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Human Evolution

Human evolution has made headlines in Nature since Raymond Dart published the first description of Australopithecus africanus in 1925 (Nature 115, 195-199, 1925). Since then, Nature has published the biggest news of new fossil discoveries. Zinjanthropus, Homo habilis, Sahelanthropus, Ardipithecus, Turkana Boy, Lucy, bones from Atapuerca and Dmanisi, Tools from Turkana and Olduvai, Gona and Happisburgh, the genomes of Neanderthals and the still-enigmatic Denisovans, and not forgetting the remarkable hobbits from Flores - all these and many more have made their debuts in the pages of Nature. This resource offers the latest news and opinion from Nature Research in this exciting and often contentious field, and constantly updated archive of research going back a decade.

Human Evolution News and Opinion

A 3.8-million-year-old hominin fossil reveals what the cranium of the oldest known Australopithecus species looked like, casting doubt on assumptions about how these ancient relatives of humans evolved.

News & Views | | Nature

Analysis of two fossils from a Greek cave has shed light on early hominins in Eurasia. One fossil is the earliest known specimen of Homo sapiens found outside Africa; the other is a Neanderthal who lived 40,000 years later.

News & Views | | Nature

In the 150 years since the discovery of human fossils at Cro-Magnon, archaeologists and palaeoanthropologists have grappled with the questions of how to recognize our species in the fossil record, and what we should call ourselves.

Editorial | | Nature Ecology & Evolution

New research suggests that groups of ~130 modern humans at minimum undertook planned expeditions to colonise Sahul via a northern route. However, the necessity of more evidence to test this model reflects a need for change in the way we investigate the population history of this region.

News & Views | | Nature Ecology & Evolution

Radiocarbon dates from Spain put anatomically modern humans in southernmost Europe 10,000 years earlier than previously thought, diminishing the case for late survival of Neanderthals in the region.

News & Views | | Nature Ecology & Evolution

Craniofacial modelling illustrates the lack of a biomechanical function for the hominin browridge and points to a potential role in social communication.

News & Views | | Nature Ecology & Evolution

A focus on the sharp edge of manufactured stone flakes reveals increasing control and efficiency over a 2-million-year dataset, and fosters replicable, standardized methods in lithic analysis. But scaling this method up to more complex stone tools may require further thought.

News & Views | | Nature Ecology & Evolution

Two deer bones from the 120,000-year-old Neanderthal site of Neumark-Nord 1 bear damage consistent with impact from a wooden spear. The hunting lesions are the earliest clear examples of such bone damage and give clues to how Neanderthals hunted their prey.

News & Views | | Nature Ecology & Evolution

An 85,000-year-old Homo sapiens finger bone in Saudi Arabia is the oldest directly dated fossil for our species outside Africa and the Levant. This suggests a more prolonged human expansion out of Africa, and along a different route, than previously thought.

News & Views | | Nature Ecology & Evolution

The presence of Neanderthal DNA fragments in the genomes of modern humans from Europe and East Asia indicates multiple episodes of interbreeding between Neanderthals and the ancestors of both populations.

News & Views | | Nature Ecology & Evolution

Denisova Cave sheltered hominins at least 200,000 years ago, and excavations there have illuminated our understanding of early hominins in Asia. New dating analyses now refine this knowledge.

News & Views | | Nature

Have Neanderthals gained an unfair reputation for having led highly violent lives? A comparison of skulls of Neanderthals and prehistoric humans in Eurasia reveals no evidence of higher levels of trauma in these hominins.

News & Views | | Nature

The Earth in the Miocene epoch (23–5.3 million years ago) was a planet of the apes, with more than 40 species in at least 30 genera. Very few, however, are known from complete cranial evidence. Only a handful of species are known from any part of the skull beyond the face and palate, limiting the information about the state of the skull in the immediate relatives of hominins and modern apes. The dearth is particularly acute in Africa, where no cranial remains are known from between 14 and 10 million years ago. Isaiah Nengo and colleagues describe the skull of an infant ape recovered from Kenya. The 13-million-year-old specimen is assigned to a new species in the genus Nyanzapithecus. The evidence shows that, although the creature shares some similarities with gibbons, these resemblances are very likely convergent and the new species is a close relative of the common ancestor of extant apes.

News & Views | | Nature

When did humans first colonize Australia? The date of the initial landing on the continent that is now associated with cold lager and 'Waltzing Matilda' has been highly controversial. Dates from a site called Madjedbebe in northern Australia had put the presence of modern humans in Australia at between 60,000 and 50,000 years ago, but these results have since been hotly contested. Here, the results from a comprehensive program of dating of new excavations at the site confirm that people first arrived there around 65,000 years ago. The results show that humans reached Australia well before the extinction of the Australian megafauna and the disappearance of Homo floresiensis in neighbouring Indonesia.

News & Views | | Nature

The exact place and time that our species emerged remains obscure because the fossil record is limited and the chronological age of many key specimens remains uncertain. Previous fossil evidence has placed the emergence of modern human biology in eastern Africa around 200,000 years ago. In this issue of Nature, Jean-Jaques Hublin and colleagues report new human fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco; their work is accompanied by a separate report on the dating of the fossils by Shannon McPherron and colleagues. Together they report remains dating back 300,000–350,000 years. They identify numerous features, including a facial, mandibular and dental morphology, that align the material with early or recent modern humans. They also identified more primitive neurocranial and endocranial morphology. Collectively, the researchers believe that this mosaic of features displayed by the Jebel Irhoud hominins assigns them to the earliest evolutionary phase of Homo sapiens. Both papers suggest that the evolutionary processes behind the emergence of modern humans were not confined to sub-Saharan Africa.

News & Views | | Nature

Around 130,000 years ago, a mastodon died near what is now San Diego, California. Although this seems uncontroversial, Thomas Deméré and colleagues present evidence that the carcass had been modified by human beings. Stone hammers and anvils were found alongside mammoth bones and teeth that show signs of having been broken by percussion, presumably to extract bone marrow. Dating the site has been problematic because the bones preserved too little collagen for radiocarbon dating, and optically stimulated luminescence dating put the age at over 60,000–70,000 years. Dates based on the decay of uranium, constrained by the movement of uranium between the environment and the bone, now give an age of around 130,000 years. If confirmed, this would extend tenfold the time that human beings are known to have been present in the Americas and predate the time that modern humans are thought to have first left Africa. The identity of the hominin species—if any—remains unknown.

News & Views | | Nature

The philosopher Thomas Hobbes said that people are inherently violent; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, that people are usually peaceable. The reality presumably lies somewhere in between, but where? Here José María Gomez et al. present a phylogenetic analysis of intraspecies lethal violence in more than 1,000 mammalian species. They show that whereas lethal violence is almost unknown in some clades, such as bats and whales, it is a particular feature of primates. The level of lethal violence during human prehistory inferred from empirical observations is in line with the phylogenetic prediction, but during most historic periods was higher than the phylogenetic predictions. In modern times, cultural practices appear to have modulated the tendency towards violence that nature has given us.

News & Views | | Nature

Homo sapiens evolved in Africa, but the timing of our ancestors' dispersal to the rest of the world has been a source of controversy. Here Axel Timmermann and Tobias Friedrich model the dispersal in the context of the pronounced changes in climate and sea-level during the past 125,000 years. Their results suggest that dispersal across the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant was not a single event, but was concentrated in four distinct waves between 106,000 and 29,000 years ago. The findings agree with archaeological data and show that orbital-scale global climate swings played a key role in population movements, whereas millennial-scale abrupt climate changes had more limited, regional effects.

News & Views | | Nature

During much of the last ice age, continental ice sheets prevented humans from migrating into North America from Beringia, the area between Siberia and what is now the Bering Strait. At some point, a route opened up between the Cordilleran and Laurentide ice sheets, but it is thought that this 1,500-kilometre-long ice-free corridor may have been too cold to act as a human migration route. Eske Willerslev and colleagues present a series of environmental reconstructions based on coring of lake sediments in what was once the ice-free corridor. Their data indicate that the corridor would have still been inhospitable even after humans are known to have arrived in the Americas south of the ice. This implies that humans migrated by a coastal route, now submerged by the risen sea.

News & Views | | Nature

Three international collaborations reporting in this issue of Nature describe 787 high-quality genomes from individuals from geographically diverse populations. David Reich and colleagues analysed whole-genome sequences of 300 individuals from 142 populations. Their findings include an accelerated estimated rate of accumulation of mutations in non-Africans compared to Africans since divergence, and that indigenous Australians, New Guineans and Andamanese do not derive substantial ancestry from an early dispersal of modern humans but from the same source as that of other non-Africans. Eske Willerlsev and colleagues obtained whole-genome data for 83 Aboriginal Australians and 25 Papuans from the New Guinea Highlands. They estimate that Aboriginal Australians and Papuans diverged from Eurasian populations 51,000–72,000 years ago, following a single out-of-Africa dispersal. Luca Pagani et al. report on a dataset of 483 high-coverage human genomes from 148 populations worldwide, including 379 new genomes from 125 populations. Their analyses support the model by which all non-African populations derive most of their genetic ancestry from a single recent migration out of Africa, although a Papuan contribution suggests a trace of an earlier human expansion.

News & Views | | Nature

Until recently, remains of the diminutive Homo floresiensis had been found at a single locality only — in Liang Bua cave on the island of Flores in Indonesia. A pair of papers published in this issue introduces new fossil findings from a second site on Flores, at Mata Menge, to the east of Liang Bua. Gerrit van den Bergh et al. describe a mandible fragment and isolated teeth from several individuals. The remains are as small as, or smaller than, those from Liang Bua, but, at 700,000 years old, are much older. Their morphology supports derivation from Asian Homo erectus. Adam Brumm et al. present the stratigraphic, chronological, environmental and faunal context of the Mata Menge site. The hominins lived some 700,000 years ago in what was then hot, dry savannah grassland, though with a strong wetland component. Stone tools found with the fossils are simple and very like those associated with the much younger Liang Bua H. floresiensis.

News & Views | | Nature

A collection of 47 anatomically modern human teeth from the Fuyan Cave in Daoxian, southern China, shows that anatomically modern humans were in the region at least 80,000 years ago, and possibly as long as 120,000 years ago. That is 30,000–70,000 years earlier than in the Levant and Europe. These people were much more modern-looking than hominins in northern and central China. The discovery adds to the complexity of the human story and shows that much remains to be discovered.

