Since the genus Homo arose in Africa about 2 million years ago, humans have swept the globe and multiplied into the dominant life form on Earth. Using a myriad of approaches, scientists are now exploring every aspect of this evolution. How many kinds of human once shared the planet? Did they mate with each other? When did the last Neandertal die? Do racism and war have evolutionary roots?  And what was the real paleodiet? New methods take advantage of the remarkably resilient properties of ancient DNA and allow researchers to reconstruct long-ago worlds, exploring for example how farming populations replaced hunter-gatherers in Europe, and identifying a new, mysterious kind of human, the ancient Denisovans from Siberia. Meanwhile the more traditional sciences of palaeontology and archaeology are very much alive, invigorated by better dating and new tools such as isotopic analysis. Major fossil finds, such as Ardipithecus ramidus, Australopithecus sediba, and Homo naledi, all from Africa, plus Homo erectus bones from Africa and Asia, have broadened our view of the ancient branches of the human lineage. More recent finds reveal the decline of Neandertals and the rise of modern Homo sapiens. All these discoveries and more have been documented and discussed in the pages of Science. This topic page offers a snapshot of recent anthropological research, and a window into our past.

 

Elizabeth Culotta

Elizabeth is a deputy news editor at Science, coordinating coverage of anthropology, archaeology and paleontology.

Andrew Sugden

Andrew Sugden is a Deputy Editor at Science, focusing mainly on ecology and anthropology.