Skulls of early humans carry telltale signs of inbreeding, study suggests

Buried for 100,000 years at Xujiayao in the Nihewan Basin of northern China, the recovered skull pieces of an early human exhibit a now-rare congenital deformation that indicates inbreeding might well have been common among our ancestors, new research from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Washington University in St. Louis suggests.​

Dean Smith’s popular ‘last’ lecture featured at brown bag lunch

The Energy Awareness Committee will host a brown bag lunch viewing and discussion of Dean Richard Smith’s famous “last” lecture, “Population, Politics and the Environment.” In a video from his final lecture before taking on duties as dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences in 2008, Smith, PhD, discusses what is in store for humans in the 21st century as human population increases and the Earth’s resources remain finite.

‘Man the Hunter’ theory is debunked in new book

You wouldn’t know it by current world events, but humans actually evolved to be peaceful, cooperative and social animals. In a new book, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis goes against the prevailing view and argues that primates, including early humans, evolved not as hunters but as prey of many predators, including wild dogs and cats, hyenas, eagles and crocodiles. Despite popular theories posed in research papers and popular literature, early man was not an aggressive killer, argues Robert W. Sussman, Ph.D., professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences.

Survival of the fittest? Anthropologist suggests the nicest prevail — not just the selfish

Are humans inherently good? The prevailing view in popular and scientific literature is that humans and animals are genetically driven to compete for survival, thus making all social interaction inherently selfish. According to this line of reasoning, known as sociobiology, even seemingly unselfish acts of altruism merely represent a species’ strategy to survive and preserve its genes. But Robert W. Sussman, Ph.D., a professor of anthropology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, argues that this is a narrow and simplistic view of evolutionary theory that fails to explain many aspects of sociality among mammals in general and primates in particular. In “The Origins and Nature of Sociality,” a new book Sussman co-edited, he and other researchers challenge the proponents of sociobiology. “The ‘selfish gene’ hypothesis is inadequate,” Sussman says.

Earliest modern humans in Europe found

Erik TrinkausA human jawbone (left), dated to between 34,000 and 36,000 years ago, along with a facial skeleton (center) and a temporal bone (right).A research team co-directed by Erik Trinkaus, Ph.D., professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, has dated a human jawbone from a Romanian bear hibernation cave to between 34,000 and 36,000 years ago. That makes it the earliest known modern human fossil in Europe. Other human bones from the same cave — a temporal bone, a facial skeleton and a partial braincase — are still undergoing analysis, but are likely to be the same age. The jawbone was found in February 2002 in Pestera cu Oase — the “Cave with Bones” — located in the southwestern Carpathian Mountains. The other bones were found in June 2003.