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People & Society
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Top photo: Frontal bone of the newly discovered early human from Olorgesailie, Kenya, which is the smallest adult cranium from the mid-Pleistocene aof Aftrica. Below: Cranium from Bodo, Ethiopia, one of the largest mid-Pleistocene fossils of Aftrica.
Credit: Richard Potts and Jennifer Clark, Human Origins Program, Smithsonian Institution

Bottom photo: Chris Henshilwood excavates Middle Stone Age artifacts at Blombos Cave
Credit: C. Henshilwood, F. d'Errico

How Did Humans Develop as a Species?
When and how — and where and why — did humans develop as a species and as social beings? What can we discover about social relations in different societies in the past – and now?

Old bones, fossils, ancient tools made of stone – these are some of the items that scientists look for and study to learn about how people developed physically, mentally and socially. The environment – the land, plants and animals, the climate – can tell scientists a great deal about the conditions early people faced and provide explanations for how they lived.

Different types of scientists work on different aspects of these investigations. Archaeologists focus on material things – such as graves, buildings, tools and pottery – that people have left behind. Physical anthropologists study the origins of human beings themselves, from old bones to modern DNA studies. Geographers concentrate on space and its relation to human activity.

Both people and the Earth are still changing. Scientists address issues that arise from contemporary differences in people, their cultures and their relationships with their environments. Accounting for such differences can tell us why we are the way we are and where possibilities for change or adaptation lie.

How Does Language Develop? [Next]