Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
  
Search Evolution  
 
Click to return to the Evolution Home Page
darwin change extinction survival sex humans religion
Human Evolution

  Bipedalism | Brain size, language, and social behavior | Primates | Tool use

The human species shares a common genetic code with all other life on this planet, and many of our basic traits are a heritage from the long evolutionary history that took place before the human lineage branched off from the apes around 6 million years ago. Yet we also have our own set of uniquely human adaptations. Explore these resources for more about the evolution of humans and our closest relatives, the other primates.


Featured Multimedia Resources
Steven Pinker: Evolution of the MindSteven Pinker: Evolution of the Mind Read the transcript of an interview with Steven Pinker that was filmed for Evolution: "The Mind's Big Bang."

Resource Type: Interview

Origins of HumankindOrigins of Humankind Examine an 8-million-year-old fossil record to learn about the evolution of the human family.

Resource Type: Web Activity

Is Love in Our DNA?Is Love in Our DNA? Did evolution shape your taste in a mate? Take our poll.

Resource Type: Web Activity


Link:  To Top of Page

Resource

Type

Format

Topics Covered


Origins of Humankind

Origins of Humankind
Examine an 8-million-year-old fossil record to learn about the evolution of the human family.

Web Activity

Flash

get plug-in

Human Evolution


Finding Lucy

Finding Lucy
This video segment depicts the landmark hominid fossil finds by Don Johanson and his team in Ethiopia.

Video

QuickTime or RealPlayer

get plug-in

Human Evolution


Laetoli Footprints

Laetoli Footprints
This video segment describes how the famous track fossils known as the Laetoli footprints might have been formed and what they can reveal about the creatures who left them.

Video

QuickTime or RealPlayer

get plug-in

Human Evolution


Walking Tall

Walking Tall
This video segment from Evolution: "Great Transformations" illustrates the differences between the skeletons of a chimpanzee (a knuckle-walker) and a human (a biped).

Video

QuickTime or RealPlayer

get plug-in

Human Evolution


Laetoli Trackways Diagram

Laetoli Trackways Diagram
View a diagram of the hominid footprints that archaeologist Mary Leakey's team found at Laetoli in Tanzania.

Image

Graphic

Human Evolution


The Transforming Leap, from Four Legs to Two

The Transforming Leap, from Four Legs to Two
John Noble Wilford, a New York Times science writer, outlines various hypotheses on the origin of bipedalism.

Document

Text

Human Evolution


Becoming Human: Paleoanthropology, Evolution and Human Origins

Becoming Human: Paleoanthropology, Evolution and Human Origins
Beautifully illustrated by paleoartist John Gurche, this site presents "the story of human evolution in a broadband documentary experience." Users can examine fossil evidence, compare hominid anatomies, and study cultural milestones. The site also offers the latest news and debates in paleoanthropology, as well as a comprehensive resource and Web guide. Presented by the Institute of Human Origins.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews

Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews
This review journal is an excellent source of articles synthesizing the current understanding of a range of topics relevant to human evolution. The site allows users to browse the table of contents for issues from 1996-2001 online at no cost. Access to full-text articles requires either a subscription or a trip to the library to seek out the print edition. Hosted by Wiley InterScience.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


Fossil Hominids: The Evidence for Human Evolution

Fossil Hominids: The Evidence for Human Evolution
This site summarizes the current scientific thinking about human evolution and presents the fossil evidence (including an illustrated timeline) and an extensive bibliography. Hosted by Talk.Origins.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


Human Evolution, an Encarta Encyclopedia Article

Human Evolution, an Encarta Encyclopedia Article
This illustrated encyclopedia article has a clear outline, with topics ranging from parental care to "The Origins and Fate of Late Australopiths."

