Over the span of all human history, two decades merely represent a blip. For the scientists studying the human story, though, the last 20 years or so have been transformative.

“Since the turn of the 21st century, human origins textbooks have been rewritten over and over again,” the anthropologists Elizabeth Sawchuk and Mary Prendergast write. New discoveries, new technologies and new commitments to making the past more relevant to the present are continually refining the story of human evolution.

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Nearly a century ago, archaeologists started to shift the focus of human origins research from Europe to Africa’s ‘cradles of humankind’ like Oldupai (Olduvai) Gorge in Tanzania. What will the next big shifts be? Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo

Archaeological discoveries are happening faster than ever before, helping refine the human story

Elizabeth Sawchuk, Stony Brook University (The State University of New York); Mary Prendergast, Saint Louis University – Madrid

20 years ago, who could predict how much more researchers would know today about the human past – let alone what they could learn from a thimble of dirt, a scrape of dental plaque, or satellites in space.

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