Early Humans

Homo is the genus of great apes that includes modern humans and species closely related to them. The genus is estimated to be about 2.3 to 2.4 million years old, possibly having evolved from australopithecine ancestors, with the appearance of Homo habilis. Several species, including Australopithecus garhi, Australopithecus sediba, Australopithecus africanus, and Australopithecus afarensis, have been proposed as the direct ancestor of the Homo lineage. These species have morphological features that align them with Homo, but there is no consensus on which gave rise to Homo, assuming it was not an as-yet undiscovered species. Read more ...

In the News ...

Scientists describe 'enigmatic' species that lived in Utah some 500 million years ago   PhysOrg - October 12, 2017

To the untrained eye, it looks like a flower crudely etched into rock - as if a child had scratched a picture of a bloom. But to the late fossil hunter Lloyd Gunther, the tulip shape he unearthed at Antimony Canyon in northern Utah looked like the remnant of an ancient marine animal. Years ago, Gunther collected the rock and later gave it to researchers at the University of Kansas' Biodiversity Institute—just one among thousands of such fossils he donated to the institute over the years. But this find was the only fossilized specimen of a species previously unknown to science - an "obscure" stalked filter feeder.

Intact Spine of Hominin Toddler Revealed for 1st Time   Live Science - May 23, 2017
The lonely fossil of a 2.5-year-old early human ancestor has revealed for the first time that the spines of ancient hominins were a lot like ours - and a lot not. New research, published today reveals that Australopithecus afarensis, a human ancestor that lived 3 million years ago, had the same number of lumbar and thoracic vertebrae as humans. But the young hominin, nicknamed "Selam," for the Amharic word for "peace," showed a markedly different transition between her upper and lower back, one that may have given her a boost for bipedal walking.

Europe was the birthplace of mankind, not Africa, scientists find   The Telegraph - May 22, 2017

Currently, most experts believe that our human lineage split from apes around seven million years ago in central Africa, where hominids remained for the next five million years before venturing further afield. But two fossils of an ape-like creature which had human-like teeth have been found in Bulgaria and Greece, dating to 7.2 million years ago. The discovery of the creature, named Graecopithecus freybergi, and nicknamed ‘El Graeco' by scientists, proves our ancestors were already starting to evolve in Europe 200,000 years before the earliest African hominid. An international team of researchers say the findings entirely change the beginning of human history and place the last common ancestor of both chimpanzees and humans - the so-called Missing Link - in the Mediterranean region.

Humans were in America 115,000 years earlier than thought: Dramatic discovery that mastodon bones were butchered with Stone Age tools has forced scientists to stunning new conclusion   Daily Mail - April 26, 2017

A controversial find could rewrite the history of humans in North America. Archaeologists claim to have found evidence an unknown species of human was living on the continent as early as 130,000 years ago - 115,000 years earlier than previously thought. Researchers discovered the butchered remains of an enormous mastodon in San Diego, with evidence of chips and fractures made by early humans - but they admit they don't know if they were Homo sapiens, Homo erectus, Neanderthals, or something else.

Mastodon discovery shakes up understanding of early humans in the New World   Science Daily - April 26, 2017
Broken bones and rocks yield evidence that pushes back the record of early humans in North America by more than 100,000 years

Homo erectus walked as we do   Science Daily - July 12, 2016

1.5-million-year-old footprints provide window to the life of Homo erectus. Researchers have recently discovered multiple assemblages of Homo erectus footprints in northern Kenya that provide unique opportunities to understand locomotor patterns and group structure through a form of data that directly records these dynamic behavior. Using novel analytical techniques, they have demonstrated that these H. erectus footprints preserve evidence of a modern human style of walking and a group structure that is consistent with human-like social behavior. Based on experimentally derived estimates of body mass from the Ileret hominin tracks, the researchers have also inferred the sexes of the multiple individuals who walked across footprint surfaces and, for the two most expansive excavated surfaces, developed hypotheses regarding the structure of these H. erectus groups. At each of these sites there is evidence of several adult males, implying some level of tolerance and possibly cooperation between them. Cooperation between males underlies many of the social behaviours that distinguish modern humans from other primates. "It isn't shocking that we find evidence of mutual tolerance and perhaps cooperation between males in a hominin that lived 1.5 million years ago, especially Homo erectus, but this is our first chance to see what appears to be a direct glimpse of this behavioural dynamic in deep time," says Hatala.

'Cousin of Lucy' Fossils Reveal Human Relative Lived in East Africa   Live Science - March 25, 2016

Fossils belonging to an ancient human relative that were discovered on the banks of a Kenyan river suggest that hominids lived farther east than previously thought. Researchers found the fossils - a forearm bone and teeth belonging to an adult Australopithecus afarensis male and two infants - along the Kantis River in Ongata-Rongai, a settlement just outside the capital city of Nairobi. The fossil find represents the first Australopithecus member found east of the Rift Valley, a ridge that runs north to south through Kenya and other east African countries, the researchers said. Remains of Australopithecus bahrelghazali, another human relative in the same genus, were found in Chad (west of the Rift Valley), suggesting that members of this genus lived in central Africa.

Fossil analysis pushes back human split from other primates by two million years   Science Daily - February 17, 2016

A common ancestor of apes and humans, Chororapithecus abyssinicus, evolved in Africa, not Eurasia, two million years earlier than previously thought, a new paper suggests. New research supports early divergence: 10 million years ago for the human-gorilla split and 8 million years ago for our split from chimpanzees

South Africa's Sterkfontein Caves produce two new hominin fossils   Science Daily - February 13, 2016
Two new hominin fossils have been found in a previously uninvestigated chamber in the Sterkfontein Caves, just North West of Johannesburg in South Africa. The two new specimens, a finger bone and a molar, are part of a set of four specimens, which seem to be from early hominins that can be associated with early stone tool-bearing sediments that entered the cave more than two million years ago. The specimens are exciting not only because they are associated with early stone tools, but also because they possess a mixture of intriguing features that raise many more questions than they give answers.

Mysterious Humanlike Species May Have Lived Alongside 'Lucy'   BBC - May 28, 2015

A newfound humanlike species may be another contender for the ancestor of the human lineage, researchers say. This ancient relative of humanity coexisted alongside the famous Lucy about 3.4 million years ago, revealing that a diversity of such humanlike species once lived together, scientists added. The oldest known member of the human lineage, genus Homo, dates back to about 2.8 million years ago. Before humans evolved, researchers had long thought there was little or no diversity among the hominins, which include humans and related species dating after the evolutionary split from the chimpanzees.

New Human Ancestor Species Discovered   Live Science - May 28, 2015

Bones from a possible new humanlike species have been discovered in the central Afar region of Ethiopia. The species lived between 3.3 million and 3.5 million years ago alongside the famous Lucy, a member of Australopithecus afarensis, and suggest several homins coexisted at the time, during the Middle Pliocene. Here are images of the fossils discovered in Ethiopia. The best-known hominin that lived before the evolution of humans was Australopithecus afarensis from eastern Africa, which lived between 2.9 million and 3.8 million years ago, and which included the famous Lucy. Scientists have long argued that later hominins might have evolved from this species.

Agriculture, declining mobility drove humans' shift to lighter bones   Science Daily - May 20, 2015
Modern lifestyles have famously made humans heavier, but, in one particular way, noticeably lighter weight than our hunter-gatherer ancestors: in the bones. Now a new study of the bones of hundreds of humans who lived during the past 33,000 years in Europe finds the rise of agriculture and a corresponding fall in mobility drove the change, rather than urbanization, nutrition or other factors.

Two ancient human fossils from Laos reveal early human diversity   Science Daily - April 8, 2015
An ancient human skull and a jawbone found a few meters away in a cave in northern Laos add to the evidence that early modern humans were physically quite diverse. The skull, found in 2009 in a cave known as Tam Pa Ling in the Annamite Mountains of present-day Lao is the oldest modern human fossil found in Southeast Asia. Its discovery pushed back the date of modern human migration through the region by as much as 20,000 years. It revealed that early humans who migrated to the islands and coasts of Southeast Asia after migrating out of Africa also traveled inland much earlier than previously thought, some 46,000 to 63,000 years ago. The jaw was discovered in late 2010 and is roughly the same age as the skull. Unlike the skull, it has both modern and archaic human trait.

Earliest humans had diverse range of body types, just as we do today   Science Daily - March 28, 2015
New research harnessing fragmentary fossils suggests our genus has come in different shapes and sizes since its origins over two million years ago, and adds weight to the idea that humans began to colonize Eurasia while still small and lightweight. One of the dominant theories of our evolution is that our genus, Homo, evolved from small-bodied early humans to become the taller, heavier and longer legged Homo erectus that was able to migrate beyond Africa and colonise Eurasia. While we know that small-bodied Homo erectus -- averaging less than five foot (152cm) and under 50kg -- were living in Georgia in southern Europe by 1.77 million years ago, the timing and geographic origin of the larger body size that we associate with modern humans has, until now, remained unresolved.

Discovery of 2.8-million-year-old jaw sheds light on early humans   Science Daily - March 4, 2015

For decades, scientists have been searching for African fossils documenting the earliest phases of the Homo lineage, but specimens recovered from the critical time interval between 3 and 2.5 million years ago have been frustratingly few and often poorly preserved. However, a fossil lower jaw found in the Ledi-Geraru research area, Afar Regional State, Ethiopia, pushes back evidence for the human genus - Homo - to 2.8 million years ago.

Earliest known fossil of the genus Homo dates to 2.8 to 2.75 million years ago   Science Daily - March 4, 2015
The earliest known record of the genus Homo -- the human genus -- represented by a lower jaw with teeth, recently found in the Afar region of Ethiopia, dates to between 2.8 and 2.75 million years ago, according to an international team of geoscientists and anthropologists. They also dated other fossils to between 2.84 and 2.58 million years ago, which helped reconstruct the environment in which the individual lived.

  Fossil found by fisherman may reveal new type of ancient human   CNN - January 29, 2015
A fossilized human jawbone discovered by a Taiwanese fisherman, sold to an antique shop, then recovered by researchers may reveal a new kind of prehistoric man. The unlikely find could be nearly 200,000 years old and suggests a fourth type of ancient human who lived in Asia long before Homo sapiens ever came to be. Three other known archaic Asian hominids include Homo erectus, found in Java and China; the shorter Homo floresiensis from Indonesia; and Neanderthals in the Russian Altai mountains. Scientists believe that human jaws and teeth became smaller as they evolved. But unlike other fossils of the time, the newly discovered jawbone is thick with large molars, suggesting the existence of a different group.

