It’s just a lone, boney middle finger, but the scientists who found it say it’s the oldest directly dated fossil of our species to ever be found outside of Africa and the Levant, a region that today comprises Israel, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.In 2016, Iyad Zalmout, a scientist with the Saudi Geological Survey, was participating in the Al Wusta archaeological dig in the Nefud Desert, the former site of a ancient freshwater lake in what is now the barren Arabian desert, when he decided to go for a stroll.The finger, along with other samples found at the Al Wusta site, then travelled to the Australian National University in Canberra where scientists used several dating techniques to age the specimen—including uranium series dating, in which a laser pokes microscopic holes into the fossil to measure the ratio between traces of radioactive elements.The results of this study were published today in Nature Ecology & Evolution.Ancient human-like fossils and artifacts have been found elsewhere in east Asia and Australia, along with the remarkable—but highly contentious—discovery of 120,000-year-old human fossils in China.“The discovery of this fossilised finger bone is a dream come true,” said Petraglia at a press conference held this past Thursday.
Genetic analysis suggests two populations of Denisovans—an extinct group of hominids closely related to Neanderthals—existed outside of Africa during the Pleistocene, and that both of these populations interacted and interbred with anatomically modern humans.But in addition to the Neanderthal ancestry, genetic anthropologists also learned that Denisovan DNA lives on in modern humans, especially among Oceanians and East and South Asians.This means anatomically modern humans, or Homo sapiens, must’ve interbred with a population of Denisovans.A fancy way of saying this is that human DNA shows signs of two waves of Denisovan “admixture.”To reach this conclusion, a research team led by Sharon Browning, a research professor of biostatistics at the University of Washington, compared the lone Denisovan genome to 5,600 whole-genome sequences derived from individuals in Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Oceania.“The genomes of modern Papuan individuals contain approximately 5 per cent Denisovan ancestry.” Asians, by contrast, have less Denisovan DNA, so prior to this new study, scientists figured that ancient Oceanians migrated to Asia, where they spread their Denisovan-infused DNA among the native population.
Anatomically modern humans, otherwise known as Homo sapiens, emerged just prior to the onset of the Middle Stone Age, a period that lasted from about 280,000 to 40,000 years ago.Before the Middle Stone Age, humans lived in the Early Stone Age, an era characterised by the popular Acheulean stone handaxe.All three studies focused on excavations done at the Olorgesailie Basin in southern Kenya, a region that, for the past 75 years, has yielded artefacts dating as far back as 1.2 million years ago.The first study, led by Richard Potts from the Smithsonian Institute’s Human Origins Program, looked at well-preserved sediments pulled from Olorgesailie, a rift that extends for 25 square miles (65 square km).These adjustments may have been disruptive, but together, they promoted foraging efficiency, reduced risk, and improved the overall “fitness” of the species, according to the research.But this changed entirely by about 320,000 years ago, as evidenced by the presence of tools and other artefacts made from obsidian, chert (a coloured stone), and quartzite—materials that came from far away.
Around 74,000 years ago, a massive caldera erupted on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, triggering a prolonged and devastating volcanic winter.Scientists have speculated that the Toba eruption pruned back human populations to a considerable degree, but new research published today suggests at least one group of humans living in southern Africa not only managed to survive the event—they actually prospered.With so much debris in the atmosphere, sunlight barely touched the Earth’s surface, threatening entire species with extinction.Back in the 1990s, scientists theorised that the lingering effects of the Toba eruption created a population bottleneck, reducing the size of Homo sapiens to 10,000 individuals from an effective population of about 100,000.No doubt, the environment would have literally changed overnight for human hunter-gatherers living in Africa and Eurasia, forcing them to adapt to the changing conditions.The so-called “Toba Catastrophe Theory,” as it’s called, may actually be a myth.
