Where did we come from? A primer on early human evolution

From Cosmos Magazine, June 9, 2016. Homo floresiensis photo by Karen Neoh via Flickr

The story of human origins is a messy one. Each bone fragment that’s unearthed or ancient genome that’s decoded adds a new piece to the puzzle – and it doesn’t necessarily make the picture any clearer.

“Human evolution is not a line of cartoons from a bent-over chimpanzee to a modern human,” says Fred Spoor, a palaeoanthropologist from University College, London. “It’s a complex business.”

While Spoor and his colleagues revel in the increasingly bushy family tree that is emerging, the rest of us can be left up the proverbial tree.

So, here’s what we do – and don’t – know about where we came from. Read more…