Most people don’t spend their free time imagining what it would
be like to get on the subway and sit across from a
300,000-year-old person. But anthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin
isn’t most people.
In June, Hublin published two papers in the highly-respected
journal Nature suggesting that the first Homo sapiens — that is,
the first members of our species — lived 100,000 years earlier
than previously thought in a place that no one would have
expected. They also had faces that
looked surprisingly like ours.
”I’m not sure these people would stand out from a crowd today,”
said Hublin on a call with reporters shortly before his research
Hublin’s findings, while controversial, were generally greeted by
other researchers in the community with excitement about the
other kinds of research opportunities that could be opened up by
this new idea.
“It really sets the world alight in terms of the possibilities
for understanding the evolution of Homo sapiens,” Sonia
Zakrzewski, an associate professor of archaeology at the
University of Southampton, told Business Insider in June. “It
certainly means that we need to rethink our models.”
Hublin is one of several anthropologists and archaeologists who
are combing the planet for evidence that could rewrite various
aspects of ancient human history. Together, they are answering
burning questions about our origin story, from when and where the
first Homo sapiens emerged to how the first people
braved the icy passage between what is today Siberia and
North America — and
when they did it.