News & Views | | Nature

The Middle Pliocene, between around 3.5 and 3.3 million years ago, seems to have been crucial for hominins living in Africa. There were several different species living there and the period included the first stirrings of tool use and possibly the emergence of the genus Homo. Yohannes Haile-Selassie et al. describe another Middle Pliocene hominin, Australopithecus deyiremida, which lived in Ethiopia at around the same time as Australopithecus afarensis ('Lucy') and other species such as Kenyanthropus platyops in Kenya. Its morphology suggests that some dental features traditionally associated with later genera such as Paranthropus and Homo emerged earlier than previously thought.

News & Views | | Nature

When Louis Leakey and colleagues found stone tools associated with early human fossils (now accepted to be 1.8 million years old) at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania more than 50 years ago, it was assumed that tool-making was unique to our genus. Since then the antiquity of tool-making has gone ever deeper and less exclusively associated with Homo. For a while, the earliest-known sharp-edged stone tools, at around 2.6 million years old, have been from Ethiopia. Cut marks found on animal bones from Ethiopia dated to around 3.3 million years ago were — controversially — associated with tool use among non-human hominins. This earlier beginning to the archaeological record is now affirmed by the discovery reported by Sonia Harmand et al. of the Lomekwi 3 tools, dated to 3.3 million years old, about half a million years older than the current earliest known (2.8 million years old) Homo fossils, reported a few weeks ago. The new finds differ from the 'Oldowan' tools found at Olduvai and elsewhere, and may constitute a pre-Homo tool culture, which the authors suggest calling the 'Lomekwian'.

News & Views | | Nature

The modern human lineage appeared in Africa between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago, but the roots of modern human technology are much less clearly defined. Curtis Marean and colleagues describe a previously unrecognized advanced stone tool technology from Pinnacle Point in South Africa, dating back to around 71,000 years ago. Previously observed signs of such activity have been less definitive, seeming to appear and disappear — perhaps because of poor sampling — but the current work indicates that these tools persisted for some 11,000 years. The technology is dominated by heat-treated stone 'bladelets' that are thought to have been components of composite tools. The technology provides strong evidence for advanced projectile weapons such as spearthrowers, or even bows and arrows. The authors speculate that weapons made using such bladelets may have been pivotal to the success of modern humans as they left Africa and encountered Neanderthals.

News & Views | | Nature

The Clovis complex is an archaeological culture distributed widely in North America. Dating to around 13,000 years ago it is characterized by distinct stone tools including a spear blade known as the Clovis point. Just who made these tools has been a subject of much speculation based on sparse information. There is now more to go on with the publication of the first genome sequence of an ancient North American individual. The genome is that of a male infant (Anzick-1) from the Clovis burial at the Anzick site in Montana. The partial skeleton, buried about 12,600 years ago, was found in association with scores of ochre-painted stone tools. Its genome is from a population from which contemporary Native Americans are descended and is more closely related to all indigenous American populations than to any others. These findings refute the hypothesis that the Clovis people migrated from Europe, are consistent with a human occupation of the Americas a few thousand years before Clovis, and suggest that contemporary Native Americans are descendants of the first people to settle successfully in the Americas.

News & Views | | Nature

Three hominin fossils newly discovered at Koobi Fora, east of Lake Turkana in Kenya, will greatly improve our understanding of the early radiation of the genus Homo, clarifying the iconic but enigmatic hominin cranium KNM-ER 1470, first described by Richard Leakey in Nature in 1973. The three are an exceptionally well-preserved lower jaw (KNM-ER 60000), a fragmentary lower jaw and, importantly, a well-preserved face. At between 1.78 million and 1.95 million years old, they broadly support the idea that there were at least two contemporary Homo species, in addition to Homo erectus, in the early Pleistocene of eastern Africa.

News & Views | | Nature

The development of pottery was a milestone in human achievement, paving the way for sophisticated cooking, storage and many other technologies. The earliest known potters lived in eastern Asia long before the development of agriculture or a settled way of life. What they did with their pots has been a matter of speculation, but is now a matter of chemistry. A chromatographic stable-isotope investigation of 101 charred ceramic pots from the Japanese Jōmon period, dating to 11,800–15,000 years old, has provided the earliest evidence for the use of pottery for cooking. And fish was on the menu, as the lipids extracted from the ceramic fragments are characteristic of marine and freshwater organisms.

News & Views | | Nature

The technique of optical dating was first reported 30 years ago, and has since revolutionized studies of events that occurred during the past 500,000 years. Here, two practitioners of optical dating assess its impact and consider its future.

News & Views | | Nature

New dating results challenge the traditional view that western Europe was the centre of a crucial stage in the evolution of modern human intelligence and culture — based largely on the emergence of figurative or representational art in cave paintings and sculptures around 40,000 years ago. Dating data from a series of hand stencils and paintings of wild animals from caves in the Maros karst in Sulawesi, Indonesia, suggest that figurative art appeared at more or less the same time at opposite ends of the Late Pleistocene world. Or was cave painting practised by the first Homo sapiens to leave Africa tens of thousands of years earlier?

News & Views | | Nature

An important human attribute is the capacity for cumulative culture — the ability to pass on learned behaviours from generation to generation. Theoretical work has suggested that population size is an important factor in cultural development, with information being eroded in populations that are too small and added to in populations that are sufficiently large. Working with groups of volunteers playing an experimental cultural game, Maxime Derex et al. find evidence to support this prediction. They show that, during an iterated process, small groups are unable to maintain the ability to complete a complex task or improve on a simple one, whereas larger groups can improve both types of task over time.

News & Views | | Nature

A 3.4-million-year-old partial skeleton of a hominin foot unearthed in Ethiopia offers an intriguing riddle. The only hominin previously known from that date was Australopithecus afarensis (to which 'Lucy' belonged), which was fully bipedal, and had essentially modern feet. The latest specimen, however, shows evidence for an opposable big toe, more like that seen in modern apes or in the hominin Ardipithecus ramidus, which lived one million years earlier. The new find suggests the coexistence of more than one hominin species in the Pliocene epoch, three to four million years ago, each with its own way of getting around.

News & Views | | Nature

What is the biological explanation for menopause, and for female survival beyond it? A study suggests that competition for help in ancestral societies may have been key to the evolution of this unusual human trait.

News & Views | | Nature

Recent excavations in the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia have yielded a wealth of hominin fossils from a site that has been occupied for perhaps 250,000 years or more. Now a high-quality genome sequence has been determined from a circa 50,000-year-old toe bone — a proximal toe phalanx — excavated from the east gallery of Denisova Cave in 2010. The sequence is that of a Neanderthal woman whose parents were closely related — perhaps half-siblings or uncle and niece. Such inbreeding was also common among her recent ancestors. Comparisons with other archaic and present-day human genomes reveal several gene-flow events among Neanderthals, the closely related Denisovans and early modern humans, possibly including gene flow into Denisovans from an unknown archaic group. The high-quality Neanderthal genome also helps to establish a definitive list of substitutions that became fixed in modern humans after their separation from the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans.

News & Views | | Nature

Did anatomically modern humans coexist with Neanderthals? Attempts to answer this question are complicated by the fact that conventional methods of radiocarbon dating become unreliable at just about the time in question: as sample ages approach 50,000 years little carbon-14 is left and it is difficult to obtain accurate measurements. Tom Higham and colleagues have worked to improve sample processing and accelerator-mass-spectrometry radiocarbon dating in order to construct a robust chronology based on the last appearances of the Mousterian tool culture — considered diagnostic for the presence of Neanderthals — from forty sites from Spain to Russia. The results indicate that Neanderthals disappeared at different times in different regions, with a significant overlap with incoming modern humans for around 2,600 to 5,400 years. Rather than a rapid model of replacement, this work suggests a complex picture in which cultural and biological interchange could have occurred between the two groups across a period of several thousand years.

News & Views | | Nature

A complete hominin cranium found at the archaeological site of Dmanisi shows remarkably primitive morphology, prompting its discoverers to propose that early forms of the genus Homo evolved as a single, highly variable lineage.

News & Views | | Nature

Extensive studies of fossil skeletons of Australopithecus sediba provide fascinating details of the anatomy of this hominin species, but do not convincingly indicate its position on the evolutionary route to modern humans.

News & Views | | Nature

In 2004, researchers announced the discovery of Homo floresiensis, a small relative of modern humans that lived as recently as 18,000 years ago. The ‘hobbit’ is now considered the most important hominin fossil in a generation. Here, the scientists behind the find tell its story.

News Feature | | Nature

Human Evolution Latest Research

Analyses of the proteomes of dental enamel from Homo antecessor and Homo erectus demonstrate that the Early Pleistocene H. antecessor is a close sister lineage of later Homo sapiens, Neanderthal and Denisovan populations in Eurasia.

Article | | Nature

Birch pitch is thought to have been used in prehistoric times as hafting material or antiseptic and tooth imprints suggest that it was chewed. Here, the authors report a 5,700 year-old piece of chewed birch pitch from Denmark from which they successfully recovered a complete ancient human genome and oral microbiome DNA.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

A rock art panel from Sulawesi—dated to at least 43.9 thousand years ago—represents the oldest currently known figurative art in the world, and provides evidence of early storytelling through narrative hunting scenes.

Article | | Nature

Using whole-genome sequencing data from 1,739 individuals, the GenomeAsia 100K Project catalogues genetic variation, population structure and disease associations to facilitate genetic studies in Asian populations and increase representation in genetics studies worldwide.

Article | Open Access | | Nature

Analyses of mitochondrial genomes from populations in southern Africa provide evidence of a southern African origin of anatomically modern humans and a sustained occupation of the homeland before the first migrations of people appear to be driven by regional climate shifts.

Article | | Nature

The past half century has seen a move from a multiregionalist view of human origins to widespread acceptance that modern humans emerged in Africa. Here the authors argue that a simple out-of-Africa model is also outdated, and that the current state of the evidence favours a structured African metapopulation model of human origins.

Comment | | Nature Ecology & Evolution

Sociocultural transitions and medical advancements can disrupt evolutionary equilibriums underlying modern human anatomy, physiology and life history. Disentangling such complex biosocial evolutionary dynamics poses serious ethical questions but has strong potential for guiding public health policies.

Comment | | Nature Ecology & Evolution

Nearly ten years after the field of primate archaeology was first proposed, the status of the field is reported on, including recent discoveries as well as future directions and challenges, marking the end of archaeology’s ‘anthropocentric era’.

Perspective | | Nature Ecology & Evolution

The evolution of the human facial skeleton is evaluated in the context of its extinct hominin relatives, and the biomechanical, physiological and social influences on its development are considered.

Review Article | | Nature Ecology & Evolution

Two related studies describe a newly discovered cranium of Australopithecus anamensis, the environment in which this hominin would have lived approximately 3.8 million years ago and how it is related to Australopithecus afarensis.