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


Institute of Human Origins

Institute of Human Origins
The Institute of Human Origins, a non-profit, multidisciplinary research organization affiliated with Arizona State University, is dedicated to the recovery and analysis of the fossil evidence for human evolution.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


The Human Origins Program

The Human Origins Program
A work-in-progress, this site's "Hall of Human Ancestors" offers QTVR movies of fossil skulls in the Smithsonian's collection. Hosted by the Smithsonian Institution.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


Bipedalism and Human Birth: The Obstetrical Dilemma Revisited

Bipedalism and Human Birth: The Obstetrical Dilemma Revisited
This article explores how the human birth process is unique among primates, the result of a compromise between a pelvis adapted to bipedal walking and a skull large enough to accommodate the human brain. By K. Rosenberg and W. Trevathan [Evolutionary Anthropology 4, no. 5 (1996): 161-168].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


From Lucy to Language

From Lucy to Language
This large-format book by science writer Edgar and paleoanthropologist Johanson -- discoverer of the famous partial skeleton of Lucy, a female hominid who lived 3.2 million years ago -- gives as complete a picture of human evolution as is presently known. By Donald C. Johanson and Blake Edgar [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


How Humans Evolved

How Humans Evolved
This book is a comprehensive introduction to the study of biological anthropology. By Robert Boyd and Joan B. Silk [New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2000].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


Human Evolution: An Illustrated Introduction, 4th ed.

Human Evolution: An Illustrated Introduction, 4th ed.
This comprehensive and highly accessible textbook offers, among many things, a full treatment of modern evolutionary theory and extensive coverage of recent advances in molecular and morphological systematics. By Roger Lewin [Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Science, 1999].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


Lucy's Legacy: Sex and Intelligence in Human Evolution

Lucy's Legacy: Sex and Intelligence in Human Evolution
This book provides a review and analysis of modern sociobiology, applied to human evolution in the broadest sense. By Alison Jolly [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human

Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human
This book is Richard Leakey's personal account of his career in paleoanthropology. In it, he reviews his achievements, honestly assesses his beliefs, and examines human language development. By Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin [New York: Doubleday, 1992].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution
This collection of essays by more than 70 scholars covers a wide range of topics, from genetics to brain function and behavior to the increasing convergence of the fossil and genetic evidence for human evolution. By Steve Jones, Robert Martin, and David Pilbeam [New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind

The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind
In this book, the authors describe the history of human evolution and project how human behavior will impact life on this planet. By Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin [New York: Doubleday, 1996].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution

Link:  To Top of Page

Resource

Type

Format

Topics Covered


Is Love in Our DNA?

Is Love in Our DNA?
Did evolution shape your taste in a mate? Take our poll.

Web Activity

Web Activity

Human Evolution


Steven Pinker: Evolution of the Mind

Steven Pinker: Evolution of the Mind
Read the transcript of an interview with Steven Pinker that was filmed for Evolution: "The Mind's Big Bang."

Interview

Text

Human Evolution


Birth of a Language

Birth of a Language
This segment from Evolution: "The Mind's Big Bang" chronicles the emergence of a new language among deaf children in Nicaragua in the 1980s.

Video

QuickTime or RealPlayer

get plug-in

Human Evolution


Cave Art

Cave Art
This animated slide show portrays the Lascaux cave paintings.

Image

Graphic

Human Evolution


Susan Blackmore: Memetic Evolution

Susan Blackmore: Memetic Evolution
In this interview excerpt from Evolution: "The Mind's Big Bang," British psychologist Susan Blackmore talks about her theory of memetic evolution, which explains how beliefs, ideas, and stories are selected and passed down.

Interview

QuickTime or RealPlayer

get plug-in

Human Evolution


Hominoid Cranium Comparison

Hominoid Cranium Comparison
This site uses detailed drawings of fossil skulls from seven different hominoid species, with a checklist of features to compare for similarities and differences, to illustrate evolutionary concepts and relationships.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


Apes, Language, and the Human Mind

Apes, Language, and the Human Mind
In this book, leading ape researchers describe their experiences teaching a bonobo to communicate and challenges what is currently believed about the cognitive abilities of nonhuman primates. By Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Stuart G. Shanker, and Talbot J. Taylor [New York: Oxford University Press, 1998].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


Apocalypse Then

Apocalypse Then
This article describes genetic research by the University of California, San Diego, that suggests how early humans almost became extinct. By Martin Brookes [New Scientist, 14 August 1999, 32-37].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


Archaeological Evidence for and Early Appearance of Behavioral Modernity in Subsaharan Africa

Archaeological Evidence for and Early Appearance of Behavioral Modernity in Subsaharan Africa
This article argues that traces of the modern cultural behavior that appeared relatively suddenly in Europe about 50,000 years ago can be seen much earlier in the African archaeological record. By Sally McBrearty and Alison Brooks [Journal of Human Evolution 30 (2000): 454-563].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


Balancing Tools and Language on the Head

Balancing Tools and Language on the Head
This paper focuses on the cognitive foundations of human versus ape tool-making, language, and social intelligence. By K.R. Gibson [American Journal of Physical Anthropology (2001)].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


Becoming Human: Evolution and Human Uniqueness

Becoming Human: Evolution and Human Uniqueness
This book examines the evolution of human intelligence by looking at both our living relatives and the evidence left behind by our extinct ones. By Ian Tattersall [New York: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1998].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


Evolutionary Psychology

Evolutionary Psychology
This article discusses evolutionary psychology, with a focus on the comparative evolutionary history of behaviors, psychological mechanisms, and natural selection. By D. Jones [Annual Review of Anthropology (1999): 553-577].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


How the Mind Works

How the Mind Works
This book offers a sophisticated and comprehensive discussion of cognitive science followed by a general review of sociobiology. By Steven Pinker. [New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1997].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


Missing Links: The Hunt for Earliest Man

Missing Links: The Hunt for Earliest Man
This book offers an illustrated history of paleoanthropology. By John Reader [Boston: Little, Brown, 1981].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


Primate Adaptation and Evolution, 2nd ed.

Primate Adaptation and Evolution, 2nd ed.
This books offers a detailed survey of living primates and a current synopsis of the primate fossil record. By John G. Fleagle [San Diego: Academic Press, 1999].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


The Adoption Paradox

The Adoption Paradox
This article discusses the social and evolutionary aspects of adoption. By E. Eisenberg [Discover, January 2001].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


The Human Career: Human Biological and Cultural Origins

The Human Career: Human Biological and Cultural Origins
This book is the definitive text on hominid evolution. Accessible and thoroughly illustrated, The Human Career chronicles the evolution of people from the earliest primates through the emergence of fully modern humans within the past 200,000 years. By Richard G. Klein [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


The Language Instinct

The Language Instinct
In this book, the author asserts that language is an innate competence of the individual, not solely a construct of the society or culture. By Steven Pinker [New York: W. Morrow, 1994].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain

The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain
In this book, a leading researcher in the fields of neuroscience and evolutionary anthropology argues that the evolution of language did not simply arise out of a larger or more complex brain, but rather that language emerged out of a new way of thinking that he terms "symbolic thinking." By Terrence W. Deacon [New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1997].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


Who Were the Neandertals?

Who Were the Neandertals?
This article explains how according to fossil evidence, Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons existed on the same soil in Europe and the Middle East for at least 10,000 years. Further, the two human species seemingly lived in peace. By Kate Wong [ Scientific American, April 2000, 98].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution

Link:  To Top of Page

Resource

Type

Format

Topics Covered


Chimps And Bonobos

Chimps And Bonobos
This segment from Evolution: "Why Sex?" looks at the dissimilar social organization of chimpanzees and a closely related species called bonobos.

Video

QuickTime or RealPlayer

get plug-in

Human Evolution


Evolving Ideas: Did Humans Evolve?

Evolving Ideas: Did Humans Evolve?
This video for high school students explores the evolution of humans from a common ancestor of humans, chimpanzees, and other apes.

Video

QuickTime or RealPlayer

get plug-in

Human Evolution


Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall
In this interview conducted for the Evolution project, Dr. Jane Goodall describes the search for insights into behaviors of early humans. The background text excerpts Goodall and Phillip Berman's book Reason for Hope.

Video

QuickTime or RealPlayer

get plug-in

Human Evolution


Early Humans

Early Humans
This graphic illustrates the modern-looking anatomy of the Nariokotome boy, a 1.8-million-year-old fossil skeleton named for the locality where it was found, near Lake Turkana in Kenya.

Image

Graphic

Human Evolution


Tracing Human Evolution to its Roots

Tracing Human Evolution to its Roots
This graphic suggests how some recent hominid fossil finds might fit into the overall picture of hominid evolution. As more fossils are found and further analysis advances our understanding of human evolution, this picture will almost certainly be revised.

Image

Graphic

Human Evolution


Jean-Jacques Hublin: Who Were the Neanderthals?

Jean-Jacques Hublin: Who Were the Neanderthals?
In this interview transcript from Evolution: "The Mind's Big Bang," anthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin discusses Neanderthal life, customs, and extinction.

