently understood fact that Earth's climate has undergone significant and abrupt changes during the last few million years, and the implications of this for human evolution during that time.
Bryan Sykes -- The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science that Reveals our Genetic Ancestry
W. W. Norton & Company, 2001
"Eve" is the female who has been indicated, from studies of mitochondrial DNA, to have lived about 150,000 years ago and been the direct maternal ancestor of all humans alive today. Her seven "daughters" (actually much later descendents) are in their turn direct maternal ancestors of seven distinguishable lineages of modern Europeans. Through fictional accounts of seven women, Geneticist Sykes tells the story of how DNA is read to understand our ancestry.
Ian Tattersall -- Becoming Human: Evolution and Human Uniqueness
Harcourt Brace & Company, 1998
Tattersall begins this book with a chapter on the "creative explosion" which occurred when anatomically modern humans (Cro-Magnons) appeared on the scene and relatively quickly (it seems) supplanted the Neanderthals. This development encompassed diverse innovations, including language, thought, and art. It sets the stage for the theme of the remainder of the book: the question of what it is that makes us different from our predecessors, and how this difference came about.
Christopher Stringer; Robin McKie -- African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity
Henry Holt and Company, 1996
This work gives a clear presentation of the origins of modern humans (H. sapiens) from the viewpoint of the theory which holds that our species evolved solely in Africa and spread outward only about 100,000 years ago. Stringer (in particular) has been one of the main advocates of this theory, which is now fairly strongly supported by genetic evidence.
Ian Tattersall -- The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know about Human Evolution
Oxford University Press, 1995
Tattersall vividly presents both the best current reconstructions of how humans evolved as well as the scientific techniques that substantiate these reconstructions. The book makes more convincing what may seem to be a very conjectural subject
Elaine Morgan -- The Scars of Evolution: What Our Bodies Tell Us About Human Origins
Oxford University Press, 1994
The author is one of the main proponents and defenders of the theory that the human ancestry includes a species which was primarily adapted to spending a great deal of time in the water. In this book she discusses a variety of evidence for this theory from human physiology.
Richard Leakey -- The Origin of Humankind
Basic Books, 1994
Leakey is (of course) a distinguished student of human evolution, along with both his parents. This short volume presents an overview of human evolution from our earliest human-like ancestors to the emergence of art, language, and the modern brain.
Roger Lewin -- The Origin of Modern Humans
Scientific American Library, 1993
Lewin provides a good overview of the subject in a relatively brief volume. The focus is specifically on modern humans -- Homo sapiens. When and where did this new species appear? Equal treatment is given to the two main theories -- the single and multiple region hypotheses.

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