February 8th, 2013

Ancient sediments to yield secrets

February 08, 2013

A large scale, transdisciplinary research effort seeking to match ocean core samples by drilling into ancient lake sediments will commence in East Africa this summer, it has been announced by Arizona State University and the Institute of human origins.

February 8th, 2013

Crafting stone and hypotheses

February 08, 2013

The changing way we view evidence is a lot like knapping stone to make a tool. We chip away at one idea and shape it into something different. John Shea is a noted archaeologist and iconoclast, arguing“advances” in stone tool technology were responses to particular needs and not necessarily evidence of increased cognition.

December 18th, 2012

An Infamous But Instructive Story

December 18, 2012

One hundred years ago today an amateur scientist named Charles Dawson announced his discovery in 1908 of an ancient skull,  immediately dubbed “ Piltdown man”, in a gravel pit near the town of Piltdown, England . Thus began an infamous but ultimately instructive series of events in the annals of science.

October 7th, 2012

Big brained humans

October 07, 2012

We humans have the largest brain relative to body weight, compared to all other animals.  On average the human brain is three times the size that of our nearest primate relative, the chimpanzee.  Why is this so? In a think piece in last week’s edition of the journal Science, Michael Balter summarizes some of the hypotheses.

September 2nd, 2012

Genome of Near Relative Analyzed

September 02, 2012

The importance of genetic research in helping us understand diversity among our ancestors is playing an ever more important part. Last week a paper in the journal Science Express cast new light on a previously dimly glimpsed people referred to as the Denisovans.

September 2nd, 2012

Newly Found Fossils, Same Old Puzzle

September 02, 2012

A Nature paper in early August announced the finding of  dramatic fossils and refocused attention on the significance of fossils found decades ago.  The team led by Meave Leakey said bones found at Koobi Foora near the shores of Lake Turkana resembled those found forty years ago near this same location.

July 7th, 2012

A Towering Figure Is Gone

July 07, 2012

Philip V. Tobias, a world renowned paleoanthropologist, equally at home in the field or in his office preparing descriptions, has died at 87. He succeeded Raymond Dart as department head at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. In his long and fulfilling career he worked with the Leakeys at Olduvai Gorge and fought apartheid at home.

July 1st, 2012

The diet of Australopithecus sediba

July 01, 2012

This is the title of a paper appearing last week in the journal Nature.  A careful examination of fossilized tooth enamel and a plaque from this intriguing (and controversial) taxon discovered at a site called Malapa in South Africa in 2008, provides a detailed insight to the diet of one species of hominin at a particular place and time.

June 25th, 2012

New Cave Painting Ages Suggested

June 25, 2012

Researchers investigating thin layers of limestone deposited on ancient cave paintings suggest in a paper published in Science last week two intriguing possibilities: the famous cave paintings in France and Spain may be as much as 15,000 years older than previously established; Neanderthals may have been cave painters as well as were the anatomically modern humans who replaced them.

June 24th, 2012

Sequencing the Bonobo genome

June 24, 2012

Recent years have seen the decoding of the human genome, then that of our closest human relative, now extinct, Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis). The Chimpanzee genome has been analyzed and now is the turn of the often overlooked sister species to Chimpanzees, the Bonobos.