Asia is the Gift that Keeps on Giving in Prehistory

Political and economic pundits constantly remind us that this is the ‘Asian Century’, and it’s shaping up to be that way also for human origins science. I’ve only recently waxed lyrical about the enormous impact East Asia is having on our thinking in prehistory circles; reshaping the intellectual landscape as it were. At the risk…

East Asia Makes a Comeback in the Human Evolution Stakes

Archaeological discoveries in East Asia over the last decade or so have dramatically rewritten our understanding of human evolution. But the implications don’t sit easily with many scholars internationally who continue to see Europe and Africa as the heartland of human origins. For more than 150 years our understanding of human evolution has been largely…

Bone Suggests ‘Red Deer Cave People’ a Mysterious Species of Human

It’s been an exciting year for human evolution with several discoveries dramatically rewriting major episodes of our ancient past. Some of this progress stems from major advances in fields like ancient genomics, while much has resulted from new fossil and archaeological discoveries made in Africa and China. What’s interested me the most has been the…

In the Driver’s Seat of Evolution

Humans have had a profound influence over evolution; ours and the evolution of many other species. So much so today that we are without doubt in the driver’s seat of evolution for many species, including our own. We’ve sent hundreds, probably thousands, of species to extinction, and potentiality millions more in the near future with…

Without Grandmothers We Might Not Be Here At All

As adults, we’re often nostalgic for our childhood. A time when life seemed so much simpler. When we were free from the hassles of money, pressures of work and responsibilities of family and care. When we were free to play and imagine people and worlds far from reality, and almost everything we did was new,…

FactCheck Q&A: Do We Only Have Space for About 150 People in Our Lives?

The Conversation is fact-checking claims made on Q&A, broadcast Mondays on the ABC at 9:35pm. Thank you to everyone who sent us quotes for checking via Twitter using hashtags #FactCheck and #QandA, on Facebook or by email. We, on average, for our entire history have associated with about 150 other people, and now after millions…

Why Are Humans Unique? It’s the Small Things That Count

Can there be any more important a question than, ‘How did we get here?’ Of course, I don’t mean those books we all gawked at as tweens desperate to understand our transforming pubescent bodies. I mean, ‘How did we get here, as a species?’ ‘How did we come to be so different to all other…

How a One Night Stand in the Ice Age Affects Us All Today

Over the past half decade, ancient DNA research has revealed some surprising aspects to our evolutionary history during the past 50,000 years. Perhaps the most startling of these has been the extent to which the ancestors of living people across the planet interbred with other closely related species of human. But where in the world…

Did ‘Rising Star’ Shine Too Bright?

Last week was rather exceptional for human evolution science, even for those of us who are used to the extravagances of media attention that surround the field. We were spoilt with the announcement of no less than two major discoveries in just as many days. The first of them – the new South African species…

Spare Your Health, Budget, and the Planet: Ditch the Palaeodiet

Interest in the diet of our evolutionary ancestors would ordinarily be a topic of curiosity in only the most obscure of scientific circles. But the popularity of the so-called palaeodiet has brought unprecedented attention to the foods consumed by Stone Age or Palaeolithic people. And, it might ultimately be doing us all more harm than…

How Many Forms Can An Ape Take?

The study of form has been central to biology ever since people have contemplated how life came to exist and how individual species or groups of them are related to one another. When biologists speak of ‘form’ they mean the shape, appearance or structure an organism takes — be it whole organism or only a…