DNA yields secrets of human pioneer   BBC - October 22, 2014

DNA analysis of a 45,000-year-old human has helped scientists pinpoint when our ancestors interbred with Neanderthals. The genome sequence from a thigh bone found in Siberia shows the first episode of mixing occurred between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago. The male hunter is one of the earliest modern humans discovered in Eurasia. The study in Nature journal also supports the finding that our species emerged from Africa some 60,000 years ago, before spreading around the world. The analysis raises the possibility that the human line first emerged millions of years earlier than current estimates.

Neanderthals and Humans First Mated 50,000 Years Ago, DNA Reveals   Live Science - October 22, 2014
The DNA from the 45,000-year-old bone of a man from Siberia is helping to pinpoint when modern humans and Neanderthals first interbred, researchers say. Although modern humans are the only surviving human lineage, others once lived on Earth. The closest extinct relatives of modern humans were the Neanderthals, who lived in Europe and Asiauntil they went extinct about 40,000 years ago. Recent findings revealed that Neanderthals interbred with ancestors of modern humans when modern humans began spreading out of Africa - 1.5 to 2.1 percent of the DNA of anyone living outside Africa today is Neanderthal in origin.

Taung Child's skull and brain not human-like in expansion   PhysOrg - August 25, 2014

The Taung Child, South Africa's premier hominin discovered 90 years ago, never ceases to transform and evolve the search for our collective origins. By subjecting the skull of the first australopith discovered to the latest technologies in the Wits University Microfocus X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) facility, researchers are now casting doubt on theories that Australopithecus africanus shows the same cranial adaptations found in modern human infants and toddlers – in effect disproving current support for the idea that this early hominin shows infant brain development in the prefrontal region similar to that of modern humans.

Interbreeding Common? Ancient Human Had Neanderthal-Like Ear   Live Science - July 7, 2014
The remains of an ancient human in China not thought to be Neanderthal has an inner ear much like that of humans' closest extinct relatives, according to a new study. These new findings could be evidence of interbreeding between Neanderthals and other species of archaic humans in China; however, the researchers say human evolution could be more complicated than is often thought, and the implications of the new discovery remain unclear. Although modern humans are the only living members of the human family tree, a number of other human lineages once lived alongside the ancestors of modern humans. These so-called archaic humans included Neanderthals, the closest extinct relatives of modern humans, who lived in Eurasia roughly between 200,000 and 30,000 years ago.

New stratigraphic research makes Little Foot the oldest complete Australopithecus   PhysOrg - March 14, 2014

After 13 years of meticulous excavation of the nearly complete skeleton of the Australopithecus fossil named Little Foot, South African and French scientists have now convincingly shown that it is probably around 3 million years old. Thus at Sterkfontein, there existed two species of ape-man, Australopithecus africanus (for example, Mrs Ples) and Australopithecus prometheus, many specimens of which have been identified by Clarke from two deposits at Sterkfontein.

Hunter-gatherer European had blue eyes and dark skin   BBC - January 27, 2014

Scientists have shed light on what ancient Europeans looked like. Genetic tests reveal that a hunter-gatherer who lived 7,000 years ago had the unusual combination of dark skin and hair and blue eyes. It has surprised scientists, who thought that the early inhabitants of Europe were fair. Two hunter-gatherer skeletons were discovered in a cave in the mountains of north-west Spain in 2006. The cool, dark conditions meant the remains (called La Brana 1 and 2) were remarkably well preserved. Scientists were able to extract DNA from a tooth of one of the ancient men and sequence his genome. The team found that the early European was most closely genetically related to people in Sweden and Finland. But while his eyes were blue, his genes reveal that his hair was black or brown and his skin was dark. This was a result that was unexpected.

Spanish hunter-gatherer had blue eyes and dark skin   PhysOrg - January 27, 2014
La Brana 1, name used to baptize a 7,000 years old individual from the Mesolithic Period, whose remains were recovered at La Brana-Arintero site in Valdelugueros (Leon, Spain) had blue eyes and dark skin. The Mesolithic, a period that lasted from 10,000 to 5,000 years ago (between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic), ends with the advent of agriculture and livestock farming, coming from the Middle-East. The arrival of the Neolithic, with a carbohydrate-based diet and new pathogens transmitted by domesticated animals, entailed metabolic and immunological challenges that were reflected in genetic adaptations of post-Mesolithic populations. Among these is the ability to digest lactose, which La Brana individual could not do.

Biology of early human relative uncovered   PhysOrg - January 22, 2014
The partial skeleton of an ancient hominin has been uncovered for the first time in Tanzania, giving a new insight into the species' biology, say scientists. The accidental discovery was made last year when, during an archaeological excavation, scientists uncovered pieces of skull, teeth and limb bones. The bones belong to an early hominin, called Paranthropus boisei, which lived 1.34 million years ago in Eastern Africa and shares an ancestor with humans. Archaeologists had only ever discovered parts of skulls belonging to this species, so until now had no real evidence of its size or how it was adapted to its environment.

Ancient Humans Had Sex with Mystery Relatives, Study Suggests   Live Science - December 2, 2013
A new, improved sequencing of ancient human relative genomes reveals that Homo sapiens didn't only have sex with Neanderthals and a little-understood line of humans called Denisovans. A fourth, mystery lineage of humans was in the mix, too.