Most paleo dieters try to stick to some type of regimen similar to what they think our distant, pre-agricultural ancestors might’ve eaten.Yet for Geltor, a Silicon Valley-backed start-up based in San Leandro, synthethic biology became the ticket for creating just such a literal understanding of the paleo diet.Mastodons may have been the biggest, but sadly for these long-tusked relatives of Asian elephants, they didn’t evolve around Homo sapiens and consequently were little match for us.Some of the vanquished beasts remain today, however, sealed shut in icy graves that have preserved their bodies for millennia.And as with all ancient organisms, if there’s any protein still to be found on them, it’s probably going to be in the form of collagen, the abundant molecule found throughout much of our bodies.Indeed, humanity has now taken an initial step toward resurrecting the huge creatures on whom our forebearers feasted, at least at the molecular level, by sequencing the long-gone animal’s proteins.
Jodie Whittaker’s first season as Doctor Who’s Thirteenth Doctor is taking a trip back to the 17th Century—where the Doctor will come face to face with none other than legendary Scottish-American actor Alan Cumming.Cumming himself confirmed the casting on the latest episode of Will Young and Christopher Sweeney’s LGBTQ podcast Homo Sapiens, as well as the fact that he’ll be playing King James I (who, confusingly, was also King James VI, of the then-separate Scottish throne)—the first monarch to take England’s throne after the end of the Tudor line with the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603.Skip ahead to around 15:55 if you want to hear for yourself, but here’s Cummings’ own description of his role:I’m about to go and do an episode of Doctor Who, I’m so excited.I’m a nice baddie, I’m James I, so I’m kind of like a dandy, foppy sort of coward who kind of comes alright in the end.And they said he might come back.
Back in 2012, archaeologists concluded that a series of cave paintings in Spain were created by Neanderthals, not early humans as was previously assumed.Now, using an updated dating technique, scientists have shown yet again that Neanderthals are the most likely source of the paintings—but will it be enough to finally dispel outdated notions of Neanderthal intelligence?That’s a full 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in Europe, which means the paintings were most likely made by Neanderthals, whose ancestors, Homo erectus, left Africa around 1.81 million years ago.The ability to represent objects outside the mind, this study suggests, was likely passed down to Neanderthals and modern humans from a common ancestor.The red and black paintings, which include representations of animals, dots, geometric signs, and hand stencils, are located in three Spanish caves, La Pasiega, Maltravieso, and Ardales, which are 435 miles (700 km) apart.Neanderthals, it’s been long held, weren’t sophisticated thinkers, and they lacked the ability for abstract thought.
That’s all sorts of incredible, because Homo sapiens like you and me didn’t leave Africa until about 175,000 years ago.Also known as the Middle Stone Age, this stage of hominid development is characterised by the emergence of sophisticated stone tools, including fancy new blades, distinctive flaking and pointing methods, and a preference for smaller tools.When the first hominids left Africa some 1.7 million years ago, they were armed with a killer app known to archaeologists as the Acheulian hand axe, and it’s by this tool that the Acheulian culture is known.But like any technology, it eventually became obsolete as new, better tools become popular.These early humans had a lot in common with Homo sapiens, like walking upright and having the ability to forge tools, but they differed in some subtle ways, such as differently sized skulls, prominent brow ridges, and shorter statures (except the Neanderthals, which, like our own species, had an average height of 5'3”).All of these human species eventually went extinct, but some interbred with anatomically modern humans, or Homo sapiens.
Archaeologists in Israel have uncovered the partial jawbone from what appears to be a modern human.Dated to between 175,000 to 200,000 years old, the fossil is 50,000 years older than any other human fossil found in the region, suggesting humans left Africa far earlier than previously thought.Archaeologists have been exploring these caves for decades, so the discovery of the odd bone or artefact isn’t particularly extraordinary; ancient humans, including now-extinct species and anatomically modern Homo sapiens, populated these caves repeatedly during both the Upper and Lower Palaeolithic, leaving signs of their occupancy behind.The recent discovery of a partial jawbone with several teeth still intact didn’t seem like a huge deal at first, but when multiple dating techniques put its age at between 175,000 to 200,000 years old, the archaeologists who found the fossil realised they had stumbled upon something special.“It provides the clearest evidence yet that our ancestors first migrated out of Africa much earlier than we previously believed.Our species was late to the show—but Homo sapiens eventually prevailed, going on to settle virtually every corner of the planet.
