Discovered: 78,000 years ago, the oldest known burial ritual in Africa

How do archaeologists know if someone was buried intentionally tens of thousands of years ago?

Photo by Francesco Derrico & Alain Queffelec / AFP via Getty Images
  • The oldest known burial ritual in Africa has been discovered on the coast of Kenya.
  • A small child appears to have been buried intentionally in a cave 78,000 years ago.
  • This new research offers insights into ancient funerary practices.
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From 1.8 million years ago, earliest evidence of human activity found

Scientists discover what our human ancestors were making inside the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa 1.8 million years ago.

Credit: Michael Chazan / Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Researchers find evidence of early tool-making and fire use inside the Wonderwerk Cave in Africa.
  • The scientists date the human activity in the cave to 1.8 million years ago.
  • The evidence is the earliest found yet and advances our understanding of human evolution.
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Blame evolution for human disease

For every good idea in evolution, there is an unintended consequence. Disease is often one of them.

  • A new essay suggests that evolution both dooms us to certain diseases and provides ways to help improve medical care.
  • Technology like polygenic risk scores already allow us to use genetics to predict and improve health outcomes.
  • Future treatment options may begin with a review of your genetics.
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Why hasn’t evolution made human childbirth easier?

The answer seems to be a series of evolutionary trade-offs that help protect organs in women, according to a recent study.

Credit: Gorodenkoff via Adobe Stock
  • Human childbirth is a relatively painful and dangerous process, due largely to the "obstetrical dilemma."
  • The obstetrical dilemma describes how human infants have big heads, but their mothers have relatively small birth canals and pelvic floors.
  • The new study found that having a smaller pelvic floor helps maintain the integrity of women's organs, even though it makes childbirth difficult.
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Evolution has robbed us of horse-sized bunnies

The size of rabbits and hares has long been evolutionarily constrained by competitors roughly their size.

Credit: zcy/Gabi Moisa/Adobe Stock/Big Think
  • Rabbits, hares, and pikas are not as varied in size as other similar animals such as rodents, which can be both far bigger and far smaller.
  • Scientists at Kyoto University examined the fossil record to figure out why.
  • They found that the smallest hoofed mammals always predict the size of the largest rabbits.
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