The Hobbit Took Our Breath Away: Now it’s the New Normal

It’s been a big year for the early human species Homo floresiensis – aka ‘the Hobbit’ – and the scientists who found it. Way back in 2004 this was the discovery that threatened to rewrite the textbooks and the one that took every anthropologist’s breath away. It was the first early human from the island…

Ancient Australia: World’s First Nation of Innovators

For the first couple of centuries of European occupation of Australia the history of its Indigenous people, as written by white fellas, drew heavily on adjectives like ‘primitive’. As both a white fella and an anthropologist devoting much of my time to writing about human origins, I can only try to imagine the devastating effects…

Need Help With That Delivery? Call The Monkey Midwife!

When I think back to the traumatic birth of my own daughter – and how I would have lost her and my partner if it hadn’t been for some swift medical intervention – I can’t help but wonder how the heck we’ve grown to be so numerous as a species. It’s fascinating to reflect on…

The Hobbit Gets a Little Older, and Science a Little Wiser

When a skeleton of the so-called ‘Hobbit’ – scientific name Homo floresiensis – was unearthed in Indonesia in 2003 it would go on to cause a major furor in anthropological circles like few others before it. More than a decade on, the dust has largely settled on the debate about its status as a legitimate…

A Golden Age of Ancient DNA Science Begins

If I had taken a straw poll among anthropologists 10 years ago asking them how far genetic research would come in the next decade, I doubt anyone would have come close to predicting the big impact fossil DNA work would come to have. Back then, this nascent field was bogged down with fundamental issues like…

An Ancient Australian Connection to India?

When was the remote Australian continent first settled? Where did these ancient Australians come from? Was the island settled once, or on multiple occasions? Is there a genealogical connection between the Indigenous people of Australia and India? These are questions I’ve spent almost two decades cogitating, and some of them have been pondered now for…

When Humans Split from the Apes

When and where did humans split from the apes to become a separate branch of bipeds? Are we an ape or not? If so, which of the living Great Apes is the closest to humans? European philosophers and scientists have debated questions like these for more than three centuries. From the pre-evolutionary musings of sixteenth…