In a few weeks our evening course on Human Evolution will start again, followed by an excursion to Les Eyzies in southwest France in May and September. I always enjoy teaching this course, because the students are so engaged and curious. Some even already know very much about the topic and regularly follow updates in the news and in scientific papers.
New findings are continuously published and many of these findings make it as headlines in the news media. Often there is however a discrepancy between what the media report and what the scientists actually wrote in their articles! Thus it is necessary to give a more balanced picture of what we actually know and what is pure speculation.
A nice blog, which provides a good background knowledge to several recent issues, such as for example a recent discussion of the findings of 400,000 year old DNA is Adam Benton’s blog EvoAnth. Another really interesting blog is John Hawks’ blog. John Hawks is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin—Madison and he not only comments and discusses recent issues in paleoanthropology, but also reports from field trips and excavations all around the world. And, most importantly, he has published a free online course on Human Evolution, which can be easily read and followed by our evening students! I have not signed up for the course yet (maybe I should?), but watching the intro video posted on the homepage really makes be feel liking signing up for this wonderful course right now!
Recently I stumbled upon another interesting blog, The Out of Eden Walk. During a seven year long journey, covering some 21,000 miles, starting in Ethiopia and ending in southernmost South America, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek walks the route our ancestors took when they migrated out of Africa and gradually populated the far end of the world. It is fun to follow Paul on his arduous walking trip that has so far brought him from Ethiopia to Jordan.
During the past ten years many new finds and discoveries in the field of Human Evolution, but DNA studies most of all, have really revolutionized our thinking of how to look at the human family tree. And much more will definitely be discovered in the future. Human evolution remains one of the most intriguing and rapidly developing subjects!
This spring will be the last time our evening course will be given! Why? Because I just cannot keep continuously updated regarding the wealth of new findings, unless I would completely skip my own research, which I don’t want to do! And standing in front of students and not knowing about the latest findings and how to interpret these is pretty embarrassing! That’s why I decided to put the course on ice for a while and instead use more of my time for my own research. But then, students who would like to know more, learn more and get completely updated information on human evolution from a paleoanthropology researcher, can sign up and take John Hawks’ course!