Editor's note

Scientists have long known that one of the best ways to understand the world around us today is to look back in time. In South Africa, for instance, the caves in the Cradle of Humankind hold incredible detail in their rocks and sediment about the time during which they formed. Robyn Pickering discusses how she and others tapped into those details with a clever dating method - and what their results mean.

And new research has revealed that intricate stone tools were being in China way earlier than was previously believed. Ben Marwick, Bo Li and Hu Yue explain.

Natasha Joseph

Science & Technology Editor

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Beautifully preserved flowstone and sediment layers from the Cradle of Humankind. Dr Robyn Pickering

How we calculated the age of caves in the Cradle of Humankind – and why it matters

Robyn Pickering, University of Cape Town

South Africa's fossils can step out of the shadows of being undated and undateable.

Several of the newly identified stone tools – unearthed from a museum collection. Hu Yue

New dates for ancient stone tools in China point to local invention of complex technology

Ben Marwick, University of Washington; Bo Li, University of Wollongong; Hu Yue, University of Wollongong

A fresh look at museum artifacts fills in a gap in the Asian archaeological record and refutes the idea that an advanced technique was imported from the West by early modern humans.

Rocks hold clues about how falling sea levels caused havoc 400 million years ago

Cameron Penn-Clarke, University of the Witwatersrand

A record of sea-level change from 400 million years ago in South Africa, reveals how ecosystems and environments collapsed at the South Pole.

It looks like an anchovy fillet but this ancient creature helps us understand how DNA works

Ozren Bogdanovic, Garvan Institute

The marine creature amphioxus allows scientists to explore some of the steps that took place as simple creatures evolved to become complex animals.

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