Article | | Nature

Uranium-series dating of rock art from Borneo reveals a minimum date for figurative artwork of 40,000 years ago, and a distinct style of parietal art in Southeast Asia at the Last Glacial Maximum.\

Letter | | Nature

Sequences of 137 ancient and 502 modern human genomes illuminate the population history of the Eurasian steppes after the Bronze Age and document the replacement of Indo-European speakers of West Eurasian ancestry by Turkic-speaking groups of East Asian ancestry.

Article | | Nature

Many questions remain about the relationship between populations of Neanderthals around the time of their final interactions with modern humans, and how this contributed to the evolution of modern humans. Janet Kelso, Svante Pääbo and colleagues sequenced the genomes of five Neanderthals that lived between 39,000 and 47,000 years ago, broadening the temporal and geographical range of available Neanderthal genomes. They analyse these genomes together with previously sequenced ancient genomes and find that relatedness among Neanderthals is related to geographic proximity. They find that the majority of gene flow into early modern humans originated from one or more Neanderthal populations that diverged from the late Neanderthals at least 70,000 years ago, but after their split from the Altai Neanderthal approximately 150,000 years ago.

Letter | | Nature

The early spread of farmers across Europe has previously been thought to be part of a single migration event. David Reich and colleagues analyse genome-wide data from 225 individuals who lived in southeastern Europe and the surrounding regions between 12000 and 500 BC. They analyse this in combination with previous genomic datasets to characterize genetic structure and update existing models of the spread of farming into and across Europe. They find that southeastern Europe served as a contact zone between east and west, with interactions between diverged groups of hunter-gatherers starting before the arrival of farming. The authors also find evidence for male-biased admixture between hunter-gatherers and farmers in central Europe during the Middle Neolithic. Elsewhere in this issue, David Reich and colleagues report genomic insights into the Beaker culture—characterized by the use of a distinctive pottery style during the end of the Neolithic—based on genome-wide data from 400 Neolithic, Copper Age and Bronze Age Europeans, from 136 different archaeological sites, and including 226 Beaker-associated individuals.

Article | | Nature

Bell Beaker refers to a distinctive pottery style found across western and central Europe during the end of the Neolithic. Previous studies have had conflicting results on the origin and mechanisms of spread of the Beaker culture. David Reich and colleagues report genome-wide data from 400 Neolithic, Copper Age and Bronze Age Europeans, from 136 different archaeological sites, and including 226 Beaker-associated individuals. These individuals were highly genetically heterogeneous, which supports a model in which cultural transmission and human migration both had important roles in the spread of the Beaker culture, with the relative balance of these two processes varying by region. Elsewhere in this issue, David Reich and colleagues analyse genome-wide genomic data from 225 individuals who lived in southeastern European and the surrounding regions between 12000 and 500 bc. They analyse these data in combination with previous genomic datasets to update existing models of the early spread of farming into and across Europe.

Article | | Nature

When hominins—members of Homo erectus or similar—left Africa more than 1.7 million years ago, they carried their signature tool: the Acheulian hand axe. As skeletal material is extremely scarce, human evolution in Eurasia is often charted by changes in the tools used, notably the gradual shift from Acheulian technologies into cultures known as 'Middle Stone Age' in Africa or 'Middle Palaeolithic' elsewhere. The transition to the Middle Palaeolithic outside Europe and Africa is vital to our understanding of the lives of hominins in Eurasia, and especially the dispersal of anatomically modern humans out of Africa and their subsequent migrations. Only limited evidence has been recovered from India, but Shanti Pappu and colleagues present new data from the archaeological site of Attirampakkam in southern India. Dates from the site suggest that in India the Middle Palaeolithic began around 385,000 years ago, consistent with dates emerging from Europe and Africa, and show that the Middle Palaeolithic transition occurred here much earlier than suggested by conventional ideas regarding the spread of modern humans into southern Asia.

Letter | | Nature

Studies of human remains from Late Pleistocene Alaska are important for resolving theories on the early population of the Americas. Eske Willerslev and colleagues report the sequencing of the genome of an individual (USR1, from Upward Sun River) who lived in Alaska around 11,500 years ago. Their demographic modelling suggests that USR1 represents a distinct Ancient Beringian population, which together with ancestors of other Native Americans descended from a single founding population that initially split from East Asians around 36,000 years ago, but with gene flow persisting until around 25,000 years ago. Their findings agree with the Beringian standstill model, and provide genomic evidence that Native American ancestry can be traced back to the same source population from a single Late Pleistocene founding event.

Letter | | Nature

David Reich and colleagues analyse genome-wide data from 180 individuals from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods of Hungary, Germany and Spain to study the population dynamics of Neolithization in European prehistory. They examine how gene flow reshaped European populations during the Neolithic period, including pervasive admixture—the interbreeding between previously isolated populations—between groups with different ancestry profiles. In each region, they find that the arrival of farmers prompted admixture with local hunter-gatherers, over the course of 3,000 years.

Letter | | Nature

Genetic evidence points to the presence of modern humans in southeast Asia before 60,000 years ago, but actual fossil evidence is scant and circumstantial. Kira Westaway et al. present evidence for a modern human presence in the region between 73,000 and 63,000 years based on three dating methods applied to consolidated breccia rocks in a cave in Sumatra, Indonesia, which had previously yielded human teeth. The findings establish that modern humans were present in the region at around the time of the catastrophic eruption of Toba that took place in Sumatra around 73,000 years ago.

Letter | | Nature

Stable carbon and oxygen isotope analysis of mammal teeth associated with stone tools and cut-marked bone dated to between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago reveals that, at the time of the earliest-known hominin presence, the Arabian peninsula was home to productive grasslands similar to modern-day African savannahs.

Article | | Nature Ecology & Evolution

A directly dated Homo sapiens phalanx from the Nefud desert reveals human presence in the Arabian Peninsula before 85,000 years ago. This represents the earliest date for H. sapiens outside Africa and the Levant.

Article | | Nature Ecology & Evolution

New 43–45 ka dates for stone tool assemblages associated with anatomically modern humans (AMHs) at the southern Spanish site of Bajondillo suggest an early AMH incursion and weaken the case for late Neanderthal persistence in the region.

Article | | Nature Ecology & Evolution

A stochastic, age-structured model incorporating hunter-gatherer demographic rates and palaeoecological reconstructions of carrying capacity predicts that a founding population of 1,300–1,550 individuals was necessary to survive the initial peopling of Pleistocene Australia, New Guinea, Tasmania and neighbouring islands (Sahul).

Article | | Nature Ecology & Evolution

The Earth in the Miocene epoch (23–5.3 million years ago) was a planet of the apes, with more than 40 species in at least 30 genera. Very few, however, are known from complete cranial evidence. Only a handful of species are known from any part of the skull beyond the face and palate, limiting the information about the state of the skull in the immediate relatives of hominins and modern apes. The dearth is particularly acute in Africa, where no cranial remains are known from between 14 and 10 million years ago. Isaiah Nengo and colleagues describe the skull of an infant ape recovered from Kenya. The 13-million-year-old specimen is assigned to a new species in the genus Nyanzapithecus. The evidence shows that, although the creature shares some similarities with gibbons, these resemblances are very likely convergent and the new species is a close relative of the common ancestor of extant apes.

Article | | Nature

The most prominent civilizations that emerged during the Bronze Age in Europe include the Minoan culture on the island of Crete and the Mycenaean culture on mainland Greece, both in the Aegean region. Iosif Lazaridis, David Reich, Johannes Krause, George Stamatoyannopoulos and colleagues investigated the origins of these two archaeological cultures by analysing new genome-wide data from 19 ancient individuals, including Minoans, Mycenaeans and their eastern neighbours from southwestern Anatolia. While Minoans and Mycenaeans were genetically very similar, with shared ancestry from the western Anatolian and Aegean regions, they were also distinct, with Mycenaeans showing additional ancestry related to the Bronze Age inhabitants of the Eurasian steppe.

Letter | | Nature

When did humans first colonize Australia? The date of the initial landing on the continent that is now associated with cold lager and 'Waltzing Matilda' has been highly controversial. Dates from a site called Madjedbebe in northern Australia had put the presence of modern humans in Australia at between 60,000 and 50,000 years ago, but these results have since been hotly contested. Here, the results from a comprehensive program of dating of new excavations at the site confirm that people first arrived there around 65,000 years ago. The results show that humans reached Australia well before the extinction of the Australian megafauna and the disappearance of Homo floresiensis in neighbouring Indonesia.

Article | | Nature

The exact place and time that our species emerged remains obscure because the fossil record is limited and the chronological age of many key specimens remains uncertain. Previous fossil evidence has placed the emergence of modern human biology in eastern Africa around 200,000 years ago. In this issue of Nature, Jean-Jaques Hublin and colleagues report new human fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco; their work is accompanied by a separate report on the dating of the fossils by Shannon McPherron and colleagues. Together they report remains dating back 300,000–350,000 years. They identify numerous features, including a facial, mandibular and dental morphology, that align the material with early or recent modern humans. They also identified more primitive neurocranial and endocranial morphology. Collectively, the researchers believe that this mosaic of features displayed by the Jebel Irhoud hominins assigns them to the earliest evolutionary phase of Homo sapiens. Both papers suggest that the evolutionary processes behind the emergence of modern humans were not confined to sub-Saharan Africa.

Letter | | Nature

The exact place and time that our species emerged remains obscure because the fossil record is limited and the chronological age of many key specimens remains uncertain. Previous fossil evidence has placed the emergence of modern human biology in eastern Africa around 200,000 years ago. In this issue of Nature, Jean-Jaques Hublin and colleagues report new human fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco; their work is accompanied by a separate report on the dating of the fossils by Shannon McPherron and colleagues. Together they report remains dating back 300,000–350,000 years. They identify numerous features, including a facial, mandibular and dental morphology, that align the material with early or recent modern humans. They also identified more primitive neurocranial and endocranial morphology. Collectively, the researchers believe that this mosaic of features displayed by the Jebel Irhoud hominins assigns them to the earliest evolutionary phase of Homo sapiens. Both papers suggest that the evolutionary processes behind the emergence of modern humans were not confined to sub-Saharan Africa.

