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Reading the cracked brown fragments of fossils and sequences of DNA, scientists have found clues that the story of human origins has more convolutions than previously thought. The account of our shared human heritage now includes more controversial plot twists and mysteries. Was the remarkable seven-million-year-old skull found in July 2002 in Chad really one of our first forebears, or a distant dead-end cousin with precociously evolved features? Did modern humans really originate in Africa alone, as is widely held, or in multiple locales? Were Neandertals the crude, brutish cavemen of comic strips or did they have a refined, artistic culture? And of course, why didn�t our kind perish with the rest of the hominids? Were we luckier, more lingual or just more lethal than the rest?
Explore the latest developments in the field of human evolution in this special edition from Scientific American--and learn more about that fascinating first chapter in everybody's family history.
- The Editors
An Ancestor to Call Our Own by Kate Wong
Controversial new fossils could bring scientists closer than ever to the origin of humanity.
Early Hominid Fossils from Africa by Meave Leakey and Alan Walker
A recently discovered species of Australopithecus, the ancestor of Homo, pushes back the onset of bipedalism to some four million years ago.
Once We Were Not Alone by Ian Tattersall
We take for granted that Homo sapiens is the only hominid on earth. Yet for at least four million years, many hominid species shared the planet. What makes us different?
Who Were the Neandertals? by Kate Wong
With contributions by Erik Trinkaus and Cidália Duarte; by João Zilhão and Francesco d'Errico; and by Fred H. Smith
Contentious evidence indicates that these hominids interbred with anatomically modern humans and sometimes behaved in surprisingly modern ways.
Out of Africa Again ... and Again? by Ian Tattersall
Africa is the birthplace of humanity. But how many human species evolved there? And when did they emigrate?
The Multiregional Evolution of Humans by Alan G. Thorne and Milford H. Wolpoff
Both fossil and genetic clues argue that ancient ancestors of various human groups lived where they are found today.
The Recent African Genesis of Humans by Rebecca L. Cann and Allan C. Wilson
Genetic studies reveal that an African woman of 200,000 years ago was our common ancestor.
Food for Thought by William R. Leonard
Dietary change was a driving force in human evolution.
Skin Deep by Nina G. Jablonski and George Chaplin
Throughout the world, human skin color has developed to be dark enough to prevent sunlight from destroying the nutrient folate but light enough to foster the production of vitamin D.
The Evolution of Human Birth by Karen R. Rosenberg and Wenda R. Trevathan
The difficulties of childbirth have probably challenged humans and their ancestors for millions of years--which means that the modern custom of seeking assistance during delivery may have a similarly ancient foundation.
Once Were Cannibals by Tim D. White
Clear signs of cannibalism in the human fossil record have been rare, but it is now becoming apparent that the practice is deeply rooted in our history.
If Humans Were Built to Last by S. Jay Olshansky, Bruce A. Carnes and Robert N. Butler
We would look a lot different-inside and out-if evolution had designed the human body to function smoothly not only in youth but for a century or more
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