Interview

Text

Human Evolution


Liza Shapiro: Primate Locomotion

Liza Shapiro: Primate Locomotion
In this interview filmed for Evolution: "Great Transformations," Dr. Shapiro discusses her research on primate locomotion and its relationship to human evolution and interpreting the fossil record.

Interview

Text

Human Evolution


The Biology of Skin Color: Black and White

The Biology of Skin Color: Black and White
This article describes research by Nina Jablonski which suggests that the differences in skin color between different human populations could simply be a way to ensure we all get our vitamins.

Document

Text

Human Evolution


You Try It: Human Evolution

You Try It: Human Evolution
This activity from the PBS Web site A Science Odyssey shows the major hominid (human or humanlike) species discovered to date, when they lived, and how they might be related to each other. Hosted by PBS.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


African Primates at Home

African Primates at Home
This site contains sounds, pictures, and life information of primates in Africa. Hosted by Indiana University.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


Anthropology Tutorials

Anthropology Tutorials
This site offers a very comprehensive, up-to-date resource with more than 20 tutorials, complete with photos and illustrations, on both physical and cultural anthropology. Hosted by Palomar College.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


Gorilla Foundation - Koko the Gorilla

Gorilla Foundation - Koko the Gorilla
This organization promotes the protection, preservation, and propagation of gorillas. Project Koko, a primary focus of TGF/Koko.org, involves teaching a modified form of American Sign Language to two lowland gorillas, Koko and Michael.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


Human Evolution: The Fossil Evidence in 3D

Human Evolution: The Fossil Evidence in 3D
This site contains an impressive online 3-D gallery of modern primates and human fossil ancestors. Created by Phillip Walker and Edward Hagen of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


NetVet: Primates

NetVet: Primates
This site offers an extensive links list for everything related to primates and primatology. Hosted by Washington University in St. Louis.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


Orangutans: Just Hangin' On

Orangutans: Just Hangin' On
This Nature site offers information on what's being done to save the wild orangutan and learn about this animal's startling intelligence. Hosted by PBS.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


Paleoanthropology Society

Paleoanthropology Society
Founded in 1992 and run on an informal basis, the Paleoanthropology Society brings together researchers working in the field of hominid behavioral and biological evolution. The Society's Web site lists current job and field work opportunities and offers abstracts of papers presented at the Society's annual conference.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


Paleoanthropology: Hominid Family History

Paleoanthropology: Hominid Family History
This site provides an overview of human evolution, with links to photos of fossil skulls and articles about recent research. Hosted by the University of California, Santa Barbara.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


The Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (CHCI)

The Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute (CHCI)
The Institute cares for a unique family of five chimpanzees who have acquired the signs of American Sign Language (ASL) and use those signs in conversations with each other and with their human companions. Hosted by Central Washington University.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International
Dedicated to the conservation and protection of gorillas and their habitat in Africa, the DFGFI is committed to promoting continued research on gorillas' threatened ecosystems and education about their relevance to the world in which we live.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


The Jane Goodall Institute

The Jane Goodall Institute
The Jane Goodall Institute advances the power of individuals to take informed and compassionate action to improve the environment of all living things.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


The Leakey Foundation

The Leakey Foundation
Named for Louis S.B. Leakey, one of the century's great anthropologists, the Leakey Foundation funds scientific field research into human origins worldwide.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center Library Audiovisual Archive

Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center Library Audiovisual Archive
This site contains a large collection of images, slide shows, and a bibliography of "primates in films." Hosted by the University of Wisconsin.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


An Introduction to Human Evolutionary Anatomy

An Introduction to Human Evolutionary Anatomy
This book is an excellent combination of anthropology and anatomy, featuring illustrations by Joanna Cameron. By Lesle Aiello and Christopher Dean [London: Academic Press, 1990].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


Good Natured: The Evolution of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals

Good Natured: The Evolution of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals
In this book, a primatologist makes a case that the moral sentiments we identify as human are evolutionary products which also exist in apes and other large-brained mammals. By Frans B.M. de Waal [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


Human Osteology, 2nd ed.