Letter | | Nature

Around 130,000 years ago, a mastodon died near what is now San Diego, California. Although this seems uncontroversial, Thomas Deméré and colleagues present evidence that the carcass had been modified by human beings. Stone hammers and anvils were found alongside mammoth bones and teeth that show signs of having been broken by percussion, presumably to extract bone marrow. Dating the site has been problematic because the bones preserved too little collagen for radiocarbon dating, and optically stimulated luminescence dating put the age at over 60,000–70,000 years. Dates based on the decay of uranium, constrained by the movement of uranium between the environment and the bone, now give an age of around 130,000 years. If confirmed, this would extend tenfold the time that human beings are known to have been present in the Americas and predate the time that modern humans are thought to have first left Africa. The identity of the hominin species—if any—remains unknown.

Letter | | Nature

The Neanderthal diet has been much debated, with evidence for a meat-rich diet conflicting with evidence from tooth wear that suggests more varied fare. Laura Weyrich and colleagues sequenced DNA from the dental calculus of five Neanderthal individuals from across Europe to provide a genetic reconstruction of their diet and health. They found that a Neanderthal from Spy in Belgium dined on rhinoceros and mutton, whereas another, from El Sidrón in Spain, ate pine nuts, moss and mushrooms. Their results also suggest that the Spanish Neanderthal had a dental abscess and a stomach bug that they were self-medicating with poplar, a natural painkiller, and the antibiotic-producing Penicillium bacteria. The team also uncovered the oldest microbial genome to date, that of Methanobrevibacter oralis at 48,000 years old.

Letter | | Nature

Aboriginal Australians preserve one of the longest continuous cultural complexes known, with archaeological evidence dating initial settlement of the continent to around 50,000 years ago. Alan Cooper and colleagues have charted the subsequent progress of humanity in and around the continent in the form of 111 mitochondrial genomes from preserved hair samples. The results show that, from landfall in the north of Australia, people spread rapidly around the east and west coasts, meeting in southern Australia as early as 49,000 years ago. Strong regional patterns of mitochondrial DNA variation suggest that when people stopped moving they stayed put, putting down cultural roots that have weathered 50,000 years of significant cultural and climatic change.

Article | | Nature

Modern humans had made landfall in Australia by 50,000 years ago. But there has been some doubt as to whether or when they had the technological sophistication to tackle the arid central regions of that driest of continents. The answer is that they had, and that they made short work of it. Giles Hamm et al. report the earliest known occurrence of human occupation in the arid interior of Australia, at a rock shelter in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia around 49,000 years ago. The various layers of rock at the site document the earliest known use in Australia of technologies such as bone tools and backed flakes, and of red ochre and gypsum as pigments. The site also preserves evidence of the presence of the large marsupial Diprotodon optatum and what are thought to be eggshells of the giant bird Genyornis newtoni. This is the only reliably dated, stratified record of extinct Australian megafauna alongside artefacts more than 46,000 years old.

Letter | | Nature

In Brazil there are archaeological sites with abundant accumulations of chipped stones. The accumulation and the stones, if discovered in a three-million-year-old context in Africa, might be taken as evidence of an early stone tool culture. But in this instance the perpetrators have been caught in the act. This study reports observations of wild bearded capuchin monkeys (Sapajus libidinosus) deliberately breaking stones in Brazil's Serra da Capivara National Park. Why they do this is not clear, though they sometimes lick or sniff the crushed stone, prompting speculation that that they may be ingesting powdered quartz or lichens. However, the monkeys do not appear to use the sharp edges to cut or scrape other objects. These monkeys are the only non-hominin primates to interact with stone so frequently, and the fact that they produce accumulations of worked stone similar to those presumed elsewhere to represent the work of early hominins could help to inform interpretation of the human Palaeolithic record.

Letter | | Nature

Pacific islanders today have been found to have ancestry from a mixture of lineages including Papuan, Australian and East Asian. David Reich and colleagues now report analysis of ancient genomic data from four individuals from Vanuatu and Tonga, South Pacific islands, representing the first ancient genomic data from Oceanian populations. Their analysis finds no evidence of Papuan ancestry in the early Remote Oceanians, suggesting that Papuan ancestry seen in contemporary Pacific islanders may reflect later migration.

Letter | | Nature

Three international collaborations reporting in this issue of Nature describe 787 high-quality genomes from individuals from geographically diverse populations. David Reich and colleagues analysed whole-genome sequences of 300 individuals from 142 populations. Their findings include an accelerated estimated rate of accumulation of mutations in non-Africans compared to Africans since divergence, and that indigenous Australians, New Guineans and Andamanese do not derive substantial ancestry from an early dispersal of modern humans but from the same source as that of other non-Africans. Eske Willerlsev and colleagues obtained whole-genome data for 83 Aboriginal Australians and 25 Papuans from the New Guinea Highlands. They estimate that Aboriginal Australians and Papuans diverged from Eurasian populations 51,000–72,000 years ago, following a single out-of-Africa dispersal. Luca Pagani et al. report on a dataset of 483 high-coverage human genomes from 148 populations worldwide, including 379 new genomes from 125 populations. Their analyses support the model by which all non-African populations derive most of their genetic ancestry from a single recent migration out of Africa, although a Papuan contribution suggests a trace of an earlier human expansion.

Letter | | Nature

The philosopher Thomas Hobbes said that people are inherently violent; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, that people are usually peaceable. The reality presumably lies somewhere in between, but where? Here José María Gomez et al. present a phylogenetic analysis of intraspecies lethal violence in more than 1,000 mammalian species. They show that whereas lethal violence is almost unknown in some clades, such as bats and whales, it is a particular feature of primates. The level of lethal violence during human prehistory inferred from empirical observations is in line with the phylogenetic prediction, but during most historic periods was higher than the phylogenetic predictions. In modern times, cultural practices appear to have modulated the tendency towards violence that nature has given us.

Letter | | Nature

Three international collaborations reporting in this issue of Nature describe 787 high-quality genomes from individuals from geographically diverse populations. David Reich and colleagues analysed whole-genome sequences of 300 individuals from 142 populations. Their findings include an accelerated estimated rate of accumulation of mutations in non-Africans compared to Africans since divergence, and that indigenous Australians, New Guineans and Andamanese do not derive substantial ancestry from an early dispersal of modern humans but from the same source as that of other non-Africans. Eske Willerlsev and colleagues obtained whole-genome data for 83 Aboriginal Australians and 25 Papuans from the New Guinea Highlands. They estimate that Aboriginal Australians and Papuans diverged from Eurasian populations 51,000–72,000 years ago, following a single out-of-Africa dispersal. Luca Pagani et al. report on a dataset of 483 high-coverage human genomes from 148 populations worldwide, including 379 new genomes from 125 populations. Their analyses support the model by which all non-African populations derive most of their genetic ancestry from a single recent migration out of Africa, although a Papuan contribution suggests a trace of an earlier human expansion.

Article | | Nature

Three international collaborations reporting in this issue of Nature describe 787 high-quality genomes from individuals from geographically diverse populations. David Reich and colleagues analysed whole-genome sequences of 300 individuals from 142 populations. Their findings include an accelerated estimated rate of accumulation of mutations in non-Africans compared to Africans since divergence, and that indigenous Australians, New Guineans and Andamanese do not derive substantial ancestry from an early dispersal of modern humans but from the same source as that of other non-Africans. Eske Willerlsev and colleagues obtained whole-genome data for 83 Aboriginal Australians and 25 Papuans from the New Guinea Highlands. They estimate that Aboriginal Australians and Papuans diverged from Eurasian populations 51,000–72,000 years ago, following a single out-of-Africa dispersal. Luca Pagani et al. report on a dataset of 483 high-coverage human genomes from 148 populations worldwide, including 379 new genomes from 125 populations. Their analyses support the model by which all non-African populations derive most of their genetic ancestry from a single recent migration out of Africa, although a Papuan contribution suggests a trace of an earlier human expansion.

Article | | Nature

Homo sapiens evolved in Africa, but the timing of our ancestors' dispersal to the rest of the world has been a source of controversy. Here Axel Timmermann and Tobias Friedrich model the dispersal in the context of the pronounced changes in climate and sea-level during the past 125,000 years. Their results suggest that dispersal across the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant was not a single event, but was concentrated in four distinct waves between 106,000 and 29,000 years ago. The findings agree with archaeological data and show that orbital-scale global climate swings played a key role in population movements, whereas millennial-scale abrupt climate changes had more limited, regional effects.

Letter | | Nature

During much of the last ice age, continental ice sheets prevented humans from migrating into North America from Beringia, the area between Siberia and what is now the Bering Strait. At some point, a route opened up between the Cordilleran and Laurentide ice sheets, but it is thought that this 1,500-kilometre-long ice-free corridor may have been too cold to act as a human migration route. Eske Willerslev and colleagues present a series of environmental reconstructions based on coring of lake sediments in what was once the ice-free corridor. Their data indicate that the corridor would have still been inhospitable even after humans are known to have arrived in the Americas south of the ice. This implies that humans migrated by a coastal route, now submerged by the risen sea.

Article | | Nature

Until recently, remains of the diminutive Homo floresiensis had been found at a single locality only — in Liang Bua cave on the island of Flores in Indonesia. A pair of papers published in this issue introduces new fossil findings from a second site on Flores, at Mata Menge, to the east of Liang Bua. Gerrit van den Bergh et al. describe a mandible fragment and isolated teeth from several individuals. The remains are as small as, or smaller than, those from Liang Bua, but, at 700,000 years old, are much older. Their morphology supports derivation from Asian Homo erectus. Adam Brumm et al. present the stratigraphic, chronological, environmental and faunal context of the Mata Menge site. The hominins lived some 700,000 years ago in what was then hot, dry savannah grassland, though with a strong wetland component. Stone tools found with the fossils are simple and very like those associated with the much younger Liang Bua H. floresiensis.

Letter | | Nature

Until recently, remains of the diminutive Homo floresiensis had been found at a single locality only — in Liang Bua cave on the island of Flores in Indonesia. A pair of papers published in this issue introduces new fossil findings from a second site on Flores, at Mata Menge, to the east of Liang Bua. Gerrit van den Bergh et al. describe a mandible fragment and isolated teeth from several individuals. The remains are as small as, or smaller than, those from Liang Bua, but, at 700,000 years old, are much older. Their morphology supports derivation from Asian Homo erectus. Adam Brumm et al. present the stratigraphic, chronological, environmental and faunal context of the Mata Menge site. The hominins lived some 700,000 years ago in what was then hot, dry savannah grassland, though with a strong wetland component. Stone tools found with the fossils are simple and very like those associated with the much younger Liang Bua H. floresiensis.

