Was Agriculture the Greatest Blunder in Human History?

Twelve thousand years ago everybody lived as hunters and gatherers. But by 5,000 years ago most people lived as farmers. This brief period marked the biggest shift ever in human history with unparalleled changes in diet, culture and technology, as well as social, economic and political organisation, and even the patterns of disease people suffered….

Why Are There So Many Species of Bugs, But So Few Species of Human?

Looking around at the natural world, have you ever wondered why some groups of organisms contain huge numbers of species while others are seemingly barren? Take insects as an example, animals which evolved around 480 million years ago. There are perhaps 6 million species living in all manner of environments, and occupying an incredible diversity…

The Hobbit Gets a Little Older, and Science a Little Wiser

When a skeleton of the so-called ‘Hobbit’ – scientific name Homo floresiensis – was unearthed in Indonesia in 2003 it would go on to cause a major furor in anthropological circles like few others before it. More than a decade on, the dust has largely settled on the debate about its status as a legitimate…

A Golden Age of Ancient DNA Science Begins

If I had taken a straw poll among anthropologists 10 years ago asking them how far genetic research would come in the next decade, I doubt anyone would have come close to predicting the big impact fossil DNA work would come to have. Back then, this nascent field was bogged down with fundamental issues like…

An Ancient Australian Connection to India?

When was the remote Australian continent first settled? Where did these ancient Australians come from? Was the island settled once, or on multiple occasions? Is there a genealogical connection between the Indigenous people of Australia and India? These are questions I’ve spent almost two decades cogitating, and some of them have been pondered now for…

Age of Jawbones Mean the Origins of Humans Just Got Older

There’s plenty of excitement this month amid reports that scientists had identified the “dawn of humankind” in the Rift Valley of Ethiopia. With reports this discovery of a jawbone could “rewrite the history of human evolution” you might well imagine, my hyperbole detector became instantly aroused. Putting aside the hype that always accompanies discoveries in…