Episode 1: People and humans, a family story

The long road between our last common ancestor with apes and modern humans is a fascinating area of archaeological research. Many different species of ancient people have been found from the last seven million years, including both our ancestors as well as some more distant cousins. I hope that you enjoyed the short (ish) summary of our evolution. Let me know if you have any questions or comments, and please come back and listen to the episode next week on the earliest archaeology of the ancient Near East.

If you would like to know more about the study of human evolution, or would like to see reconstructions of what our ancient family members may have looked like, there are some excellent resources available. Reconstructions and summaries of ancient people species by the Smithsonian Institution can be found on their Human Origins research page here. This page also has lovely examples of the Oldowan and Acheulean tools described in the episode.

If you would like to read more on human evolution – and what it is like to study – then I can recommend a couple of enjoyable books as well:

Lee Berger and John Hawks. 2017. Almost Human: The Astonishing Tale of Homo naledi and the Discovery that Changed our Human Story.

Mark Maslin. 2017. The Cradle of Humanity: How the Changing Landscape of Africa Made us so Smart.

Episode Bibliography:

Berger, L. and Hawks, J. 2017. Almost Human: The Astonishing Tale of Homo naledi and the Discovery that Changed our Human Story. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.

Bramble, D.M. and Lieberman, D.E. 2004. Endurance running and the evolution of HomoNature 432: 345-352.

Clarke, R.J. 2012. A Homo habilis maxilla and other newly discovered hominid fossils from Olduvai Gorge,Tanzania. Journal of Human Evolution 63: 418-428.

Domínguez-Rodrigo, M., Pickering, T.R., Semaw,S. and Rogers,M.J. 2005. Cutmarked bones from Pliocene archaeological sites at Gona, Afar, Ethiopia: implications for the function of the world’s oldest stone tools. Journal of Human Evolution 48: 109-121.

Haeusler, M. and McHenry, H.M. 2004. Body proportions of Homo habilis reviewed. Journal of Human Evolution 46: 433-465.

Haile-Selassie, Y., Saylor, B.Z., Deino, A., Alene, M. and Latimer, B.M. 2010. New hominid fossils from Woranso-Mille (Central Afar, Ethiopia) and taxonomy of early Australopithecus. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 141: 406-417.

Herries, A.L., Martin, J.M., Leece, A.B., Adams, J.W., Boschian, G., Johannes-Boyau, R., Edwards, T.R., Mallett, T., Massey, J., Murszewski, A., Neubauer, S., Pickering, R., Strait, D.S., Armstrong, B.J., Baker, S., Caruana, M.V., Denham, T., Hellstrom, J., Moggi-Cecchi, J., Mokobane, S., Penzo-Kajewski, P., Rovinsky, D.S., Schwarts, G.T., Stammers, R.C., Wilson, C., Woodhead, J. and Menter, C. 2020. Contemporaneity of Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and early Homo erectus in South Africa. Science 368(47): 1-19.

Hetherington, R. 2012. Living in a Dangerous Climate: Climate Change and Human Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hlubik, S., Berna, F., Feibel, C., Braun, D. and Harris, J.W.K. 2017. Researching the nature of fire at 1.5 Mya on the site of FxJj20 AB, Koobi For a, Kenya using high-resolution spatial analysis and FTIR spectrometry. Current Anthropology 58(Supplement 16): S243-S257.

Hublin, J.-J., Ben-Ncer, A., Bailey, S.E., Freidline, S.E., Neubauer,S., Skinner, M.M., Bergmann, I., Le Cabec, A., Benazzi,S., Harvati, K. and Gunz, P. 2017. New fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Moroccoand the pan-African origin of Homo sapiens. Nature 546: 289-292.

Lovejoy, C.O., Suwa, G., Simpson, S.W., Matternes, J.H. and White, T.D. 2009. The great diides: Ardipithecus ramidus reveals the postcrania of our last common ancestors with African apes. Science 326: 100-106.

Maslin, M. 2017. The Cradle of Humanity: How the Changing Landscape of Africa Made us so Smart. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Profico,A., Di Vincenzo,F., Gagliardi, L., Piperno, M. and Manzi, G. 2016. Filling the gap. Human cranial remains from GomboreII (Melka Kunture, Ethiopia; ca. 850ka) and the origin of Homo heidelbergensisJournal of Anthropological Sciences 94: 1-24.

Reno, P.L., Meindl, R.S., McCollum, M.A. and Lovejoy, C.O. 2003. Sexual dimorphism in Australopithecus afarensis was similar to that of modern humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100(16): 9404-9409.

Rightmire, C.P. 2013. Homo erectus and Middle Pleistocene hominins: brain size, skull forms and species recognition. Journal of Human Evolution 65(3): 223-252.

Simpson, S.W., Quade, J., Levin, N.E., Butler, R., Dupont-Nivet, G., Everett, M. and Semaw, S. 2008. A female Homo erectus pelvis from Gona, Ethipoia. Science 322: 1089-1092.

Stout, D. Semaw, S., Rogers, M.J. and Cauche, D. 2010. Technological variation in the earliest Oldowan from Gona Afar, Ethiopia. Journal of Human Evolution 58: 474-491.

Henke, W. and Tattersall, I. 2013 Handbook of Paleoanthropology Volume 3: Phylogeny of Hominines. London: Springer.

Thoth, N. and Schick, K.2018. An overview of the cognitive implications of the Oldowan Industrial Complex. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 53(1): 3-39.

Thoth, N. and Schick, K. 2009. The Oldowan: the tool making of early hominins and chimpanzees compared. Annual Review of Anthropology 38: 289-305.

Ward, C.V. 2002. Interpreting the posture and locomotion of Australopithecus afarensis: where do we stand? Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 45: 185-215.

Ward, C.V., Plavcan, J.M. and Manthi, F.K. 2010. Anterior dental evolution in the Australopithecus anamensis-afarensis lineage. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 365: 3333-3344.

White, T.D., Asfaw, B., Beyene, Y., Haile-Selassie, Y., Lovejoy, C.O., Suwa, G. and WoldeGabriel, G. 2009. Ardipithecus ramidus and the paleobiology of early hominids. Science 326: 64-86.

One thought on “Episode 1: People and humans, a family story

  1. I really enjoy the pod cast. So much has been uncovered since I initially learned about our ancestors.
    I would love if you could discuss some of the methods used in a dig. How does one choose where to begin a new dig? What specialist are involved in every part of a dig?

    We live outside of Philadelpjia in Villanova, PA. When our sons were young , they loved going to the Penn Museumn
    ( of the a University of Pennsylvania). We were very lucky to have such a great museum so close. I think I will begin
    visiting the Penn Museum again. I will have to wait until COVID 19 is under control.


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