Letter | | Nature

The discovery in Liang Bua cave on the island of Flores in Indonesia of the diminutive Homo floresiensis, an archaic member of the human family commonly known as the 'Hobbit', was an archaeological sensation in 2004. A source of considerable debate was the fact that it lived in Liang Bua cave between 95,000 and 12,000 years ago, after modern humans had colonized the area (around 50,000 years ago). Thomas Sutikna and colleagues — including many of the original research team — have gone back to Liang Bua, where new excavations have exposed previously unexplored parts of the cave. They have found that the layers of sediment in the cave are not deposited evenly, and it now seems that the H. floresiensis-bearing strata are older than was thought. New radiometric dating places the H. floresiensis remains and stone artefacts to between 190,000 and 50,000 years ago. Whether H. floresiensis survived long enough to witness the arrival of modern humans is an open question.

Letter | | Nature

This genomic analysis of Middle Pleistocene hominins from Sima de los Huesos in the Sierra de Atapuerca in Spain shows that they were more closely related to Neanderthals than to Denisovans, and indicates a divergence between Neanderthals and Denisovans that predates 430,000 years ago. A previous report based on analyses of mitochondrial genomes from these specimens had suggested close relationship to Denisovans, which was in contrast to other archaeological evidence including morphological features shared with Late Pleistocene Neanderthals.

Letter | | Nature

A collection of 47 anatomically modern human teeth from the Fuyan Cave in Daoxian, southern China, shows that anatomically modern humans were in the region at least 80,000 years ago, and possibly as long as 120,000 years ago. That is 30,000–70,000 years earlier than in the Levant and Europe. These people were much more modern-looking than hominins in northern and central China. The discovery adds to the complexity of the human story and shows that much remains to be discovered.

Letter | | Nature

It is unclear to what extent early hominins were adapted to arboreal climbing. Here, the authors show that the nearly complete hand of H. naledifrom South Africa has markedly curved digits and otherwise human-like wrist and palm, which indicates the retention of a significant degree of climbing.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Hominin fossils reveal high diversity in the types of terrestrial bipedalism. Here, the authors show that the foot of Homo naledifrom South Africa is predominantly human-like in morphology and inferred function and is well adapted for striding bipedalism.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Most genetic studies have suggested that the Americas were peopled by a single founding population of Eurasian origin, but morphological studies have cast doubt on this. David Reich and colleagues analysed genome-wide data from 63 individuals from 21 Native American populations from Central and South America, and from 197 non-American populations sampled worldwide. They find evidence for a more diverse set of founding populations of the Americas than previously accepted. Some Amazonian Native Americans are partly descended from a founding population of southern origin, related to indigenous Australians, New Guineans and Andaman Islanders. This is distinct from the predominantly Eurasian ancestry of Northern and Central Native American populations.

Letter | | Nature

This paper presents an analysis of the DNA from a modern human individual from Peştera cu Oase in Romania who lived 37,000–42,000 years ago. This individual male carries 6–9% Neanderthal DNA — compared to just 1–3% reported in other modern Eurasian humans — and given the size of the segments of Neanderthal ancestry in his genome, the authors conclude that he had a Neanderthal among his ancestors four to six generations back in his family tree. This shows that interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals was not limited to the Africa and the Near East, but that it occurred in Europe as well. But the population to which the Oase individual belonged did not make a substantial genetic contribution to later humans in Europe. This provides evidence for an early initial migration of modern humans who mixed with Neanderthals but did not contribute to present-day Europeans.

Letter | | Nature

The Middle Pliocene, between around 3.5 and 3.3 million years ago, seems to have been crucial for hominins living in Africa. There were several different species living there and the period included the first stirrings of tool use and possibly the emergence of the genus Homo. Yohannes Haile-Selassie et al. describe another Middle Pliocene hominin, Australopithecus deyiremida, which lived in Ethiopia at around the same time as Australopithecus afarensis ('Lucy') and other species such as Kenyanthropus platyops in Kenya. Its morphology suggests that some dental features traditionally associated with later genera such as Paranthropus and Homo emerged earlier than previously thought.

Article | | Nature

When Louis Leakey and colleagues found stone tools associated with early human fossils (now accepted to be 1.8 million years old) at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania more than 50 years ago, it was assumed that tool-making was unique to our genus. Since then the antiquity of tool-making has gone ever deeper and less exclusively associated with Homo. For a while, the earliest-known sharp-edged stone tools, at around 2.6 million years old, have been from Ethiopia. Cut marks found on animal bones from Ethiopia dated to around 3.3 million years ago were — controversially — associated with tool use among non-human hominins. This earlier beginning to the archaeological record is now affirmed by the discovery reported by Sonia Harmand et al. of the Lomekwi 3 tools, dated to 3.3 million years old, about half a million years older than the current earliest known (2.8 million years old) Homo fossils, reported a few weeks ago. The new finds differ from the 'Oldowan' tools found at Olduvai and elsewhere, and may constitute a pre-Homo tool culture, which the authors suggest calling the 'Lomekwian'.

Article | | Nature

The cave infillings at Sterkfontein in South Africa contain some of the richest assemblages of fossil hominins in the world. The problem with Sterkfontein and many caves like it is that it is notoriously difficult to date such sediments : they accumulate in a haphazard way with many episodes of deposition, erosion and reworking. Darryl Granger et al. use isochron burial dating with cosmogenic nuclides 26Al and 10Be to show that the breccia containing the substantially complete skeleton of the australopithecine individual known as 'Little Foot' is around 3.67 million years old, coeval with Australopithecus afarensis ('Lucy') from East Africa. The earliest stone tools from Sterkfontein are dated to around 2.18 million years ago, a similar age to tools from nearby sites such as Swartkrans.

Letter | | Nature

The 4 April 1964 issue of Nature featured fossils of a partial skull and a hand of the then earliest known member of the genus Homo. The 1.8-million-year-old fossils, from Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, were catalogued as Olduvai Hominid 7 (OH 7) and the specimen was formally named Homo habilis or 'handy man'. The challenge in the intervening years has been to work out which other fossils also belong to Homo habilis, a task complicated by the distortion of the OH 7 mandible which disguises its original shape. Now the mandible and vault bones of OH 7 have been subjected to state-of-the-art virtual reconstruction, using computed tomography and 3D imaging technology to realign the broken parts. The Homo habilis type emerges in a new light, combining a primitive jaw shape, resembling that of Australopithecus afarensis ('Lucy'), with a brain as large as that of early Homo erectus. This new evidence indicates that multiple evolutionary lineages of the genus Homo existed well before 2 million years ago.

Letter | | Nature

The Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) represents the most severe climatic event since modern humans arrived in Europe and it is likely that it has changed their morphology. Here, Brewster et al. examine human cranial morphology from before and after the LGM and show significant differences across periods.

Article | | Nature Communications

Contemporary hunter-gatherers share food in a cooperative behaviour called demand sharing. Here the authors show that populations of demand sharers who move freely between camps survive in the unpredictable environments typical of hunter-gatherers, while sedentary and non-sharing families die out.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The evolution of facial identity is poorly understood. Here, the authors show that human faces have elevated phenotypic variation as well as low between-trait correlations and that the regions surrounding face-associated genes show elevated diversity, which is consistent with frequency-dependent selection.

Article | | Nature Communications

Understanding how developmental, functional and geometric factors determine brain evolution is challenging. Here, the authors show that chimpanzee and human brains have a modular structure and find that local spatial interactions pose stronger constrains to evolution than developmental and functional patterns.

Article | | Nature Communications

A partial skull from northern Israel, dated at around 55,000 years old, sheds light on a crucial but little-known period of prehistory — the spread of anatomically modern humans from Africa to throughout the rest of the world, replacing all other hominins. The Manot 1 skull is similar in shape to modern African and European skulls, but differs from other anatomically modern humans from the Levant. These findings suggests that Manot 1 represents the population of humans that colonized Europe, and is the first anatomically modern human so far found to exist contemporaneously with the Neanderthals in the same restricted geographical area.

Letter | | Nature

Recent excavations in the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia have yielded a wealth of hominin fossils from a site that has been occupied for perhaps 250,000 years or more. Now a high-quality genome sequence has been determined from a circa 50,000-year-old toe bone — a proximal toe phalanx — excavated from the east gallery of Denisova Cave in 2010. The sequence is that of a Neanderthal woman whose parents were closely related — perhaps half-siblings or uncle and niece. Such inbreeding was also common among her recent ancestors. Comparisons with other archaic and present-day human genomes reveal several gene-flow events among Neanderthals, the closely related Denisovans and early modern humans, possibly including gene flow into Denisovans from an unknown archaic group. The high-quality Neanderthal genome also helps to establish a definitive list of substitutions that became fixed in modern humans after their separation from the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans.

Article | | Nature

Homo erectus made tools from shells, and even decorated some of them with what look like intentional incisions. The fossils of the hominid that came to be known as Homo erectus were discovered at Trinil in central Java by Eugene Dubois in 1891. Josephine Joordens and colleagues have been looking over the historic Dubois collections, now in Leiden in the Netherlands, concentrating on the freshwater shells. They find evidence for shellfish consumption by hominins, a shell tool and other shells showing signs of intentional modification. Age determination on the sediment directly associated with the shells show that they were used sometime between 380,000 and 640,000 years ago, well within the time during which Homo erectus lived in Java, and pre-dating the oldest geometric engravings described previously by more than 300,000 years.

Letter | | Nature

A modern human fossil femur found in 2008 on the banks of the river Irtysh near Ust'-Ishim in western Siberia was dated at about 45,000 years old. Janet Kelso and colleagues have now sequenced and analysed the genome from this individual — a male who was alive before, or at about the time of, the separation of the populations in western and eastern Eurasia. Analyses reveal a level of Neanderthal ancestry similar to that found in present-day Eurasians. Based on the length of the genomic segments of Neanderthal ancestry, the flow of Neanderthal genes into the ancestors of this individual occurred between 7,000 and 13,000 years before he lived. Previous estimates of the timing of interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals range from 37,000 and 86,000 years ago, but this study suggests that it occurred approximately 50,000 to 60,000 years ago, coinciding with the expansion of modern humans into Europe, and possibly Asia.

Article | | Nature

Encephalization—increase of brain size relative to body size—has occurred in two distinct evolutionary lineages; Neanderthals and modern humans. However, the 3D endocranial surface shape analysis reported here reveals unique structures at the base of the brain inHomo sapiens, which may have contributed to learning and social capacities.

