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Via Luciano Sathler
A trio of anthropologists has decided it's time to rewrite the story of human evolution.
That narrative has always been a work in progress, because almost every time scientists dig up a new fossil bone or a stone tool, it adds a new twist to the story. Discoveries lead to new arguments over the details of how we became who we are.
But anthropologists generally agree on this much: A little more than 2 million years ago in Africa, the human lineage emerged. Smithsonian anthropologist says the conventional wisdom is that much of Africa changed about then from forest to dry savanna. Our ape-like ancestors had to adapt or die, leave the forest and embrace the savanna — and in doing so, they evolved into something more like us.
"The traditional package of traits," Potts explains, "including elongated legs, large brain, culture, a whole variety of traits, were thought to have come together with the origin of the genus Homo. We're saying no, that's not the case."
Potts is curator of human origins at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. He and his collaborators, of New York University and of the Wenner-Gren Foundation, have analyzed fossils discovered over the last few decades. They say the human animal didn't come together quite as quickly and neatly as commonly thought.
"What's different," Aiello says of this new narrative, "is that the whole package that makes us human — long linear bodies, very large body size, delayed growth and development for the kids — didn't evolve at the same time."
Instead, these scientists say, traits that make us human arose separately, in a herky-jerky fashion.
Click headline to read more and listen to audio this NPR radio segment--
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