EDUCATION: The Word on Human Origins

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Science  30 Apr 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5671, pp. 657
DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5671.657a

The human family tree keeps sprouting branches as anthropologists unearth new fossils or reclassify existing ones. Whether you're looking for an introduction to human origins or want to catch up on the latest developments, visit Fossil Hominids: The Evidence for Human Evolution, a well-written overview created by enthusiast Jim Foley.

The human evolutionary story swarms with almost as many characters as a Dickens novel, so Foley supplies a brief guide to our close relatives. You can unearth the basics on Sahelanthropus tchadensis, a 6-million to 7-million-year-old species from Chad described in 2002 that may be the oldest hominid. Or bone up on Homo heidelbergensis, a big-browed human that roamed Europe about 400,000 years ago. The jam-packed site also features a timeline of recent fossil finds, synopses of new papers, and guest essays by researchers. Another section debunks a litany of creationist misconceptions and misrepresentations about human origins, such as the notion that Neandertals were merely modern humans warped by disease. Fossil Hominids is a section of Talk.Origins Archive, an offshoot of a decade-old UseNet discussion group where scientists and others ponder questions about evolution and creationism.

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