Blow to multiple human species idea   BBC - October 17, 2013
The idea that there were several different human species walking the Earth two million years ago has been dealt a blow. Instead, scientists say early human fossils found in Africa and Eurasia may have been part of the same species.

Dating of Beads Sets New Timeline for Early Humans   Science Daily - September 14, 2013
An international team of researchers led by Oxford University have new dating evidence indicating when the earliest fully modern humans arrived in the Near East, the region known as the Middle East today. They have obtained the radiocarbon dates of marine shell beads found at Ksar Akil, a key archaeological site in Lebanon, which allowed them to calculate that the oldest human fossil from the same sequence of archaeological layers is 42,400-41,700 years old. This is significant because the age of the earliest fossils, directly and indirectly dated, of modern humans found in Europe is roughly similar. This latest discovery throws up intriguing new possibilities about the routes taken by the earliest modern humans out of Africa.

Early Humans Lived in China 1.7 Million Years Ago   Live Science - August 15, 2013
An extinct species of tool-making humans apparently occupied a vast area in China as early as 1.7 million years ago, researchers say. The human lineage evolved in Africa, with now-extinct species of humans dispersing away from their origin continent more than a million years before modern humans did. Scientists would like to learn more about when and where humans went to better understand what drove human evolution. Researchers investigated the Nihewan Basin, which lies in a mountainous region about 90 miles (150 kilometers) west of Beijing. It holds more than 60 sites from the Stone Age, with thousands of stone tools found there since 1972 - relatively simple types, such as stone flakes altogether known as the Oldowan. Researchers suspect these artifacts belonged to Homo erectus, thought to be ancestral to Homo sapiens.

How 2-Million-Year-Old Ancestor Moved: Sediba's Ribcage and Feet Were Not Suitable for Running   Science Daily - April 12, 2013

Researchers at Wits University in South Africa, including Peter Schmid from the University of Zurich, have described the anatomy of a single early hominin in six new studies. Australopithecus sediba was discovered near Johannesburg in 2008. The studies in Science demonstrate how our 2-million-year-old ancestor walked, chewed and moved.

Humanity's Closest Ancestor Was Pigeon-Toed, Research Reveals   Live Science - April 11, 2013
The most complete investigation of the anatomy of what may be the immediate ancestor of the human lineage is now shedding light on secrets about how it might have behaved, researchers say. For instance, the human ancestors may have moved in an entirely new way, with a somewhat pigeon-toed gait with a twisty trunk, the researchers added. The first specimens of the extinct species Australopithecus sediba were accidentally discovered by the 9-year-old son of a scientist in 2008, in an area in South Africa named the Cradle of Humankind, one of the richest fossil sites in Africa. Australopithecus means "southern ape," while sediba means "fountain" in Sotho, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa, due to how scientists hint the human lineage might spring from this species.

Early Human Ancestor Surprisingly Smart   Live Science - March 13, 2013
Early human ancestors needed high-level intelligence to use fire, new research suggests. The study argues that fire use requires long-term planning, group cooperation and inhibition. In combination with evidence for early fire use, the study suggests that the early human ancestor Homo erectus may have been smarter than previously thought.

Fossil human traces line to modern Asians   BBC - January 22, 2013
Researchers have been able to trace a line between some of the earliest modern humans to settle in China and people living in the region today. The evidence comes from DNA extracted from a 40,000-year-old leg bone found in a cave near Beijing. Results show that the person it belonged to was related to the ancestors of present-day Asians and Native Americans.

Early human ancestors had more variable diet: Dietary preferences of 3 groups of hominins reconstructed   PhysOrg - August 8, 2012
The latest research sheds more light on the diet and home ranges of early hominins belonging to three different genera, notably Australopithecus, Paranthropus and Homo - that were discovered at sites such as Sterkfontein, Swartkrans and Kromdraai in the Cradle of Humankind, about 50 kilometres from Johannesburg. Australopithecus existed before the other two genera evolved about 2 million years ago.

Many human 'prototypes' coexisted in Africa   BBC - August 9, 2012

Fossils from Northern Kenya show that a new species of human lived two million years ago, researchers say. The discoveries suggests that at least three distinct species of humans co-existed in Africa. The research adds to a growing body of evidence that runs counter to the popular perception that there was a linear evolution from early primates to modern humans.

New Flat-Faced Human Species Possibly Discovered   Live Science - August 8, 2012
New fossils from the dawn of the human lineage suggest our ancestors may have lived alongside a diversity of extinct human species, researchers say. Although modern humans, Homo sapiens, are the only human species alive today, the world has seen a number of human species come and go. Other members perhaps include the recently discovered "hobbit" Homo floresiensis. The human lineage, Homo, evolved in Africa about 2.5 million years ago, coinciding with the first evidence of stone tools. For the first half of the last century, conventional wisdom was that the most primitive member of our lineage was Homo erectus, the direct ancestor of our species. However, just over 50 years ago, scientists discovered an even more primitive species of Homo at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania they dubbed Homo habilis, which had a smaller brain and a more apelike skeleton.

New Kenyan fossils shed light on early human evolution   PhysOrg - August 8, 2012
Exciting new fossils discovered east of Lake Turkana confirm that there were two additional species of our genus - Homo - living alongside our direct human ancestral species, Homo erectus, almost two million years ago. The finds, announced in the prestigious scientific journal Nature on August 9, include a face, a remarkably complete lower jaw, and part of a second lower jaw.