Article | | Nature Communications

Did anatomically modern humans coexist with Neanderthals? Attempts to answer this question are complicated by the fact that conventional methods of radiocarbon dating become unreliable at just about the time in question: as sample ages approach 50,000 years little carbon-14 is left and it is difficult to obtain accurate measurements. Tom Higham and colleagues have worked to improve sample processing and accelerator-mass-spectrometry radiocarbon dating in order to construct a robust chronology based on the last appearances of the Mousterian tool culture — considered diagnostic for the presence of Neanderthals — from forty sites from Spain to Russia. The results indicate that Neanderthals disappeared at different times in different regions, with a significant overlap with incoming modern humans for around 2,600 to 5,400 years. Rather than a rapid model of replacement, this work suggests a complex picture in which cultural and biological interchange could have occurred between the two groups across a period of several thousand years.

Letter | | Nature

Growing evidence reveals great diversity of archaic Asian hominins. Here, Chang and colleagues describe a newly discovered archaic Homomandible from Taiwan, which suggests the survival of multiple evolutionary lineages among archaic hominins before the arrival of modern humans to eastern Asia.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The modern human genome contains traces of Neanderthal ancestry. But is Neanderthal DNA distributed uniformly across the human genome, or is it concentrated more in some parts than in others? Sriram Sankararaman et al. show that parts of the human genome enriched for genes affecting keratin filaments (in hair, for example) also contain a relatively high concentration of Neanderthal DNA, suggesting that this DNA helped modern humans adapt to the chillier non-African environment. On the downside, many Neanderthal-derived alleles are associated with disease risk. Other parts of the human genome contain a deficiency of Neanderthal alleles, implying their active removal in evolution. Among the 'lost' genes are a number expressed in the testis and on the X chromosome, implying that Neanderthal DNA reduced human fertility when moved to a modern human genetic background.

Letter | | Nature

The human remains from the 'Sima de los Huesos' ('pit of bones') cave in Atapuerca, Spain, are of particular importance as they are from the poorly known Middle Pleistocene period, dating to more than 400,000 years ago. Now a near-complete genome sequence has been obtained from mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from a well-preserved femur from the collection, the oldest hominin genetic material so far recovered. Although Sima de los Huesos remains are often thought to represent a population close to the Neanderthal ancestry, the mtDNA suggests links with the still-enigmatic Denisovans of eastern Eurasia. It could be that the mtDNA is referring us to even earlier times, highlighting a common ancestor for Denisovans, Neanderthals and the Sima de los Huesos hominins, conventionally regarded as Homo heidelbergensis.

Letter | | Nature

Weaning is a critical time in the life of any mammal, particularly for humans, in which early weaning allows women to have more babies in a shorter period of time than would otherwise be possible. The development of early weaning, therefore, could have had a profound influence on the evolution and success of Homo sapiens. Until now it has not been possible to determine age of weaning from fossils with any accuracy, but here Manish Arora and colleagues show that the ratio of barium to calcium in tooth enamel is a reliable marker of lactation in humans and macaques. Barium rises during lactation and drops abruptly on weaning. The study of a tooth from a well-preserved Belgian Neanderthal reveals the duration of exclusive breastfeeding, the period of a mixed diet, and a remarkably early age at weaning of about 14 months.

Letter | | Nature

Darwin speculated that bipedalism might have contributed to humans' unique ability to throw things so well. Although some primates, including our closest relatives — chimpanzees, will throw objects now and then, their throws do not come close to matching the speed and accuracy achieved by even young human boys. Neil Roach and colleagues analysed the biomechanics of collegiate baseball players' throwing motion in order to better understand the evolution of this novel behaviour. Their findings show that adaptations in the human upper body allow us to store and release elastic energy in the shoulder in a catapult-like fashion. Evidence of these key shifts in morphology that make this energy storage possible is preserved in the hominin fossil record. From these fossils, the authors infer that the ability to throw objects with high speed probably arose with Homo erectus, and may have had a crucial role in early hunting.

Letter | | Nature

Three hominin fossils newly discovered at Koobi Fora, east of Lake Turkana in Kenya, will greatly improve our understanding of the early radiation of the genus Homo, clarifying the iconic but enigmatic hominin cranium KNM-ER 1470, first described by Richard Leakey in Nature in 1973. The three are an exceptionally well-preserved lower jaw (KNM-ER 60000), a fragmentary lower jaw and, importantly, a well-preserved face. At between 1.78 million and 1.95 million years old, they broadly support the idea that there were at least two contemporary Homo species, in addition to Homo erectus, in the early Pleistocene of eastern Africa.

Letter | | Nature

Discovered in 2008, Australopithecus sediba is an approximately two-million-year-old hominin fossil from South Africa, related to other Australopithecus and early Homo species. Using a combination of stable-isotope analysis, dental-microwear patterns and analysis of plant microfossils extracted from dental calculus from two fossilized individuals, it is shown here that A. sediba consumed a diet consisting mainly of tree leaves, fruits and bark, suggesting that they resided in a woodland environment. This contrasts with previously described diets of other early hominin species that suggested an open-savanna habitat.

Letter | | Nature

The proximal femur of the early hominin Orrorin tugenensis presents a mosaic of earlier Miocene ape and later hominin features. Here, Almécija et al. show that hominin and modern great ape femura diverged from an ancestral morphology and that Orrorinis intermediate between Miocene apes and australopiths.

Article | | Nature Communications

A 3.4-million-year-old partial skeleton of a hominin foot unearthed in Ethiopia offers an intriguing riddle. The only hominin previously known from that date was Australopithecus afarensis (to which 'Lucy' belonged), which was fully bipedal, and had essentially modern feet. The latest specimen, however, shows evidence for an opposable big toe, more like that seen in modern apes or in the hominin Ardipithecus ramidus, which lived one million years earlier. The new find suggests the coexistence of more than one hominin species in the Pliocene epoch, three to four million years ago, each with its own way of getting around.

Article | | Nature

The brain is a costly organ to run in terms of energy supply, so how do humans accommodate brains that are so much larger than those of comparable primates without any apparent difficulty? A widely held explanation is the expensive-tissue hypothesis, which proposes a trade-off between brain size and the mass of other energetically expensive organs, especially the digestive tract. Now a survey of 100 mammal species reveals no such trade-off, refuting the idea that expensive tissues compete for energy. There is a negative correlation between the size of brains and the amount of stored energy in the form of adipose tissue, however. The authors propose that the increase in human brain size was facilitated by a combination of stabilization of energy inputs and a redirection of energy from locomotion, growth and reproduction.

Letter | | Nature

Anatomically modern humans are thought to have arrived in Europe 44,000–42,000 years ago. Physical evidence for early humans is scarce, and these dates are based largely on studies of stone tool assemblages. Two papers published this week use the latest radiocarbon dating and morphological analysis techniques to reassess museum hominid samples. Higham et al. examine a human maxilla from the Aurignacian site at Kent's Cavern in the United Kingdom, discovered in 1927 and previously dated at around 35,000 years old, and arrive at an age of 44,200–41,500 years. The dental morphology of the jawbone indicates that its attribution as early human, rather than Neanderthal, is reliable. Benazzi et al. reanalyse two teeth from the Uluzzian site Grotta del Cavallo in southern Italy and conclude that they are definitively modern, not Neanderthal, and date to 45,000–43,000 years old. A further conclusion from this work is that the Uluzzian culture of southern Europe — always found stratigraphically below the Aurignacian signature culture of the modern humans — may represent the earliest modern humans in Europe rather than the last Neanderthals.

Letter | | Nature

Anatomically modern humans are thought to have arrived in Europe 44,000–42,000 years ago. Physical evidence for early humans is scarce, and these dates are based largely on studies of stone tool assemblages. Two papers published this week use the latest radiocarbon dating and morphological analysis techniques to reassess museum hominid samples. Higham et al. examine a human maxilla from the Aurignacian site at Kent's Cavern in the United Kingdom, discovered in 1927 and previously dated at around 35,000 years old, and arrive at an age of 44,200–41,500 years. The dental morphology of the jawbone indicates that its attribution as early human, rather than Neanderthal, is reliable. Benazzi et al. reanalyse two teeth from the Uluzzian site Grotta del Cavallo in southern Italy and conclude that they are definitively modern, not Neanderthal, and date to 45,000–43,000 years old. A further conclusion from this work is that the Uluzzian culture of southern Europe — always found stratigraphically below the Aurignacian signature culture of the modern humans — may represent the earliest modern humans in Europe rather than the last Neanderthals.

Letter | | Nature

The earliest known stone tools are simple flakes chipped roughly from a core, called the Oldowan tradition. The more advanced Acheulian culture followed, characterized by leaf-shaped bifaces or 'hand axes'. The Acheulian is thought of as the signature technology of Homo erectus. The timing of the emergence of the Acheulian remains unclear because well-dated sites older than 1.4 million years are scarce. A new stratigraphic study at the Kokiselei archaeological site in West Turkana in Kenya, where both Oldowan and Acheulian tools are found, has yielded the world's oldest Acheulian stone tools, dating to 1.76 million years old — 350,000 years older than the previous earliest-known record of Acheulian artefacts. As the first records of hominins outside Africa include either no tools or only Oldowan-type tools, the research also suggests that the first Eurasian hominins to have left Africa might not have taken Acheulian culture with them.

Letter | | Nature

It is widely recognized that the last common ancestor we share with modern chimpanzees inhabited wooded environments, and that hominin habitats became less wooded after this divergence some 5 million to 8 million years ago. What happened to our ancestors next is less clear, although it is speculated that bipedality and a change of diet may reflect a transition to open savannah grasslands. Thure Cerling and colleagues demonstrate that the fraction of woody cover can be quantified in modern tropical ecosystems and that the method can be extended into the geological past. Analysis of fossil soils from many localities associated with early hominins, such as Ardipithecus, shows a savannah-like environment with less than 40% tree cover, rather than the closed woodland commonly assumed. Moreover, woodland became more closed, rather than less, after hominins became more fully bipedal.

Article | | Nature

How do you estimate the home ranges and land-use habits of extinct species? One method is to measure the strontium isotope content of fossil teeth, because strontium isotope ratios are a good indicator of the source of the water that the creature drank during its life. This watermark is determined by the underlying geology. A strontium-isotope study of Australopithecus africanus and Paranthropus robustus specimens from South Africa shows that the smaller individuals, inferred to have been females, ranged further than the males. This suggests that females tended to move away from their natal groups and joined others, whereas males tend to stay at home, a behaviour characteristic of humans and chimpanzees, but not of most gorillas and other primates.

Letter | | Nature

Several fossil discoveries in recent years have been hailed as early hominins — members of the clade that includes humans and human ancestors — including Ardipithecus, from the Middle Awash region of Ethiopia, Orrorin from the Tugen Hills of Kenya and Sahelanthropus from the Djurab desert of Chad. Bernard Wood and Terry Harrison sound a note of caution. The differences between modern humans and non-hominins such as chimpanzees and bonobos are considerable. But between 8 million and 4 million years ago, when the human line is thought to have emerged, the differences between hominids in general would have been smaller. In this Review, Wood and Harrison offer alternative interpretations for where the likes of Ardipithecus, Orrorin and Sahelanthropus might be accommodated within the tree of life — close to but not perhaps on the hominin line.

