My chapter in the new Open Education Resource (OER) Biological Anthropology textbook, Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology is now available! I was super proud to have been a part of this project and I researched and wrote something that I am very happy to see. I wrote Chapter 12: Modern Homo sapiens, which covers what happened to our direct species from 315,000 years ago to the distant future. There’s skeletal changes, artifacts, interbreeding, geographical expansion, technology, and more. The information and ideas I present are based on my own synthesis of active research in these areas. I contributed the text, but the illustrators deserve a lot of praise. They turned my crude mockups into clear figures with style.
If you found this as a student reader of my chapter, then welcome! I worked hard, with the assistance of editors and reviewers, to present everything in a clear way and in an organized manner. When there are fascinating topics and information that I had to omit for the word count (I passed the limit already), I give you leads to pursue them on your own. The domestication of the chicken comes to mind. I also included Easter eggs that may perk you up as you read. Here are some questions that will point you towards some of them:
- Which Mortal Kombat character’s name appears in the chapter?
- In what context was renowned actor Nicholas Cage mentioned?
- Which extinct megafauna is a favorite of researchers?
- Where did the author get most of his coffee to fuel his writing?
On a more serious note, some textbook mainstays have been left aside on purpose so you can take a more active role in consolidating the information. Make your own mind maps, tables or illustrations of the following topics to get a big picture view of what went on in human evolution:
- Skeletal Traits of Modern Homo sapiens
- Timeline of Modern Homo sapiens Expansion
- Stone Tool Styles, Dates, and Features
- Types of Human Social Organizations
If you found this writeup inadvertently, I hope you will give my free chapter a read. You’re in for a treat! I found so many fascinating discoveries and ideas in the research for this chapter. It is a human universal to ponder our origins, and what my chapter collects is what science has found about where we came from. You’ll learn that our past was complex, but full of wonder and even inspiration. The goal of the textbook was to be accessible so the writing gets out of your way from the knowledge within. Give the other chapters a read to learn what happened in human evolution before my chapter, and other topics about humans and other primates.
For you professionals and already-informed who have read my chapter, thank you for checking out my take on modern human origins. As you know, our understanding of our own prehistory is still limited in many areas. What I wrote about topics such as behavioral modernity and the peopling of the Americas was my own stance informed by research. While I present multiple hypotheses in these situations, I purposely made it clear which one I believe is the strongest. Maybe future work will turn the tide another direction (especially ‘behavioral modernity,’ which seems like it is on the edge of a revolution), but the textbook reflects my most certain synthesis at the time of writing. This chapter reflects my long informed answer to the questions “where did our species come from and how are we what we are today?”
Overall I really enjoyed the challenge of writing a textbook chapter and the result as well. It means a lot to be connected with other educators and anthropologists in this textbook project and our collective work is amazing. Here is the link to the textbook website and my own chapter again because I really want you to read it.
Previous posts on the textbook: