Discovering Our Distant Ancestors

Understanding human evolution, what we inherit from our animal and primate past—and how we differ—is the first step in understanding our unique place and potential as human beings.
double helix

Recent technological breakthroughs in genomic analysis, combined with archeological, paleoanthropological, linguistic and other information, now give us an unparalleled opportunity to trace humanity’s evolution and movement in time.

Photo of a Chimp and Bonobo

What we share with our nearest surviving relatives, the male-centered chimpanzee and the female-centered, erotic, and peaceable bonobo. How that understanding helps shape who we are vs. who we think we are.

Homonid skulls

Six million years ago as many as 18 different hominid species lived in East Africa. Now only one is left. How did it evolve and survive?

Travel the Journey

Smithsonian website

What Does It Mean to Be Human?

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Learn about 5 million years of early human evolution, track research in the science of paleoanthropology, get answers to your questions from the institute’s researchers, and much more.

clovis points

The First People Who Populated the Americas

Melissa Hogenboom, BBC

Archaeological evidence of people living in the Bluefish Caves in the northern Yukon Territory of western Canada as early as 24,000 years ago now suggests that the people who left Siberia did so 10,000 years earlier than previously thought. They remained genetically and geographically isolated in Beringia until about 16–15,000 years ago before dispersing south.

Further Reading >

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