These are the Decade’s Biggest Discoveries in Human Evolution
by Briana Probiner and Rick Potts/Smithsonianmag.com
Human evolution is one of the most vibrant areas of scientific investigation. In the past decade we’ve seen many discoveries that add to our understanding of our origins. To mark the 10th anniversary of the Smithsonian’s “David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins,” here are some of the biggest discoveries in human evolution from the last 10 years.
DNA tells us a lot about who we are now. But we also look to ancient DNA to learn about our origins.
When the decade first started, scientists recovered ancient genetic material from a fossilized finger bone found in the Denisova Cave in Siberia. They tested that material and discovered that the DNA didn’t match that of modern humans or Neanderthals. Instead, it belonged to a previously undiscovered species of early humans now called Denisovans. It was the first time a new species has been identified using ancient DNA.
What does this tell us? The human genome is a wondrous archive of our relationships with ancient species no longer around.
Over the past decade, we welcomed four new species to our family tree, including the mysterious Homo naledi.
In 2015, scientists announced the discovery of fossils of at least 15 individuals of this species in ….read more: