Category Archives: human evolution

Svante Pääbo gives a good public lecture on Neanderthals, Denisovans, and other relatives of modern humans

I think most readers know about Svante Pääbo and his work on “paleoanthropology”: the study of the evolution and ancient movements of H. sapiens through analysis of “fossil DNA”.  His most famous work is on the genetics of Neanderthals, a subject in which I’ve recently become interested. Pääbo’s work been extended to Denisovans and other previously […]

How do we know that Neanderthals were nearly all right-handed?

A while back I wrote about my visit to the Croatia Natural History Museum, where curator Dr. Davorka Radovčić kindly gave three of us a several-hour look at Neanderthal bones from the nearby location of Krapina, one of the most fruitful Neanderthal sites known. At the time I mentioned there was evidence that most Neanderthals were right-handed, […]

Neanderthal bones in Croatia

Note: This has been slightly updated after I ran it by Davorka, who caught a few errors. Over the years we’ve had a number of posts about Neanderthals and their genetic legacy in “modern humans” (see here for a collection), many of them written by Matthew Cobb. Croatia—in particular a hill near the small town […]

A very old tool

Here’s my hand holding a 130,000 year old flint spearhead created by a Neanderthal living near what is now Krapina, Croatia. It’s a beautiful point, and amazing to think that this was chipped by a hominin so long ago. I learned a ton today at the Croatia Natural History Museum, as we had a special […]

Geneticist David Reich responds to critics of his views on race

On March 23, I called your attention to paleoanthropologist David Reich’s op-ed in the New York Times, “How genetics is changing our understanding of ‘race’.” I thought the article was quite good, one of the few articles that takes a pretty objective and open-minded stand on “race”. It noted that conventionally named races are social […]

Finally: a sensible discussion of “race”

And by “sensible,” of course, I mean a discussion that aligns with my own views. I’ve often written that while there are no finite and strongly genetically demarcated human “races”, there are meaningful and statistically diagnostic differences between populations, ethnic groups, or whatever you want to call them. This is in opposition to the common […]

The first Neanderthal cave art

There has been some debate about the artistic ability of Neanderthals, and to date no art has been found, though their “spirituality” has been suggested from traces of ochre in burial sites. That suggests either that living bodies were decorated before burial or were adorned after death in some kind of ritual.  People seize on […]

New jaw and teeth puts first exodus of Homo sapiens from Africa about 180,000 years ago

Note: I’m not an expert on human evolution, so this post is largely derived from some catch-up reading I had to do, and there may be some errors. Feel free to comment or correct me in the comments. I use the subspecies designation H. sapiens sapiens as a synonym for “modern H. sapiens” and to […]

A new hypothesis about consciousness

In my view, there are two big problems of consciousness. The first is mechanical: how does it work? (This is called “The Hard Problem of Consciousness”.) What configurations of neurons create “qualia”, the sensation of conscious experience that includes pain, pleasure, self-awareness, and so on? Many theologians and obtuse academics maintain that we’ll never be […]

A new study on how humans are evolving

I’ve often said that the most frequent question I’m asked in public lectures about evolution is this: “In what direction are humans evolving?” I’ve addressed it in several posts, including here, here, and here. The answers aren’t exciting, and are usually limited to just one population, since such studies involve following a cohort of humans for […]