Human Evolution: A Very Short Introduction

Human Evolution: A Very Short Introduction

Language: English

Pages: 131

ISBN: 0192803603

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The recent discovery of the diminutive Homo floresiensis (nicknamed "the Hobbit") in Indonesia has sparked new interest in the study of human evolution. In this Very Short Introduction, renowned evolutionary scholar Bernard Wood traces the history of paleoanthropology from its beginnings in the eighteenth century to today's latest fossil finds. Along the way we are introduced to the lively cast of characters, past and present, involved in evolutionary research. Although concentrating on the fossil evidence for human evolution, the book also covers the latest genetic evidence about regional variations in the modern human genome that relate to our evolutionary history. Wood draws on over thirty years of experience to provide an insiders view of the field, and demonstrates that our understanding of human evolution is critically dependent on advances in related sciences such as paleoclimatology, geochronology, systematics, genetics, and developmental biology. This is an ideal introduction for anyone interested in the origins and development of humankind.

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have been lost until a researcher found the bones of a neonate among the stone tools from the site of Les Eyzies! Fortunately, some of the bones were still in their original matrix and this matched rocks in the Vezere River, which runs past Le Moustier. Dating hominin fossils Absolute dating methods are mostly applied to the rocks in which the hominin fossil was found, or to non-hominin fossils recovered from the same horizon. Researchers must take great care to preserve the evidence that links

lakes, and most primates were tree-dwellers. During the period from 8 to 5 MYA the earth experienced the beginning of a long-term drying and cooling trend. The drying occurred because an increasing share of the earth’s moisture was locked up in ice sheets that began to extend further and further away from the north and south poles. Temperatures fell, even in Africa, where the days were cooler and the nights cool, or even cold, at higher altitudes. Hominin evolution began in Africa at the time of

erectus’. The earliest evidence of burnt earth close to where stone tools have been found is dated to between 1 and 2 MYA. It is tempting to interpret this as evidence of deliberate fire, but when lightning strikes a tree and sets it on fire, the remains of a burnt tree stump can be confused with the remains of a controlled fire made in a hearth. Controlled fires usually burn hotter than natural fires in tree stumps, but while in theory it should be possible to tell the remains of a natural fire from

Another is that for the past 2 MY Africa seems to have been the source of ‘pulses’ of hominin evolutionary novelty. The first pulse was the emigration of a H. ergaster-like hominin, then a H. heidelbergensis-like hominin, and then perhaps several waves of migration of modern human-like hominins, perhaps not looking very different, but with different cultural capacities and skills. It is now generally agreed that modern humans are derived from a relatively recent, c.50–45 KYA migration out of East

a 18 limb bone, so that what looks like a curve is in reality the combination of many sets of columns. Our closest relatives Among the tales of exotic animals brought home by explorers and traders were descriptions of what we now know as the great apes, that is, chimpanzees and gorillas from Africa, and orangutans from Asia. Aristotle referred to ‘apes’ as well as to ‘monkeys’ and ‘baboons’ in his Historia animalium (literally the ‘History of Animals’), but his ‘apes’ were the same as the

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