Review Article | | Nature

Anatomically modern humans were in Africa from some point after 200,000 years ago and reached Eurasia rather later. Meanwhile, archaic hominins — including the Neanderthals — had been in Eurasia from at least 230,000 years ago and disappear from the fossil record only about 30,000 years ago. The genome of a female archaic hominin from Denisova Cave in southern Siberia has now been sequenced from DNA extracted from a finger bone. The group to which this 'Denisovan' individual belonged shares a common origin with Neanderthals and, although it was not involved in the putative gene flow from Neanderthals into Eurasians, it contributed 4–6% of the genomes of present-day Melanesians. In addition, the morphology of a tooth with a mitochondrial genome very similar to that of the finger bone suggests that these hominins are evolutionarily distinct from both Neanderthals and modern humans.

Article | Open Access | | Nature

Until now, the earliest evidence for tool use by our ancestors or their relatives was from two sites in Ethiopia's Awash Valley. Stone tools manufactured about 2.5 million years ago were found at Gona, and cut-marked bones of about the same age were found in the Middle Awash. The suspicion that hominins used tools even earlier has now been borne out by the discovery at nearby Dikika of two bones, one from a large ungulate, with cut and percussion marks consistent with the use of stone tools to remove flesh and extract bone marrow. The marked bones are about 3.4 million years old and are probably the work of Australopithecus afarensis, the only hominin known to have been in the Awash Valley at this time, and famously the species to which the iconic Lucy (from Hadar, Ethiopia) and the juvenile Selam (or DIK-1-1, from Dikika) belong.

Letter | | Nature

Early humans colonized Eurasia fairly swiftly after they left Africa more than 1.8 million years ago, occupying tropical and Mediterranean habitats from Flores in the east to present-day Spain in the west. The prevailing view from sparse fossil and archaeological evidence has been that humans were still largely adapted to warm climates, and penetrated more than 45° north only in exceptionally warm intervals. New findings of artefacts, fauna and flora from a river deposit in Norfolk, UK, dating back more than 780,000 years, will change that perception. Excavations at the eroding coastal site of Happisburgh uncovered 78 flint artefacts, including flint tools, from what was a forest habitat in a climate resembling that of southern Britain today. This suggests that humans were capable of living in northern Europe in cooler intervals much earlier than was thought.

Letter | | Nature

Ancient mitochondrial DNA from a hominin individual who lived in the Altai Mountains in Southern Siberia between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago has been sequenced ( http://go.nature.com/sokd1F for News story). Comparative genomics suggest that this mtDNA derives from an out-of-Africa migration distinct from those that gave rise to Neanderthals and modern humans. The stratigraphy of the Denisova Cave where the bone — part of the fifth 'little finger' digit — was excavated in 2008, suggests that this hominin lived close geographically to Neanderthals and modern humans, and at the same time. Taken with the presence of Homo floresiensis in Indonesia about 17,000 years ago, this discovery suggests that multiple late Pleistocene hominin lineages coexisted for long periods of time in Eurasia.

Letter | Open Access | | Nature

Hominin activity on Flores in Indonesia goes back at least 800,000 years, as evidenced by fission-track dating of archaeological sites at Mata Menge in the Soa Basin (published before the discovery of the Homo floresiensis fossils at Liang Bua, to the west). New research at another locality in the Soa Basin (for coverage in News) uses the more accurate technique of 40Ar/39Ar dating to show that hominins were living on Flores a million years ago. This raises doubts over suggestions that the arrival of hominins was a factor in the mass death of a giant tortoise and dwarf elephant species, which may instead be related to natural processes.

Letter | | Nature

Modern human genomes contain Neanderthal sequences, but it is unclear whether these were selected. Here, Khrameeva et al.show that Neanderthal sequences associated with lipid catabolism are three times more frequent in Europe, suggesting that these sequences might have been beneficial to Europeans.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The transcription factor FOXP2 is the only gene so far to have been implicated in human speech, yet it differs very little from the chimpanzee equivalent. New experiments reveal differences between the activation of downstream transcriptional targets of FOXP2 in humans and chimpanzees arising from the two amino acid differences between the two forms of FOXP2. The different gene network interactions influenced by each version of FOXP2 are also reflected in the non-overlapping brain expression patterns exhibited by chimps and humans. These data provide support for the idea that evolutionary changes to FOXP2 in the human lineage have direct consequences for human brain development and disease in the central nervous system and may have a critical role in the development of language circuitry in humans.

Letter | | Nature

The earliest modern human inhabitants of Europe already had a sophisticated musical tradition, according to a report this week describing a five-hole bird-bone flute from the cave of Hohle Fels in southern Germany that is around 35,000 years old. Other flutes of similar age are known, but none of this sophistication or completeness. The flute was found close to the mammoth-ivory Venus figurine discovered recently (Nature 459, 248–252; 2009) by the same research group.

Letter | | Nature

Archaeologists dig for evidence of past human activity, using artefacts such as tools, pottery and the detritus of day-to-day existence to build up a picture of life at the time. Non-human species feature rarely, appearing in the detritus if they were eaten, as domestic animals or for early archaeology, as dating evidence. This week's Review article summarizes the known overlaps between primatology and archaeology and goes on to make the case for a new field, primate archaeology. By examining the past and present material record of primates a number of important questions can be tackled from a new perspective. Primates use tools, create living sites and construct social groups. All these activities leave their mark in the archaeological record, and with it the evidence that puts the evolution of cognition and tool use in humans into context.

Review Article | | Nature

The Hohle Fels Venus is a 5 cm-high figurine of a woman with grotesquely exaggerated sexual features, carved from mammoth-ivory at least 35,000 years ago. Discovered in six pieces in September 2008 at the base of thick and well-stratified Aurignacian deposits at Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany, the Venus may be the oldest-known example of figurative art, 5,000 years older than the next-oldest examples, the well-known 'Venuses' of the Gravettian culture.

Letter | | Nature

The diminutive hominin Homo floresiensis, first described in Nature in 2004, lived on the island of Flores in Indonesia until about 14,000 years ago. The cover shows the partial skeleton of the type specimen, LB1. It preserves enough material to permit partial assembly of the foot, and that assembly is now reported by Jungers et al. LB1's foot had human-like fully adducted big toes, but they were longer relative to the rest of the lower limb than in modern humans, instead resembling some apes. The idea that H. floresiensis was a diminutive hominin met with some scepticism, in particular its small brain size was attributed by some to pathology. New work by Eleanor Weston and Adrian Lister shows that the brains of extinct dwarf hippos from Madagascar were disproportionately a lot smaller than those of their mainland relatives. This supports suggestions that island dwarfism breaks the 'rule' that body size reduction in mammals is accompanied by only a moderate reduction in brain size. In News & Views, Daniel Lieberman discusses these papers and a special issue of The Journal of Human Evolution, and concludes that H. floresiensis probably is a bone fide — and very interesting — species of hominin.

Letter | | Nature

The Homo erectus known familiarly as Peking Man holds an important place in palaeoanthropology and in the public imagination, not only as one of the earliest hominin discoveries but also because of where it was found. The Peking Man fossils were found during the 1930s in the classic locality of Longgushan ('dragon-bone hill') near the village of Zhoukoudian. The age of the deposits has since been hotly debated, but the issue has now been resolved using a recently developed technique that dates the cave sediments by measuring the burial of cosmogenic aluminium-26 and beryllium-10. Their age computes to about 770,000 years old — nearly 300,000 years earlier than usually thought. This implies that hominids were there during some rather chilly periods and raises doubts over some accepted ideas about the migration of early hominids northwards only in clement, interglacial times.

Letter | | Nature

One of the most debated topics in stone-age archaeology is the date of the earliest human occupation of Europe. This has been frustratingly hard to establish, because the ages of the oldest-known occupation sites are hard to pin down with precision, and the sites contain stone tools rather than human remains. Now there is something more solid to go on, with the discovery of a human lower jaw associated with stone tools and animal bones from the Sima del Elefante cave deposit at the famous complex of fossil-human-bearing sites at Atapuerca in northern Spain. The finds have been dated to between 1.1 and 1.2 million years old using a variety of dating techniques. Of course it's impossible to know if these hominins were the first Europeans, but this site is certainly the oldest and most accurately dated record of human occupation in western Europe. The cover shows the key find, mandible fragment ATE9-1, now in the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana, in Burgos.

Letter | | Nature

Backache is a leading cause of workplace absenteeism — testament to the difficulties of walking upright, a distinctive feature of humans and our hominin ancestors. But women face an extra evolutionary problem, given that for most of human history and prehistory, adult females have spent much of their lives either pregnant or nursing. Pregnancy makes the instability of upright walking even worse by constantly shifting the body's centre of gravity. Whitcome et al. detail those anatomical adaptations peculiar to female spines that balance the fetal load, and find that the bipedal australopithecines — but not the non-bipedal chimpanzee — had similar adaptations.

Letter | | Nature

It's been suggested that the first thing Homo sapiens did once he and she had evolved was head for the beach. This is demonstrated in dramatic fashion by a series of discoveries in Middle Pleistocene sediments from a South African sea cave near Pinnacle Point. The finds suggest that by around 164,000 years ago, the residents were on a diet that included shellfish — the earliest evidence for the exploitation of coastal resources by some 40,000 years. There is also evidence that they used pigments such as red ochre for symbolic behaviour. This was at a time when the world was going through a cool, dry spell, and Africa was mostly desert. Perhaps this environmental stress drove small bands of hunter–gatherers down to the sea in search of new food sources and lifestyles.

Letter | | Nature

The classic frame of the Neanderthals — stocky, long-headed, with distinctive features of the skull — began to emerge around 400,000 years ago, and disappeared from hominins around 30,000 years ago. However, determining the precise identity of fragmentary fossils can be difficult. Krause et al. come to the rescue with mitochondrial DNA sequences that confirm that the skeleton of a child recovered in Uzbekistan in the 1930s was of Neanderthal origin — and showing that remains from the Altai region of Siberia, much further east, are also Neanderthal. This extends the Neanderthal range 2,000 km further east than previously assumed.

