When in our evolution did we humans become so clever, so creative, so boundlessly ingenious? Writer Heather Pringle tackles exactly this question in the cover story of the March issue of Scientific American. The answer, in a nutshell, is rather earlier than scientists traditionally thought, which itself raises all sorts of questions about what factors kindled our ancestors’ cognitive prowess. Pringle marshals considerable evidence of surprisingly ancient innovation—from sophisticated tools to spectacular works of art—to make her case. The list below links to stories that explore many of those finds in greater detail.

Ancient Cut Marks Reveal Far Earlier Origin of Butchery

Humans Tamed Fire by 1 Million Years Ago

Human Ancestors Made Deadly Stone-Tipped Spears 500,000 Years Ago

Oldest Arrowheads Hint at How Modern Humans Overtook Neandertals

When the Sea Saved Humanity

The Morning of the Modern Mind

Oldest Cave Paintings May Be Creations of Neandertals, Not Modern Humans

Stone Age jams: Humans playing the flute for at least 35,000 years, no word yet on sax