Open Questions: Human Evolution
See also: Evolutionary theory
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
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
- A major site devoted to human origins and evolution. Site features
human evolution timeline,
hominid fossil gallery,
external links, and a
glossary of pertinent terms.
- Excellent BBC site (in spite of the title) with a variety of
features on human evolution. Includes
frequently asked questions,
fact files, a
news stories, and a
Walking with Cavemen
- Another BBC site about human evolution, based on a
four-episode TV series.
- Material from part of a PBS series. Includes a large number of
articles, interviews, videos, recommended readings, and links.
Best accessed through the
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
- Overloaded with "multimedia", but it does claim to offer
news, external links, and a "learning center".
Contains lists of resources: glossary, bibliography, and
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
Surveys, overviews, tutorials
Evolution of Homo sapiens
- Article from
Behavioral and Biological Origins of Modern Humans
- Very good overview lecture by Richard G. Klein, at the
It's a pretty good place to start.
- 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
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.
- 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
"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
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
Rooting the Human Family Tree in Africa
- December 2000 Scientific American news article about
mitochondrial DNA evidence for the "out of Africa" hypothesis.
- 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
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
- 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
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.
Water's Edge Ancestors
Science News, August 13, 2011
- Human evolution's tide may have turned on lake and sea shores.
Homo Sapiens, Meet Your New Astounding Family
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
Science News, January 16, 2010
- Ardi shakes up the fossil record.
Science News, March 24, 2007
- Our prehistoric ancestors journeyed out of Africa on
Evolution's Mystery Woman
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
Science News, June 11, 2005
- Researchers debate claims of monogamy for Lucy and her ancient kin.
- The Littlest Human
Scientific American, February 2005
Humanity's Strange Face
Science News, May 22, 2004
- Stone Age skull stokes debate over what it takes to be human.
- Family Ties
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.
Stranger in a New Land
Scientific American, November 2003, pp.
- An Ancestor to Call Our Own
Scientific American, January 2003,
Food for Thought
William R. Leonard
Scientific American, December 2002, pp.
- How We Came to Be Human
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
Science News, November 25, 2000
- The science of body development may make kindling out
of evolutionary trees.
- Who Were the Neandertals?
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
- Once We Were Not Alone
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
DNA's Evolutionary Dilemma
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
- Out of Africa Again ... and Again?
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
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
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.
- 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
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
- 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.
Copyright © 2002-04 by Charles Daney, All Rights Reserved