Letter | | Nature

The primitive hominins from Dmanisi in the Republic of Georgia are often thought to be similar to Homo erectus and are arguably the earliest known members of the human family outside Africa. This conclusion has come, so far, from skulls. The discovery of postcranial material — a partial skeleton of an adolescent individual associated with a skull, and remains from three more adults — suggests that the Dmanisi hominids are even more primitive, similar to Homo habilis. In News & Views, Daniel Lieberman draws parallels between these new finds and those from Lake Turkana, Kenya, featured on the cover of the 9 August issue of Nature. Early indications from the similarities between the recent Dmanisi and Turkana finds suggest, says Lieberman, that they belong to the same species.

Article | | Nature

The hominin species Homo habilis and the generally larger and later Homo erectus are often regarded as two points on a single evolutionary lineage, separated only by time. The case for that view was strengthened by the interpretation of the small, primitive skulls from Dmanisi in Georgia as morphological intermediates. But new fossil discoveries tell a different story. A particularly small Homo erectus skull, and jaw material from a late-surviving specimen of Homo habilis, were found in contexts that suggest that the two species coexisted in the Lake Turkana basin in Kenya for almost half a million years. As well as overlapping in time, H. habilis and H. erectus overlapped in size as well. A high degree of sexual dimorphism in H. erectus may be a factor in this. The cover shows the new Homo erectus fossil, a partial skull known as KNM-ER 42700, together with the largest African H. erectus, OH 9 from Tanzania.

Letter | | Nature

Neanderthal traits appear in the human fossil record of Europe and western Asia about 400,000 years ago and vanish about 30,000 years ago. The Neanderthals are our closest extinct relatives, so as DNA technology advances the tantalizing prospect of identifying genetic changes characteristic of fully modern humans comes closer. A 38,000-year-old Neanderthal bone of sufficiently high quality to allow the extraction of more than a million base pairs has now been identified: it was originally found Vindija cave in Croatia (pictured on the cover) in 1980. Comparison of its DNA with the chimp and human genomes reveals that Neanderthal and human ancestors — like humans but unlike apes — had a small effective population size. The technology used in this work offers the prospect of a draft Neanderthal genome within two years.

Article | | Nature

Identifying the precise point when a species went extinct is probably impossible. You can never be sure that a fossil is the very last of its kind. The extinction of the Neanderthals in Europe is a case in point, but Finlayson et al. have gone further than anyone in their study of the Neanderthal occupation of Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar, showing that Neanderthals occupied this most southerly point of Europe as recently as 28,000 years ago, long after Neanderthals elsewhere in southwest Europe appear to have become extinct.

Letter | | Nature

Much of what makes us human lies in our childhood. Almost nothing is known of the early development of australopithecines, the stock whence Homo is believed to have emerged, but this will change with the discovery of a 3.3-million-year-old partial skeleton of a juvenile Australopithecus afarensis from Dikika in Ethiopia. The skull, of a presumed three-year-old female, shows that key features diagnostic of the species (which includes the famous 'Lucy') were present even in young juveniles. The rest of the skeleton — including a foot and knee — suggests that this creature kept her feet on the ground for much of the time. But the largely gorilla-like scapula and long curved manual phalanges will re-open the debate about the importance of tree climbing in A. afarensis and its ancestors. The latest web focus on hominid development includes a movie of this important fossil.

Letter | | Nature

Much of what makes us human lies in our childhood. Almost nothing is known of the early development of australopithecines, the stock whence Homo is believed to have emerged, but this will change with the discovery of a 3.3-million-year-old partial skeleton of a juvenile Australopithecus afarensis from Dikika in Ethiopia. The skull, of a presumed three-year-old female, shows that key features diagnostic of the species (which includes the famous 'Lucy') were present even in young juveniles. The rest of the skeleton — including a foot and knee — suggests that this creature kept her feet on the ground for much of the time. But the largely gorilla-like scapula and long curved manual phalanges will re-open the debate about the importance of tree climbing in A. afarensis and its ancestors. The latest web focus on hominid development includes a movie of this important fossil.

Article | | Nature

The brain of Homo floresiensis, the small hominids popularly known as ‘hobbits’, was so small that the species' capacity for stone tool manufacture has been questioned. Instead, it is argued that modern humans made the stone tools found in association with H. floresiensis in Liang Bua cave, in western Flores, Indonesia. Now a new study of 840,000-year-old stone artefacts from Mata Menge in central Flores points to an immigration of toolmakers to the region long before Homo sapiens existed. These tools are similar to the much more recent artefacts found at Liang Bua, suggesting continuity, and probable tool-making abilities for H. floresiensis.

Letter | | Nature

Humanity is widely believed to have descended from the genus Australopithecus, but the beginnings of that genus are shrouded in mystery. Newly discovered fossils from a previously unsampled time slice in the Middle Awash study area of Ethiopia add important information on the subject. They represent the earliest known member of the genus, Australopithecus anamensis, the first to be found outside the Turkana basin in Kenya. The finds are from a woodland context and show how Australopithecus may have evolved from the more primitive Ardipithecus, and may have been ancestral to Australopithecus afarensis, popularly known as ‘Lucy’.

Article | | Nature

The narrative of human evolution that has held sway for many years, and captured the public imagination along the way, is known as ‘Out of Africa 1’. This postulates that the genus Homo originated in Africa, and as H. ergaster or H. erectus, left Africa about 1.8 million years ago. They then colonized Asia and eventually Europe and beyond. But does this conjectural migration from a hypothetical centre of origin still fit the facts? Robin Dennell and Wil Roebroeks think not, and argue that recent fossil finds in Chad and across Asia mean that it's time to construct a new model to fit the sparse but widely spread hominin fossil record.

Review Article | | Nature

A collection of stone tools from East Anglia has been dated at around 700,000 years old, making them the the earliest signs of human activity in northern Europe by about 200,000 years. Humans were present in sunnier southern Europe before 750,000 years ago, but until now there were no traces of human activity north of the Alps before half a million years ago. The flint artefacts found at Pakefield, near Lowestoft, extend human activity in Britain and the entire northern European landmass back to an antiquity we're more used to from southern Europe. The tools are from the well known Cromer Forest-bed Formation, which has yielded Ice Age fossils for over a century. But this find was notable as the 32 worked flints, including the scraper shown on the cover, were in a clearly datable stratigraphic context. Go to tinyurl.com/d2zko for video clips of the press conference announcing this discovery.

Letter | | Nature

New radiocarbon dates from a cave at Grotte des Fées at Châtelperron in France, a site long associated with Neanderthals, will add spice to arguments about the nature and timing of Neanderthal extinction. Aurignacian tools considered typical of modern humans are present in a thin layer between sediments containing Chatelperronian artefacts, seen as the last fling of the Neanderthals. Although these cultures overlapped in time and space for several thousand years, the presence of artefacts from both cultures in distinct layers at single sites has always been controversial. At Grotte des Fées the Aurignacian (modern human) tools were present during a brief cold snap 38,000 years ago, the earliest secure date for this technology, sandwiched between older and younger Chatelperronian deposits laid down in less chilly intervals.

Article | | Nature

The discovery of a small-bodied hominin from the late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia, caused a great deal of interest. Its classification as a new species was controversial, but now there is more evidence for the endemic human species, Homo floresiensis. The remains excavated at Liang Bua on Flores include another tiny adult mandible, 15,000 years old, and the right arm bones of the original find, known as LB1. The new findings confirm the presence of a long-term dwarfed population from before 74,000 to 12,000 years ago and argue against the idea that LB1 was an individual with a growth disorder. There is also evidence for the use of fire, and butchery of the mammoth-like Stegodon.

Letter | | Nature

The cover photo by Kevin Langergraber shows the adult female chimpanzee ‘Jolie’ in Kibale National Park, Uganda. This was taken on 16 August 2004, a few weeks before Jolie gave birth to her first infant. This week marks a landmark in the study of our closest living relative: the publication by the Chimpanzee Sequencing and Analysis Consortium of the initial sequence of the chimpanzee genome, together with a comparison with the human genome. The paper describes changes that have shaped human and chimpanzee species since the split from our common ancestor, and hints at what makes us uniquely human: 35 million single-nucleotide substitutions, 5 million small insertions and deletions, local rearrangements and a chromosome fusion. A comparison of gene duplications in chimpanzee and human genomes reveals gene expression differences that may underlie disease susceptibility. A study of primate genomes shows that subtelomeres are hot spots of recent chromosomal duplication and gene conversion. Conservation of Y-linked genes during human evolution is revealed by comparative sequencing in the chimpanzee. The final research paper in this collection fills a big gap in our knowledge: the first chimpanzee fossils ever found show that chimps and early humans inhabited the same environments in which they evolved and diverged. The fossils — three teeth — are from half-million-year-old sediments in Kenya that also yielded fossils of Homo. Four Progress reviews accompany these papers, looking at chimp culture, social behaviour, psychology and cognition. Elsewhere in the issue, researchers talk about working with chimpanzees, a feature summarizes other primate genome projects, and in two Commentaries, important ethical issues surrounding research on great apes are considered.

Letter | | Nature

The human remains from the Mladeč caves in the Czech Republic feature strongly in discussions of the transition from Neanderthals to early modern humans in Europe. Although generally accepted as modern Homo sapiens, features of the cranial morphology have prompted speculation about anatomical links to the preceding Neanderthals. The first direct radiocarbon dating of five human fossils from Mladeč is now available. The results confirm them as the oldest substantial remains of early modern humans in Europe. Both robust and less robust skulls are around 31,000 years old, though the two forms may reflect differences between males and females, rather than ‘archaic’ (Neanderthal-like) and ‘gracile’ early modern humans.

Letter | | Nature

The discovery of the skull known as Toumaï four years ago in Chad began a controversy. Faunal studies suggested an age close to 7 million years; a small cranium suggested chimpanzee-like brain size. The team that found Toumaï considered it to be a hominid on our side of the chimp-human divide, but others thought it more ape-like. Important finds of teeth and jaw pieces of the Toumaï species, Sahelanthropus tchadensis, now help to distance the species from apes, suggesting that it is a hominid closely related to the last common ancestor of chimps and humans. A virtual reconstruction of the Toumaï cranium provides more evidence of a close relationship to humans — and this week's cover. You are looking at the face of the earliest known hominid. (Cover by MPFT; M. Brunet, E. Daynes, Ph. Plailly and A. Garaudel contributed).

Letter | | Nature

The discovery of 4.5-million-year-old fossils of the hominid Ardipithecus ramidus increases our knowledge of a fascinating stage of human evolution, before hominids left the forests for the open savanna. Fossil finds of this age are rare, but deposits in Gona, Ethiopia, have yielded material from at least nine individuals. Their context shows that they lived in an environment of moderate rainfall woodland, and grasslands.

Letter | | Nature