Human Osteology, 2nd ed.
Written for advanced students and researchers, this text provides clearly annotated illustrations and photographs to help readers accurately identify human skeletal remains. By Timothy D. White [New York: Academic Press, 1999].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


Machiavellian Intelligence II: Extensions and Evaluations

Machiavellian Intelligence II: Extensions and Evaluations
Building upon Machiavellian Intelligence: Social Expertise and the Evolution of Intellect in Monkeys, Apes, and Humans, this book suggests that the evolutionary roots of higher intelligence are linked to a dynamic social environment. Edited by Richard W. Byrne and Andrew Whiten [Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1988].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


Primate Societies

Primate Societies
This book provides a comprehensive treatment with wide focus on the evolution, sociobiology, group life, and communication and intelligence in primate societies. Edited by Barbara B. Smuts, Dorothy L. Cheney, Robert M. Seyfarth, Richard W. Wrangham, and Thomas T. Struhsaker [Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know About Human Evolution

The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know About Human Evolution
In this book, the head of the anthropology department at the American Museum of Natural History reviews the study of human evolution and examines how fossil discoveries have been interpreted -- and misinterpreted -- over time. By Ian Tattersall [New York: Oxford University Press, 1995].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


The Pictorial Guide to the Living Primates

The Pictorial Guide to the Living Primates
This book is a photographic field guide containing exhaustive identification, habitat, distribution, and conservation status data for 234 species of primates. Lavish cross-references. By Noel Rowe [East Hampton, N.Y.: Pogonias Press, 1996].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution

Link:  To Top of Page

Resource

Type

Format

Topics Covered


Dexterity and Early Tools

Dexterity and Early Tools
These two sets of diagrams show examples of early stone tools and the changes in hand anatomy that enabled our human ancestors to fashion and use such tools.

Image

Graphic

Human Evolution


Earliest Evidence of Animal Butchery, New Species of Human Ancestor, Found in Ethiopia's Afar Desert

Earliest Evidence of Animal Butchery, New Species of Human Ancestor, Found in Ethiopia's Afar Desert
This site presents a good outline of the discovery of Australopithecus garhi and its significance. Hosted by the University of California, Berkeley.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


Pass the Termites, Please

Pass the Termites, Please
This brief article discusses the nutitional value of termites -- and evidence that early hominids used special bone tools to collect them. Hosted by the Biological Research Information Center of Korea.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


Science Hotline: Mary Marzke

Science Hotline: Mary Marzke
This Scientific American Frontiers site offers a question-and-answer session with anthropologist Dr. Mary Marzke, whose research suggests that prehistoric tool use and tool making were important factors in the evolution of our distinctively human hand and upright posture. Hosted by PBS.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


The First Butcher

The First Butcher
This article by Michael D. Lemonick, originally published in Time on May 3, 1999, describes the discovery of Australopithecus garhi and associated evidence for use of tools use to obtain meat. Hosted by Bellarmine University.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


What Can You Do With a Bone Fragment?

What Can You Do With a Bone Fragment?
In this article, Pat Shipman describes research indicating that early hominids in South Africa used bone tools to collect termites, a rich source of protein and fat. The evidence comes from wear patterns on tools found at sites dating from more than 1.1 million years ago. Hosted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

External Link

HTML

Human Evolution


Giving Sherry a Hand: Tools and the Evolution of the Human Hand

Giving Sherry a Hand: Tools and the Evolution of the Human Hand
This article, intended for advanced students of evolution, describes new techniques for identifying features that distinguish living and fossil hands. The thumb and fifth finger are fundamental to distinctive human grips used in prehistoric tool activities. By Mary W. Marzke [American Journal of Physical Anthropology (2001): 103].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


Stone Legacy of Skilled Hands

Stone Legacy of Skilled Hands
This article discusses a reconstruction of prehistoric stone-working techniques, and the use of imaging techniques to identify hand muscles essential for the manufacture of Oldowan tools. By James Steele [Nature 399 (6 May 1999): 24-25].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution


We Are What We Ate

We Are What We Ate
This article discusses a hypothesis that systematically exploiting underground tubers as a food source may have given some early hominids a competitive edge. Some of the earliest stone tools may have been used to make digging sticks, the authors suggest. By Bernard Wood and Alison Brooks. [Nature 400, (15 July 1999) 219-220].

Other Resources

Print

Human Evolution

Videos Web Activities Site Guide About the Project FAQ Glossary Site Map Feedback Help Shop