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Leaving Africa

When did we first leave Africa?

A fossil jaw bone recovered from Misliya Cave on the western slopes of Mount Carmel in Israel suggests that modern humans (Homo sapiens) were living there sometime between 194 and 177 thousand years ago (Hershkovitz and others, 2018). This is significantly earlier than the previously oldest evidence, dated to between […]

neanderthals-v-people

Neanderthals – what happened to them?

We have long been fascinated by the Neanderthals and for good reason. All of us, outside of sub-Saharan Africa, are a bit Neanderthal. This is because we carry a small fraction of the Neanderthal genome acquired long ago when our ancestors left Africa. A relatively small group of our ancestors […]

early life

First Animals

The sudden, but relatively late appearance of animals in the rock record has both fascinated and puzzled scientists for years. Simple bacteria emerged as early as 4000 million years ago, soon after Earth had become habitable, but complex animals appeared only around 600 million years ago and burst onto the […]

earth life timeline

Life on Earth an Inevitability? It seems so

Several recent papers present evidence that life was established early on, soon after Earth’s fiery and cataclysmic assembly had ended and its surface had cooled down into a watery world capable of sustaining life. Such an early start implies that life, rather than being unique to Earth may be, if […]

Great Expansion

The First Australians – Lessons from Madjedbebe

Australia is home to some of our species’ most ancient roots outside of Africa. Dated archaeological sites suggest that our species, Homo sapiens was the first to arrive by around 50 thousand years ago (50 ka) and that we had become widespread throughout the continent by 45 ka (Hamm and others, 2016).

Beringia

The First Americans – crossing Beringia

A recent study presents evidence that members of our human (Homo) lineage were in North America around 130 thousand years ago (Holen and others, 2017; Wade, 2017a). This is a shocking claim because it is more than 100 thousand years before the previously established timing of 14 thousand years ago […]

Digital reconstruction of Homo naledi skull endocranial volume of 610 cc

Homo naledi – Innovators or Hangers On?

The age of the fossil-rich Homo naledi fossil site within the Rising Star cave system in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site near Johannesburg, South Africa was frustratingly unknown until recently. The exceptionally large number of fossil bones scattered on the cave floor proved difficult to date, but an […]

Photo by Shannon McPherron, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

Cape Likely Site of Homo Sapiens Speciation

The dating game New fossil finds and a better constrained age for the Jebel Irhoud fossil site in Morocco shed new light on our evolution. The new ages indicate that the site is approximately 315 thousand years old (315 ka), or nearly twice as old as the previous estimated age […]

Staphylococcus aureus

First and forever a microbial world

They are so small, we rarely give them a thought and yet they are out there in numbers too enormous for us to comprehend. In fact, they are estimated to constitute no less than half of the total mass of all life on Earth. So, when you next look out […]

Swimming in Cambrian seas

Origin of life

How did life first came about? Our planet started out as a molten magma ball too hot for life, but the oldest fossils indicate that it was established soon after Earth had cooled sufficiently to be covered by oceans of water suitable for life. Evolutionary theory allows us to understand […]