To commemorate the ten years of its David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins anthropology wing, the Smithsonian Institute has made a list of the area’s greatest discoveries in ten years. Check out:

New relatives
Identified by DNA
Between 2009 and 2010, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, sequenced the DNA extracted from the remains of a hominid found in a cave in the Denisova Valley, Siberia. When the results came, the surprise: he did not belong to any of the known ancestors of man.

Today, it is known that Homo Denisovana lived with Neanderthals and modern humans during the ice age of Europe and Asia. leaving offspring: in 2012, a teenager found 50,000 years ago was found in a cave in the same region. We know from his DNA that his mother was Neanderthal and his father was Denisovan.

Mystery at the bottom of a cave
In the last decade, Homo sapiens’ parentage has grown, but no cousin is as mysterious as Homo naledi. The world learned of its existence in 2015, after anthropologists reached a dark, deep chamber at the bottom of the Rising Star Cave cave system in South Africa. ancient and human.

It is still unknown how they got there. There is no indication that they were dragged there by animals or even by water, between 335,000 and 36,000 years ago. Homo naledi may be the first to have taken their dead to an isolated place, but everything is still speculation.

16 hours looking for History
Anthropology is not only made of new species; some findings fill gaps, such as that of a skull of Australopithecus anamensis, dating from 3.8 million years in Ethiopia.

Discovered in 1966 in the Rift Valley, in northern Kenya, this distant cousin of humans was only studied through fossilized fragments and teeth. On February 16, 2016, a team of anthropologists found the upper jaw of a specimen; for the next 16 hours, the entire excavation field was turned over in search of the rest of the skull

Announced in 2019, the discovery clarified the position of A. anamensis in the human family tree. If it was previously thought that he was a direct ancestor of Australopithecus afarensis (popularly called “Lucy”), today it is known that both species walked the Earth at the same time.

We are older than we look
The discovery that we are older was a surprise, and it came about through a routine exam. In 2017, a team of scientists once again excavated a cave in Morocco, where skulls had been found in 1961.

To determine the age of the findings, sediments and other fossils were collected. What was the surprise when we found out that those men lived 300,000 years ago – our species is a hundred thousand years older than we believed.

Old ways of new habits
Exchange between neighbors
It was long thought that the first tools were created 2.6 million years ago. But stones carved 3.3 million years ago emerged from the earth in Lomekwi, Kenya, which forced scientists to back down their estimates.

Change in stones
300,000 years ago, the ancestor of man had his own social networks. Its existence was proven in 2018 thanks to the analysis of obsidian (a stone valuable for sharpness) used in knives and spearheads.

After excavating and analyzing the tools found in southern Kenya, a team of experts found that the stones originated from different places, within a radius of up to 90 kilometers. This shows that humans exchanged obsidians, relating socially.

The nest got small earlier
It was always thought that Homo erectus had started backpacking around the world, from Africa to East Asia, 1.7 million years ago. That date, however, had to be revised in 2018, when tools and fossils discovered in China were confirmed to be 2.1 million years old. We left home 400,000 years earlier.


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