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Where did we come from?

Dr Matt Tocheri explains that our evolutionary story is not linear as was once thought to be the case.

A non-linear bush…

Our evolutionary story is not linear, as was once thought to be the case. Rather, like other animals, the human family tree is much more like a bush made up of a variety of extinct cousins.

Palaeoanthropology has blossomed in the last few decades, with recent findings from fossils, genetics and other scientific research providing new insights about human origins and evolution. Genetic evidence tells us that all the DNA in our bodies today leads back to a common ancestral population of modern humans (Homo sapiens) – our species – which first emerged in Africa about 200, 000 years ago.

We know that we shared the planet and a common ancestor with Neanderthals (who had recognisably human features), but it has been a recent discovery that we shared the Earth with another, more distantly related (and morphologically distinct) cousin … Homo floresiensis.

“It’s very surprising because it doesn’t look like a Neanderthal. It doesn’t look like us. It looks more like hominin species that we find in the fossil record roughly one to three million years ago in Africa. And yet, it’s extremely far away and found in sediments that overlap with our species…” (Dr Matt Tocheri, Palaeoanthropologist)

Conversation starter

  • How does the discovery of the Hobbit help us to understand the human family tree as bushy instead of linear?
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Homo Floresiensis Uncovered: The Science of ‘the Hobbit’

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