'Earliest' evidence of modern human culture found   BBC - August1, 2012
The earliest unambiguous evidence for modern human behavior has been discovered by an international team of researchers in a South African cave. The finds provide early evidence for the origin of modern human behavior 44,000 years ago, over 20,000 years before other findings. The artifacts are near identical to modern-day tools of the indigenous African San bush people.

Oldest Poison Pushes Back Ancient Civilization 20,000 Years   Live Science - July 30, 2012

The late Stone Age may have had an earlier start in Africa than previously thought - by some 20,000 years. new analysis of artifacts from a cave in South Africa reveals that the residents were carving bone tools, using pigments, making beads and even using poison 44,000 years ago. These sorts of artifacts had previously been linked to the San culture, which was thought to have emerged around 20,000 years ago. "Our research proves that the Later Stone Age emerged in South Africa far earlier than has been believed and occurred at about the same time as the arrival of modern humans in Europe," study researcher Paola Villa, a curator at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, said in a statement.

Later Stone Age Got Earlier Start in South Africa Than Thought   Science Daily - July 30, 2012
The Later Stone Age emerged in South Africa more than 20,000 years earlier than previously believed - about the same time humans were migrating from Africa to the European continent, says a new international study led by the University of Colorado Boulder. The study shows the onset of the Later Stone Age in South Africa likely began some 44,000 to 42,000 years ago, said Paola Villa, a curator at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History and lead study author. The new dates are based on the use of precisely calibrated radiocarbon dates linked to organic artifacts found at Border Cave in the Lebombo Mountains on the border of South Africa and Swaziland containing evidence of hominid occupation going back 200,000 years.

Human Ancestor Fossils Hidden in Plain Sight in Lab Rock   Live Science - July 13, 2012
Two years ago, scientists announced they had discovered partial skeletons from a new species of human ancestor in a South African cave. Now, more remains have turned up in a large rock about 3.3 feet (1 meter) in diameter hiding in plain sight in a laboratory at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, the university announced today (June 12).

Mystery human fossils put spotlight on China   PhysOrg - March 14, 2012

Fossils from two caves in south-west China have revealed a previously unknown Stone Age people and give a rare glimpse of a recent stage of human evolution with startling implications for the early peopling of Asia.

Human fossils hint at new species   BBC - March 14, 2012
The remains of what may be a previously unknown human species have been identified in southern China. The bones, which represent at least five individuals, have been dated to between 11,500 and 14,500 years ago. But scientists are calling them simply the Red Deer Cave people, after one of the sites where they were unearthed

Ice Age Child Found in Prehistoric Alaskan Home   National Geographic - February 25, 2011
In what's now central Alaska, one of the first Americans - only three years old at the time - was laid to rest in a pit inside his or her house 11,500 years ago, a new excavation reveals. The ancient home site and human remains - the oldest known in subarctic North America - provide an unprecedented glimpse into the daily lives of Ice Age Americans, scientists say.

Early humans won at running; Neanderthals won at walking   PhysOrg - February 7, 2011
New research has compared the performance of the heels of modern-day distance runners to the heels of Neanderthals and ancient Homo sapiens. The results show the Neanderthals' heels were taller than those of modern humans and Homo sapiens, and more adapted to walking than running over long distances, while those of Homo sapiens were more adapted to endurance running.

'Mitochondrial Eve': Mother of All Humans Lived 200,000 Years Ago   Science Daily - August 18, 2010
The most robust statistical examination to date of our species' genetic links to "mitochondrial Eve" -- the maternal ancestor of all living humans -- confirms that she lived about 200,000 years ago. The Rice University study was based on a side-by-side comparison of 10 human genetic models that each aim to determine when Eve lived using a very different set of assumptions about the way humans migrated, expanded and spread across Earth. The quest to date mitochondrial Eve (mtEve) is an example of the way scientists probe the genetic past to learn more about mutation, selection and other genetic processes that play key roles in disease.

  South African fossils could be new hominid species   BBC - April 9, 2010
The remarkable remains of two ancient human-like creatures (hominids) have been found in South Africa.

"Key" Human Ancestor Found: Fossils Link Apes, First Humans?   National Geographic - April 8, 2010

An Australopithecus sediba skull bears both human and ape traits.

New species of early hominid found   PhysOrg - April 6, 2010

DNA identifies new ancient human   BBC - March 24, 2010
Scientists have identified a previously unknown type of ancient human through analysis of DNA from a finger bone unearthed in a Siberian cave. The extinct "hominin" (human-like creature) lived in Central Asia between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago. An international team has sequenced genetic material from the fossil showing that it is distinct from that of Neanderthals and modern humans. Details of the find, dubbed "X-woman", have been published in Nature journal. Ornaments were found in the same ground layer as the finger bone, including a bracelet.

New ancestor? Scientists ponder DNA from Siberia   PhysOrg - March 24, 2010
An international team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig has sequenced ancient mitochondrial DNA from a finger bone found in southern Siberia. The bone is from a previously unknown form of human that lived in the Altai Mountains of Central Asia around 48,000 to 30,000 years ago. This mitochondrial genetic material, passed down through the descendants in the maternal line, is a sign of a new wave of migration out of Africa, one that is distinct from that of Homo erectus, the ancestors of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.