A fossilized chunk of bone and teeth could rewrite the history of when modern humans left Africa.The fascinating fossil consists of a partial upper adult jawbone with an intact line of teeth.An international team of researchers dated the fossil to between 175,000 to 200,000 years ago."The finding suggests that modern humans left the continent at least 50,000 years earlier than previously thought," notes Binghamton University.The researchers published their findings Thursday in the journal Science.In mid-2017, scientists announced the discovery of the oldest known fossils in a cave in Morocco, dating them to 300,000 years ago.
All that remains is the left half of an upper jaw, with some fragments of palate, cheekbone, and the floor of the nasal cavity still attached, along with a complete set of upper left teeth.But those fragments of bone mean that modern humans probably found their way to southwest Asia about 40,000 to 50,000 years earlier than fossil evidence previously suggested.Misliya-1’s presence brings the fossil evidence into line with genetic studies, which suggest that modern humans first interbred with Neanderthals around 200,000 years ago somewhere outside of Africa.Bone contains a small amount of uranium-234, which decays to thorium-230 at a predictable rate, so scientists can use the ratio to tell how old the bone is.Another lab combined that method with electron spin resonance, which measures how many atoms in a sample have unpaired electrons, or free radicals, to measure how long an object has been exposed to the normal background radiation in the environment.The tools found alongside Misliya-1 use a flint-knapping technique called "Levallois," which is a pretty sophisticated way to make stone tools.
“Whenever I travel, my kids would miss me a lot because they’re so used to having me around,” explains Jain, who travels to Asia once a month as CEO of ObEN, a California-based startup that creates humanoid avatars.Coming up with a solution became the impetus for ObEN, which he co-founded in 2014 with Adam Zheng.“I don’t speak Chinese, but my personal AI can.”Future-obsessed creatives and technologists alike have long been fascinated by the idea of robots that are so human-like, it’s impossible to distinguish them from homo sapiens.In June, the two companies announced a Hong Kong-based joint venture called AI Stars Limited.“AI has infinite time and can work with infinite fans.”
The traditional origin story for modern humans says that early groups migrated out of Africa 60,000 years ago.Most non-Africans can trace their origin to those migrations, but new evidence suggests that humans actually migrated out of Africa as far back as 120,000 years ago.Tens of thousands of years ago, the first Homo sapiens — modern humans — started to cross mountains, deserts, and even oceans to leave Africa, where our species first evolved, and populate Asia and Australia.Researchers still agree that most present day non-Africans trace the majority of their lineage to the large migration that occurred then.These early migrants interbred with other hominin species that existed at the time, including Neanderthals and Denisovans.This new information has challenged the previous understanding of human migration to the point that it needs to be revised, according to a new review of research published in the journal Science.
Not long ago, the Food Network posted to Facebook a video featuring a food and parenting blogger named Bev Weidner, of the Web site Bev Cooks, demonstrating what was advertised as “the brilliant peanut butter hack you never knew you needed.” In the video, Weidner, chipper and chatty, lobs a few big spoonfuls of smooth peanut butter onto a piece of wax paper, folds it, then runs over its surface with a rolling pin to spread the peanut butter thin.The method is useful for saving time, she explains, while making sandwiches for her kids—and, she adds, to avoid any possibility of tearing the bread while applying peanut butter the normal way, with a knife.On Facebook, commenters, eighteen thousand of them, were not buying it.since having kids I had to quit my job due to the amount of time I needed to spread peanut butter each day,” one woman wrote.Having said that, I have a confession to make: I’m a glutton for kitchen tricks, kitchen gadgets—kitchen hacks, if you must call them that—whose appeal is older than humans themselves.As for Homo sapiens, both Charles Darwin and the Harvard biologist Richard Wrangham have argued that the human ability to make fire and use it to cook is one of our fundamental attributes.
