Or the last human, or who knows, maybe even the dinosaurs?”
In other words, maybe it’s not the question we want to ask, but perhaps it’s the question we have to ask. The science says we already know.
“There are very important questions. And by the way, we’re having a very good year,” says Dr. David Morrison, an anthropologist at the University of British Columbia who has written two books on a range of topics to study the human fossil record and has a new book on the subject due out this fall. “We’re just beginning to do these surveys now.”
Morrison was a guest on the program because he and other researchers have studied the dating of early human species in an attempt to determine when they arose over a period of several million years, from when they probably first developed the ability to move around, to when they had developed weapons, which would have allowed them to survive.
Morrison and some of his colleagues conducted the first research in this area in 1996, using a computer program that measured the ages of human bones from more than a century ago. The first human skeletons were found in South Africa and South America about 65,000 years ago. Those early fossils are believed to have come from the lower to middle Pleistocene period and are known among modern humans as the “Hobbits.” Scientists who studied that period have long been puzzled by the fact that human populations at that time were smaller.
In fact, that was the most recent time an animal could have been alive. “We’ve gotten all the way back to the middle Pleistocene,” Morrison says. “We’ve learned about a few animal and plant species and a few plants, but we’ve completely got lost the last two million years.”
Many researchers think there are just too few humans alive today — that’s why the current population is so low.
But how do you know when the last of human creatures died? The oldest animals ever discovered might not have been mammals. In fact, they may not have made use of the same kinds of tools that people do.
Some researchers believe that there were a lot of humans around at the end of the Pleistocene. But they think those were small people living in large groups. “All those human groups in the tropics might have been just the beginning,” says Paul Andrews, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London.
Andrews believes that, since humans have been around for about
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