When Did the First 'Modern' Human Beings Appear in the Iberian Peninsula?   Science Daily - March 16, 2010
Research carried out by a group of archaeologists from the Centre for Prehistoric Archaeological Heritage Studies of the Universitat Autėnoma de Barcelona (CEPAP_UAB) at the Cova Gran site (Lleida) has contributed to stirring up scientific debate about the appearance of the first "modern" human beings on the Iberian Peninsula* and their possible bearing on the extinction of the Neanderthals. The samples obtained at Cova Gran using Carbon 14 dating refer to a period of between 34,000 and 32,000 years in which this biological replacement in the Western Mediterranean can be located in time, although the study regards as relative the use of Carbon 14 for dating materials from the period of transition of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic period( 40,000 and 30,000).

Face of Ancient Human Drawn From Hair's DNA   National Geographic - February 11, 2010

A 4,000-year-old hairball found frozen in Greenland has been used to create the first ancient-human genome, says a new study that paints a picture of a dark-eyed man with dry ear wax who was prone to balding. Well preserved in Arctic permafrost, the hair belonged to "Inuk," a relatively young member of the now extinct Saqqaq culture, the earliest known inhabitants of Greenland.

When did humans return after last Ice Age?   PhysOrg - July 27, 2009
The Cheddar Gorge in Somerset was one of the first sites to be inhabited by humans when they returned to Britain near the end of the last Ice Age. According to new radio carbon dating by Oxford University researchers, outlined in the latest issue of Quaternary Science Review, humans were living in Gough's Cave 14,700 years ago. A number of stone artefacts as well as human and animal bones from excavations, spread over more than 100 years, shed further light on the nature as well as the timing of people to the cave.

Early Human Babies Had Big Brains, Fossil Pelvis Shows   National Geographic - November 13, 2008
Early humans were giving birth to big-brained infants much earlier than previously thought, suggests the most intact pelvis from a Homo erectus female ever found. The 1.2-million-year-old fossil pelvis was unearthed in Ethiopia in 2001 and is about 85 percent complete, a new study reports.

6-Million-Year-Old Human Ancestor 1st to Walk Upright? National Geographic - March 20, 2008

An analysis of six-million-year-old bones from an early human ancestor that lived in what is now Kenya suggests that the species was the earliest known hominin to walk, a new study says. "This provides really solid evidence that these fossils actually belong to an upright-walking early human ancestor," said study lead author Brian Richmond, a biological anthropologist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Oldest Embracing Lovers Found in Turkey? National Geographic - October 17, 2007

Two ancient skeletons found in each other's arms in a grave in Turkey might be the oldest known embracing couple, archaeologists say. The remains, believed to be those of a 30-year-old man and a 20-year-old woman, were found last week in the southeastern Turkish province of Diyarbakir

Modern Humans Retain Caveman's Survival Instincts Live Science - September 24, 2007
Like hunter-gatherers in the jungle, modern humans are still experts at spotting predators and prey, despite the developed world's safe suburbs and indoor lifestyle, a new study suggests. The research, published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that humans today are hard-wired to pay attention to other people and animals much more so than non-living things, even if inanimate objects are the primary hazards for modern, urbanized folks. The researchers say the finding supports the idea that natural selection molded mechanisms into our ancestors' brains that were specialized for paying attention to humans and other animals. These adaptive traits were then passed on to us.

Odd Fossil Skeletons Show Both Apelike and Human Traits National Geographic - September 20, 2007
Ancient humanlike fossils discovered at the site of a medieval castle fill crucial gaps in the story of our evolution, scientists say. Researchers unearthed the 1.77-million-year-old skeletons at Dmanisi in the republic of Georgia.The fossils of three adults and a teenager are thought to belong to Homo erectus, the earliest known Homo species found outside Africa. But the remains suggest the individuals were particularly primitive, appearing to be noticeably different from populations of the same species elsewhere.

Georgia clues to human origins BBC - September 20, 2007
A team of scientists working in Georgia has unearthed the remains of four human-like creatures dating to 1.8 million years ago. In the journal Nature, the researchers outline details of the partial skeletons uncovered in a Medieval town. The bones reveal a mixture of primitive and advanced features, team leader David Lordkipanidze explained.

Human Ancestor had Lime-Size Brain National Geographic - May 15, 2007
An extraordinarily complete skull of a 30-million-year-old human ancestor once held a brain about the size of a lime, according to a new study. The skull - of a species related to apes, humans, and monkeys - is evidence that the more advanced and bigger brains of African primates developed later than previously believed, researchers said.

Ancient human unearthed in China Cave BBC - April 3, 2007
The remains of one of the earliest modern humans to inhabit eastern Asia have been unearthed in a cave in China. The find could shed light on how our ancestors colonized the East, a movement that is only poorly understood by anthropologists. Researchers found 34 bone fragments belonging to a single individual at the Tianyuan Cave, near Beijing. Details of the discovery appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. Radiocarbon dates, obtained directly from the bones, show the person lived between 42,000 and 39,000 years ago.

160,000-Year-Old Child Suggests Modern Humans Got Early Start National Geographic - March 15, 2007
Bucking conventional wisdom, a new study says early members of our species, Homo sapiens, may have known what it was like to be a kid. A long childhood is considered one of things that separate so-called modern humans from the first Homo sapiens and older human species, such as Homo erectus. Now a study of a 160,000-year-old early Homo sapiens child found in North Africa may change how early and where - we think modern humans arose.

