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The continuum of human evolution


The goal of this assignment is for you to synthesize the theory and data we’ve covered about modern humans (Homo sapiens), our hominin ancestors, and our chimpanzee cousins, and explain the traits that you think make us human. Given the traits you think are most important, you will lay out the argument for which hominin ancestor was the first you are willing to call “human”. There isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question. I just want to know what you think and to see you use evidence from the class to support your argument.

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What are the key traits of Homo sapiens that you think makes us “human”? Which hominin species from the genus Homo do you think first qualifies as “human”? How do both these species significantly (or not) differ from Chimpanzees? The hominin species you select as the first “human” must be a member of the genus Homo (1.5 mya or more recent), and you must focus on a single species to compare to Homo sapiens. (If you think only Homo sapiens can be called human, then compare them to Homo neanderthalensis, arguing why their traits differ enough that you don’t consider Neanderthals human yet.) Compare both to Chimpanzees. You will need to include anatomical, behavioral, and cultural traits in your argument.

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