Africa

Sometimes climate change is good

Between 135,000 and 70,000 years ago, the east African climate was highly unstable and subject to megadroughts. In the worst droughts, Lake Malawi had less than 15% of the water it has today. Crucially, around 70,000 years ago, the climate changed and became wetter and more stable. Surely it's no coincidence that this is when the human species underwent a rapid expansion and began to leave the continent to eventually colonize the rest of the world. PNAS.


Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes, and she's gone

"...[W]hat is the benefit of taking one of the most iconic examples of the human story from Africa to parade it around in second-level museums in the United States?" asked Richard Leakey in an Associated Press interview. Leakey is protesting the controversial decision to take the famous Lucy fossil and tour her in the United States for six years. Damage to the 3.5 million-year-old bones is, he says, inevitable. Washington Post, BBC, LiveScience.


Dynasty drama

The discovery of a jawbone and skull from two ancient hominids by mother and daughter team Maeve and Louise Leakey suggest that the human family tree may need rewriting. Unearthed in Kenya, the remains of Homo habilis and Homo erectus indicate that the two lived side-by-side in Africa for at least half a million years. Previously it was thought that they lived one after the other, Whether H. erectus evolved from H. habilis or whether they each arose from a common ancestor is yet to be discovered. National Geographic.


Humanity's first home

Modern humans originated in Sub-saharan Africa, and from there spread all over the globe. Cambridge scientists, who published their study today in Nature, used genetic information combined with the measurements of 6000 skulls from collections all over the world in order to confirm what's known as the 'Out of Africa' theory. The idea of African origins for humans has become very widely accepted over the last ten or so years--this new study deals a final blow to scholars hanging onto the notion that humans may have originated in separate locations all over the world. SciAM.