Neanderthal yields nuclear DNA BBC - May 16, 2006
The first sequences of nuclear DNA to be taken from a Neanderthal have been reported at a US science meeting. Geneticist Svante Paabo and his team say they isolated the long segments of genetic material from a 45,000-year-old Neanderthal fossil from Croatia. The work should reveal how closely related the Neanderthal species was to modern humans, Homo sapiens. It is a significant advance on previous research that has extracted mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis) specimens. This genetic material is contained in structures that power cells; and although the information it holds is very useful, it is more limited in scope than the DNA bundled up at the cell's centre. This nuclear DNA is what really drives an organism's biochemistry.

Fossils fill gap in human lineage BBC - April 13, 2006

Fossil hunters have found remains of a probable direct ancestor of humans that lived more than four million years ago. The specimens of this ancient creature are helping bridge a long gap during a crucial phase of human evolution.

Robotics show Lucy walked upright BBC - July 20, 2005
'Australopithecus afarensis', the early human who lived about 3.2 million years ago, walked upright, according to an "evolutionary robotics" model.

Early hominid from the Caucasus may have 'cared for elderly' BBC - April 7, 2005
Ancient hominids from the Caucasus may have fed and cared for their elderly, a new fossil find has indicated. The 1.77 million-year-old specimen, which is described in Nature magazine, was completely toothless and well over 40; a grand old age at the time. This may suggest that the creature lived in a complex society which was capable of showing compassion. Researchers think they may also have valued the old for their wisdom, just as more recent human groups have.

Flesh on bones of 'first ape-man' BBC- April 6, 2005

Experts are a step closer to answering whether an ancient skull from Africa belonged to a possible human ancestor or to a creature closer to apes. Fresh fossil finds from Chad in central Africa, as well as a new analysis of the skull, seem to confirm "Toumai" was closer to us, Nature magazine reports. The Toumaē specimen was unearthed in Chad in 2002 to international acclaim. But rival researchers attacked claims by the discovery team that it was the oldest hominid, or human-like creature.

Oldest Fossil Protein Sequenced From Neanderthal Science Daily - March 31, 2005
An international team, led by researchers at the Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, Germany, have extracted and sequenced protein from a Neanderthal from Shanidar Cave, Iraq dating to approximately 75,000 years old. It is rare to recover protein of this age, and remarkable to be able to determine the constituent amino acid sequence. This is the oldest fossil protein ever sequenced. Protein sequences may be used in a similar way to DNA, to provide information on the genetic relationships between extinct and living species. As ancient DNA rarely survives, this new method opens up the possibility of determining these relationships in much older fossils which no longer contain DNA

Neanderthal Advance: First Fully Jointed Skeleton Built National Geographic - March 2005

Scientists have for the first time constructed a fully articulated, or jointed, Neanderthal skeleton using castings from real Neanderhtal bones. The reconstruction, which has been part of several exhibitions, presents a striking visual image of what the Neanderthal (often spelled Neanderthal) looked like, experts say.

Scientists in Ethiopia unearth early skeleton - 4 million years old   BBC - March 7, 2005

US and Ethiopian scientists say they have discovered the fossilised remains of one of the earliest human ancestors. The research team, working in the north-east of Ethiopia, believe the remains of the hominid, or primitive human, date back four million years. They say initial study of the bones indicates the creature was bipedal - it walked around on two legs. The fossils were found just 60km (40 miles) from the site where the famous hominid Lucy was discovered. Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis), whose remains were unearthed in 1974, lived 3.2 million years ago and is thought to have given rise to the Homo line that ended in modern humans

Age of ancient humans reassessed BBC - February 16, 2005

Two skulls originally found in 1967 have been shown to be about 195,000 years old, making them the oldest modern human remains known to science. The age estimate comes from a re-dating of Ethiopian rock layers close to those that yielded the remarkable fossils. The skulls, known as Omo I and II, push back the known presence of Homo sapiens in Africa by 40,000 years. The latest dating work is reported in the science journal Nature. It puts the specimens close to the time expected for the evolutionary emergence of our species. Genetic studies have indicated Homo sapiens arose in East Africa - possibly Ethiopia or Tanzania - just over 200,000 years ago.

The icy truth behind Neanderthals BBC - February 10. 2005

In 1848, a strange skull was discovered on the military outpost of Gibraltar. It was undoubtedly human, but also had some of the heavy features of an ape - distinct brow ridges, and a forward projecting face. Just what was this ancient creature? And when had it lived? As more remains were discovered one thing became clear: this creature had once lived right across Europe. The remains were named Homo neanderthalensis - or Neanderthal Man - an ancient and primitive form of human. The archaeological evidence revealed that the earliest Neanderthals had lived in Europe about 200,000 years ago. But then, about 30,000 years ago, they disappeared - just at the time when the first "modern humans" appear in Europe. The story is that our ancestors, those modern humans, spread out of Africa about 100,000 years ago with better brains and more sophisticated tools. As they spread into Neanderthal territory, they simply out-competed their primitive cousins.

The Mysterious end of Essex Man Guardian - January 22, 2005
Divisions in British culture may be deeper than we thought. Scientists have discovered startling evidence that suggests different species of early humans may have fought to settle within our shores almost half a million years ago. They have found that two different groups - one wielding hand-axes, the other using Stone Age Stanley knives to slash and kill - could have been rivals for control of ancient Britain. 'The evidence is only tantaliing, but it is intriguing,' said palaeontologist Chris Stringer, of the Natural History Museum, London. 'Certainly it suggests Britain may well have been multicultural 400,000 years ago.'