“It passed the piss test,” Michener says in Episode 277 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.Both my partner and I had to pee halfway through, and neither of us could go to the bathroom, because we didn’t want to miss any of it.”Science fiction author Matthew Kressel is a massive fan of the original Blade Runner, and appreciates that the sequel replicates its mood and pacing.But the slow pace of Blade Runner 2049 is proving a challenge for many viewers, and so far the movie hasn’t attracted an audience that extends much beyond fans of the original.Michener thinks it’s appropriate that the film, like its predecessor, is a box office disappointment.“It was not designed to work with the Fast & Furious crowd.”
Hidden in a cave in northern Croatia, a fragment of bone from a woman that lived 52,000 years has revealed its secrets, suggesting that we’re even closer to our evolutionary ancestors than we thought.Thanks to this analysis of the ancient fragment, we now know that for modern humans outside of Africa, as much as 2.6 per cent of our genome is made up of Neanderthal DNA.This suggests that Neanderthals may have mated with our own species – Homo Sapiens – as early as 130,000 years ago.This genetic mixing left a handful of genes that are still active in most humans today – including those that influence our blood cholesterol and vitamin D levels, our fat accumulation and how we respond to antipsychotic drugs.This new study highlights how little really separates us from our extinct cousins, says Simon Underdown at Oxford Brookes University in the UK.“I think that it might have been bad luck – we could be having this conversation as Neanderthals and thinking about how lucky those Homo sapiens were to get wiped out.”
Despite many recent discoveries that show Neanderthals were technologically and socially sophisticated, there's still a popular idea that these heavy-browed, pale-skinned early humans were mentally inferior to modern Homo sapiens.A fascinating new study reveals that Neanderthals were distilling tar for tool-making 200 thousand years ago—long before evidence of tar-making among Homo sapiens.One of humanity's earliest technological breakthroughs was learning to distill tar from tree bark.It was key to making compound tools with two or more parts; adhesives could keep a stone blade nicely fitted into a wooden handle for use as a hoe, an axe, or even a spear.Scientists have discovered ancient beads of tar in Italy, Germany, and several other European sites dating back as much as 200 thousand years, which is about 150 thousand years before modern Homo sapiens arrived in Western Europe.The question that Leiden University archaeologist Paul Kozowyk and his colleagues wanted to answer was how sophisticated the Neanderthals had to be to do it.
In January 2015, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made it his mission to read one book roughly every two weeks.The goal was to learn more about the world and humanity's place in it, so he set about recommending books on culture, history, and science.We've rounded up the books on science Zuckerberg thinks everyone should read.'Sapiens' by Yuval Noah HarariWe weren't always the only species of human on Earth.Roughly 100,000 years ago, there were actually six varieties of people, but homo sapiens were the only ones who made it to the future.
Shannon McPherron, MPI EVA LeipzigMost people don't spend their free time imagining what it would be like to get on the subway and sit across from a 300,000-year-old person.Hublin's findings, while controversial, were generally greeted by other researchers in the community with excitement about the other kinds of research opportunities that could be opened up by this new idea."It certainly means that we need to rethink our models."Hublin is one of several anthropologists and archaeologists who are combing the planet for evidence that could rewrite various aspects of ancient human history.Together, they are answering burning questions about our origin story, from when and where the first Homo sapiens emerged to how the first people braved the icy passage between what is today Siberia and North America — and when they did it.
The first fossil skeleton of a human ever discovered was found, in 1823, in southern Wales, ceremonially buried under six inches of soil in a limestone cave facing the sea.Buckland had been busy exploring caves in England and Germany, noting the loamy soils and the animal bones they contained as indications of “the last great convulsion that has affected our planet’’—the Biblical flood, he meant.At first, Buckland thought it was a man—perhaps a taxman killed by smugglers—but then he decided that it was a woman, maybe a fortune-teller, or a witch, or a prostitute from the days of the Roman occupation.Whoever she’d been, Buckland wrote, she was “clearly postdiluvian,” a relatively recent deposit.Only much later was the Lady revealed to be a man after all, and, in 2009, after decades of effort, scientists determined that the skeleton is thirty-three thousand years old—the oldest human remains ever found in Britain.By now, of course, we know that the history of our species is far more ancient, although the evolutionary tree keeps changing shape and sprouting limbs.
More

Top