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A Timeline of Traits That Make Humans Special



How we humans developed the unique traits that separate us from our ancient ancestors is a scientific puzzle whose solution is ongoing. From fossils to food cultivation to social structure, the story of human evolution is written from many angles. This timeline shows some of the primary distinguishing characteristics of humans and when scientists believe they appeared on the scene. (Below, watch “Planet of the Humans: The Leap to the Top,” a WSF15 program looking at evolution and the many aspects of human uniqueness.

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2015 Festival Program: Planet of the Humans | 1:19:32 | Featuring explorer and paleoanthropologist Lee Berger, molecular biologist Paul Bingham, anthropologist Dean Falk, and psycholinguist Steven Pinker with journalist Brian Lehrer as moderator



“Oldowan and Acheulean Stone Tools,” Museum of Anthropology, (accessed September 2015), “Why Are We the Last Apes Standing?” Slate (Jan. 29, 2013), (accessed September 2015), “The Brain and Our Extended Childhood,” In Search of Enlightenment blog (Nov. 19, 2008), “The Development of Agriculture,” National Geographic, “Revealing the History of Sheep Domestication Using Retrovirus Integrations,” Science (April 24, 2009), “Origin of Modern Cows Traced to Single Herd,” Wired (March 27, 2012), “Old Goats in Transition,” Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, “History of the Chicken,” Penn State Extension College of Agricultural Sciences, “What We Theorize – When And Where Domestication Occurred,” International Museum of the Horse, “Man’s First Friend,” Slate (March 6, 2009), “Ask Smithsonian: Are Cats, Domesticated?” Smithsonian (April 30, 2015), “Domestication of the donkey: Timing, processes, and indicators,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (October 16, 2007), “540,000-Year-Old Shell Carvings May Be Human Ancestor’s Oldest Art,” LiveScience (December 3, 2014), “Homo erectus at Trinil on Java used shells for tool production and engraving,” Nature (February 12, 2015), “Mystery Lingers Over Ritual Behavior of New Human Ancestor,” National Geographic (Sep. 15, 2015), “Neanderthal Burials Confirmed as Ancient Ritual,” National Geographic (Dec. 16, 2013), “Death Rituals in the Animal Kingdom,” BBC (Sep. 19, 2012)



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