Apes-like Ancestors and Extinct Humans of the Deep Time


Prof. Giorgio Manzi
Sapienza University of Rome

DATE: 29th July 2020 (GMT+8)
TIME: 4:00-5:00 pm (Time in China)

Human evolution is a process of change that , across millions of years, led from ape-like ancestors to modern humans, or Homo sapiens. There are trends (i.e., directional changes) in this process – such as bipedalism, which came before progressively larger brains – but there are also complex evolutionary trajectories involving a number of extinct species that are related in various ways to the origin of present humankind. In this talk, we will focus on two case-studies. One deals with the earliest defining human trait, bipedalism, that evolved among ape-like creatures living in Africa between 6 and 2 million years ago. Particularly, we will discuss the new footprints of early bipeds (Australopithecus) recently discovered at Laetoli in Tanzania (3,6 million years ago), suggesting insights into their social behaviour. The second focus of this talk comes after the time when humans first diffused out of Africa into Eurasia, that is well after 2 million years ago. We will examine in particular an extinct human species, Homo heidelbergensis. These humans of the Middle Pleistocene (from about 780 to 125 thousand years ago) spread across Africa and Eurasia, but have been better known to paleoanthropologists only in the last decades. Nevertheless, they appear of crucial importance for the divergence between the evolutionary clades leading to the most encephalised humans, that is respectively the Neanderthals and ourselves, Homo sapiens.

Full Professor of Anthropology at the Sapienza University of Rome and director of the Museo di Antropologia “G. Sergi” of the same University. His research interests are mainly aimed at paleoanthropology and skeletal biology, including field activities in Italy and abroad. In this framework, he has studied human fossil samples between the lower Paleolithic and the Neolithic, paying particular attention to the first inhabitants of Europe, to the evolution of the Neanderthals and to the origin of modern humans, as well as to life conditions of more recent human populations, particularly at the transition from the Roman times to the Middle Ages . He is also known to the general public for his activities in the field of dissemination of science (https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giorgio_Manzi).

Will be provided during the lecture