Amazing hominid haul in Ethiopia BBC - January 19, 2005
Fossil hunters working in Ethiopia have unearthed the remains of at least nine primitive hominids that are between 4.5 million and 4.3 million years old. The fossils, which were uncovered at As Duma in the north of the country, are mostly teeth and jaw fragments, but also include parts of hands and feet. All finds belong to the same species - Ardipithecus ramidus - which was first described about a decade ago.

Skull fuels Homo erectus debate BBC - July 2, 2004
The fossilized skull of a hominid that lived 930,000 years ago has been found in Kenya, Science magazine reports. The creature may have belonged to the species Homo erectus, says the team which found it, even though its skull is smaller than previously seen. But the fossil has fueled a debate over how we group these ancient humans.

Was pre-human a failed experiment? MSNBC - July 2004

A tiny pre-human who lived more than 900,00 years ago in what is now Kenya, may have been a 'short experiment' in evolution that never quite made it.

Neanderthals were 'adults by 15' BBC - April 28, 2004

The Neanderthals reached adulthood at the tender age of 15 according to a report in the journal Nature. French and Spanish researchers analysed growth records preserved in the teeth of Neanderthals, modern humans and two other human species. Breaks in the deposition of crown enamel reveal how fast teeth grow. Neanderthals formed their crowns 15% quicker than we do, reaching adulthood when modern humans of the same age were still floundering in adolescence.

Early human marks are 'symbols' BBC - March 2004

A series of parallel lines engraved in an animal bone between 1.4 and 1.2 million years ago may be the earliest example of human symbolic behavior.

A New Branch Of Primitive Humans Reported Found In Ethiopia Space Daily - March 16, 2004
Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie, member of a scientific team working in the Middle Awash valley of the Afar Region in Ethiopia, and his colleagues have found dental evidence that elevates the hominid subspecies Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba to its own species, Ardipithecus kadabba. This new species, dating between 5.54 and 5.77 million years old, is the oldest member of the genus Ardipithecus.

Earliest British cemetery dated - in a cave BBC - September 23, 2003

A cave in the Mendip Hills in southwest England has been revealed as the earliest scientifically dated cemetery in Britain. The site at Aveline's Hole, near Burrington Combe, contained human bone fragments that have now been confirmed to be between roughly 10,200 and 10,400 years old. The specimens - representing about 21 individuals - were originally removed from the cave in the early years of the 20th Century and were held in a museum in Bristol. There, the collection was largely destroyed in a World War II bombing raid. It is only recently that scientists have returned to the surviving bone and teeth samples to give them a proper assessment using modern methods.

Human fossils set European record September 22, 2003 - BBC

Fossils picked up in a Romanian bear cave are the oldest specimens yet found of modern humans in Europe, scientists say. One of the items - a male, adult jawbone - has been dated to be between 34,000 and 36,000 years old.The other pieces, which include the facial bone of an adolescent, are still being tested but are thought to be of a similar age.This puts the fossils - from three different individuals - in a period in history when modern humans are believed to have shared the continent with Neanderthals, their now extinct hominid cousins. Indeed, the researchers reporting the discoveries go so far as to suggest the fossils show some degree of hybridisation - they are possibly the result of interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals, they argue.

Looking for the caveman inside us BBC - March 19, 2003

Evidence of earliest human burial BBC - March 26, 2003

Researchers claim to have found the earliest deliberate human burial - and therefore the first evidence of symbolic thought - at a 350,000-year-old site in northern Spain.

First humans 'small brained'' BBC - July 4, 2002

Early hominids - the ancestors of humans -- Larger brain size was probably not the only driving force behind the exodus of early humans from Africa. A third skull found at the camp of some of the the first humans to leave the continent is much smaller than the others. Three skulls some 1.75 million years old have been uncovered there - the biggest collection of well-preserved early human fossils known anywhere in the world.

Walking in our footsteps BBC - November 15, 2001
Dr Alexandra Freeman, researcher on the BBC series Walking With Beasts, explains how computer animators portrayed the walking behavior of Australopithecus, possible ancestors of modern humans that lived around three million years ago. It is clear from their fossilized bones that Australopithecus walked on two legs - but how? This provided a real challenge to the animators, because it is not just us that walk on two legs today: some modern apes, particularly the rare bonobo (a species of chimpanzee), walk short distances on two legs too.

Genetic 'Adam never met Eve' BBC - October 30, 2001
The most recent ancestor of all males living today was a man who lived in Africa around 59,000 years ago, according to an international team of researchers. The scientists from eight countries have drawn up a genetic family tree of mankind by studying variations in the Y chromosome of more than a thousand men from different communities around the world. The Y chromosome is one of the two sex chromosomes (X and Y) which only men carry (women carry two X chromosomes). The new research confirms the Out of Africa theory that modern humans originated in Africa before slowly spreading across the world. But the finding raises new questions, not least because our most recent paternal ancestor would have been about 84,000 years younger than our maternal one. The team believes there is an explanation. They propose that the human genetic blueprint evolved as a mosaic, with different pieces of modern DNA emerging and spreading throughout the human population at different times.