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Human Origins: Complexities and Controversies
In this lecture, an anthropologist reveals how a seven-million-year-old skull found in Chad, Africa in the summer of 2002, caused many long-held scientific beliefs to be called into question. Fossils are the keys scientists use to unlock the mysteries of human origins. Skull fossils in particular hold a wealth of information. By examining facial features and skull traits of a creature, researchers can make inferences about its diet, brain size, means of mobility, and more. What emerges is a map of human evolution based on assumptions made from available fossils. However, hominid fossils have been found only in certain geographic locations and in very limited numbers, giving scientists little on which to base their map. The controversies considered in this lecture include: the probable nature of the last common ancestor of chimps and humans; the first species to have bipedalism; and whether the first biped walked with straight or bent knees. Also discussed are: the debates over the phylogeny of known species; how to determine what species should be in the genus Homo; and the relationship between Neanderthals and humans. The presentation is 1 hour and 10 minutes in length.
Intended for grade levels:
  • General public
Type of resource:
  • Audio:
    • Lecture
  • Geological Sciences:
    • Paleontology
Technical requirements:
RealPlayer plug-in
Cost / Copyright:
No cost
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DLESE Catalog ID: DLESE-000-000-007-328
Resource contact / Creator / Publisher:
Publisher: WGBH Educational Foundation
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Author: Daniel E. Lieberman
Harvard University, Anthropology Department