The First Humans

October 3, 2006
Stony Brook University

This workshop examined the origins of the human lineage in Africa. Human-like fossils and archaeological artifacts can be traced back as far as some 2.5 million years ago in East and South Africa. These fossils and the archaeological traces are usually attributed to the earliest members of the human genus, Homo. However, there is good reason to suspect that these remains lack critical features that would describe them as being truly human.

If such suspicions are correct, then the earliest evidence for humans is found only substantially later–at about 1.8 million years ago. When did humans make their first appearance on Earth, and what sorts of environmental factors may have been responsible for the emergence of humankind? We will cover the human fossil record, the archaeological record, and the palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental records from the standpoint of the geological, vertebrate palaeontological, and isotopic data. Our goal was  to resolve some of the outstanding issues of debate, and to identify productive new avenues for future research.

Convened by Richard Leakey, the 3rd Annual Human Evolution Symposium is a full-day event featuring many of the foremost scholars in the field.