7 things we learned about human evolution in the past decade, including that we are older than we thought

nationalgeographic garrett
Credit: Kenneth Garrett/National Geographic

To mark the 10th anniversary of the Smithsonian’s “David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins,” here are some of the biggest discoveries in human evolution from the last 10 years.

We made tools earlier than we thought

When you think of technology today, you might picture computers, smartphones, and gaming consoles. But for our ancestors millions of years ago, it would have been stone tools.


We long thought our ancestors began making these tools about 2.6 million years ago. But a discovery announced in 2015 pushed that date back. The research team found pieces of altered stone in Lomekwi, Kenya, that date to 3.3 million years ago.

Related article:  Confusion over the origins of smallpox vaccine could leave us ‘vulnerable to a future outbreak’

We’re older than we thought

Stone tools aren’t the only things that are older than we thought. Humans are too.


Just three years ago, a team of scientists made a discovery that pushed back the origin of our species, Homo sapiens [100,000 years]. The team re-excavated a cave in Morocco where a group of miners found skulls in 1961. They collected sediments and more fossils to help them identify and date the remains. Using CT scans, the scientists confirmed that the remains belonged to our species.

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