Hearths & Shelters

 The earliest hearths are at least 790,000 years old, and some researchers think cooking may reach back more than 1.5 million years. Control of fire provided a new tool with several uses—including cooking, which led to a fundamental change in the early human diet. Cooking released nutrients in foods and made them easier to digest. It also rid some plants of poisons.

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Carrying & Storing

Early humans may have made bags from skin long ago. By around 26,000 years ago, they were weaving plant fibers to make cords and perhaps baskets. About 20,000 years ago, in China, they began making pottery.

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Our ancestors often buried the dead together with beads and other symbolic objects. Burial rituals heightened the group’s memory of the deceased person. These rituals may imply a belief that a person’s identity extends beyond death.

Getting Food

Modern humans are a species that is largely fed every day. Sure, maybe we go to the supermarket to buy our food, and some people still practice subsistence farming, but our lives have changed drastically from the time that early humans had to hunt, scavenge, and gather food every day. Explore the evidence for some of the ways that early humans were able to get food.

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Explore the evidence of early human behavior—from ancient footprints to stone tools and the earliest symbols and art – along with similarities and differences in the behavior of other primate species

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Rick Potts Podcast from NOVA's Becoming Human Series

Rick Potts
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Listen to Dr. Rick Potts talk about early human adaptability to climate change in this podcast created in conjunction with the 2009 NOVA series "Becoming Human".

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