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A Labyrinth to the Past

A Labyrinth to the Past
Reported by
Leslie Knowlton

Posted July 29, 2009


In the September 26, 2005, Anthropology Section Inaugural Lecture, Leslie Aiello of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research discussed her 30-year passion for the study of the evolution of adaptation in modern humans. Drawing on research on climate change and the evolution of human walking, diet, cooperation, language, physiology, and thermoregulation, she described the complex course of our seven-million-year evolutionary history and how biology and culture interacted to make us human. Topics discussed include the implications of the discovery of Homo floresiensis and the consequences of cooking for human evolution.

Use the tabs above to find a meeting report and multimedia from this event.

Web Sites

Contains articles about human evolution, archaeology, and human origins.

Becoming Human: Paleoanthropology, Evolution and Human Origins
An interactive documentary of the journey through human evolution.

The Evolution of Man
A BBC Science & Nature web site that includes articles about topics such as the importance of Lucy, the effects of climate on food, and the story of the Neanderthals.

Handprint: Human Evolution
Includes a chart of human evolution, information about the fossil record, and descriptions of the hominid brain and hominid tools.

Human Behavior and Evolution Society
A society of researchers who use modern evolutionary theory to study evolved emotional, cognitive, and sexual adaptations. The site includes links to articles, conference proceedings, HBES Newsletters, and other resources.

Human Evolution
Based at the Australian Museum, this site includes information about and images of skulls, skeletal details, and tools.

Science Odyssey: Human Evolution
This PBS site includes an activity that shows the major hominid (human or human-like) species discovered to date, when they lived, and how they might be related to each other.

Wilkipedia: Human Evolution
Wilkipedia Encyclopedia's article on human evolution.


Aiello, L. C. & P. Wheeler. 2003. Neanderthal thermoregulation and the glacial climate. In Neanderthals and Modern Humans in the European Landscape of the Last Glaciation: Archeological Results of the Stage 3 Project (McDonald Institute Monographs). T. H. Andel & W. Davies, Eds. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge, UK.

Aiello, L. C. & P. Wheeler. 1995. The expensive-tissue hypothesis: the brain and digestive system in human and primate evolution. Curr. Anthropol. 36: 199-221.

Aiello, L. C. & R. I. M. Dunbar 1993. Neocortex size, group size, and the evolution of language. Curr. Anthropol. 34: 184-193.

Aiello, L. C. & C. Key. 2002. Energetic consequences of being a Homo erectus female. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 14: 551-565.

Aiello, L. & J. C. K. Wells. 2002. Energetics in human evolution. Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 31: 323-338.

Aiello, L. C., N. Bates & T. Joffee. 2001. In defense of the expensive tissue hypothesis: ontogeny, maternal care and organ size. In Evolutionary Anatomy of the Primate Cerebral Cortex. K. Gibson & D. Falk, Eds. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Aiello, L. C. & M. Collard. 2001. Our newest oldest ancestor? Nature 410: 526-527.

Asfaw, B., T. White, O. Lovejoy, et al. 1999. Australopithecus garhi: a new species of early hominid from Ethiopia. Science 284: 629-635.

Clegg, M. & L. C. Aiello. 1999. The ontogeny of sexual dimorphism in the hyoid bone. [Abstract] Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. Supplement 28: 109.

Collard, M. & L. C. Aiello. 2000. From forelimbs to two legs. Nature 404: 339-340.

Hawkes, K., J. F. O'Connell, N. G. Blurton Jones, et al. 1998. Grandmothering, menopause, and the evolution of human life histories. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 95: 1336-1339. Full Text

Kaplan, H., K. Hill, J. Lancaster & A. M. Hurtado. 2000. A theory of human life history evolution: diet, intelligence, and longevity. Evol. Anthropol. 9: 156-185.

Key, C. A. & L. C. Aiello. 1999. The evolution of social organisation. In The Evolution of Culture. R. I. M. Dunbar, C. Knight & C. Power, Eds. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.

Morwood, M. J., R. P. Soejono, R. G. Roberts, et al. 2004. Archaeology and age of a new hominin from Flores in eastern Indonesia. Nature 431: 1087-1091.

White, T. D., B. Asfaw, D. DeGusta, et al. 2003. Pleistocene Homo sapiens from Middle Awash, Ethiopia. Nature 423: 742-747.


Leslie Aiello

Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research
email | web site | publications

Leslie Aiello was recently appointed president of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, based in New York City. The new post caps off her 30-year career at the University College London where she was head of the anthropology department and most recently, head of the graduate school. A biological anthropologist, Aiello's research examines the evolution of human adaptation, with a particular emphasis on the relationship between diet, climate, brain size, and cognitive and social evolution. She also served for six years as the co-managing editor of the Journal of Human Evolution and is a frequent contributor to the American Journal of Physical Anthrolopology, among many others.

Aiello received her PhD in anatomy from the University of London. Her recent research is centered on the postcranial evolution and adaptation of the Plio-Pleistocene hominids.

Leslie Knowlton

web site

Leslie Knowlton is a freelance writer based in New York City and on Deer Isle, Maine. With a master's degree in psychology, she spent more than a decade as a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and a medical writer and contributing editor for the Psychiatric Times. Her work has also appeared in dozens of other newspapers and magazines including the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, Cosmopolitan and Fitness.