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…

How a One Night Stand in the Ice Age Affects Us All Today

Over the past half decade, ancient DNA research has revealed some surprising aspects to our evolutionary history during the past 50,000 years. Perhaps the most startling of these has been the extent to which the ancestors of living people across the planet interbred with other closely related species of human. But where in the world…

All Mixed Up: Interspecies Love-ins and the Offbeat History of Our Species

Revolutionary developments in the study of the DNA of our fossil ancestors are forcing a major rewrite of the human evolutionary story. They hold major implications for fundamental questions that cut across biology and shift the spotlight back onto humans as a central model in the study of evolution. And, they again highlight the weird…

The Extraordinary Beginnings of Human Consciousness

Our consciousness sets us apart from all other life. Yet, its evolutionary appearance highlights the accidental nature of our origins. The beginning of our species is one of the most significant events in the Earth’s — some say the universe’s — history. At its centre is answering big questions like the beginnings of consciousness. The…

Not the Marrying Kind

The idea that our ancestors interbred with other hominins like the Neanderthals or Denisovans is a truly captivating one. The ancient DNA evidence would seem to have just emerged out of the blue, changing our thinking on how our evolution unfolded, and in a rather profound way. Is it really that amazing? Revolutionary even? Like…