In the last fifty years, there has been an explosion of information about evolution and about human evolution in particular. But how does it all fit together? How can we bridge the immense historical gap between the australopithecines – who were simply bipedal apes – and the human race as it lives today? How can we reconcile our essentially animal identity with the our profound sense that as people, we are different from other animals? We are different, but what makes us different? And how does our evolution fit into the pattern of evolution in general?
The material is now there. Ernst Mayr’s work on speciation has revolutionised evolutionary theory – though its implications, obscured by technical language, are not commonly known. More recently, some really excellent research on hominid prehistory has been done in particular areas. Books like Cohen’s The Food Crisis in Prehistory (on the origins of agriculture) Keeley’s War before Civilization (on tribal warfare) and Wrangham’s Catching Fire (on fire and cooking) have changed our perceptions completely on their subject matter. These books and others have links to them on this site. But how does all the new material fit together into a coordinated picture? I have tried to fit it together on this site.
The site starts with an account of speciation – the origin of species. This, in simplified language, is based almost entirely on Mayr’s Population, Species and Evolution. Following this, the origin of the earliest bipedal primates – the australopithecines – is the subject of a hypothetical reconstruction. Turning now to more solid evidence, a series of sections follow the development of bipeds up to the origin of agriculture.