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Episode 59: Top Human Origins Discoveries of 2021

2021 was a big year in science! Fossil discoveries introduced new relatives to our family tree, new findings added fascinating twists to the human story, and breakthroughs in research methods opened new worlds to explore. In this episode, five scientists discuss their favorite human origins discoveries of 2021.

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

Our guests:

Scott A. Williams, New York UniversityJessica Thompson, Yale UniversityGiulia Gallo, University of California at DavisFernando Villanea, University of Colorado at BoulderErin Kane, Boston University

Read more about their top discoveries:

Dragon Man

Late Middle Pleistocene Harbin cranium represents a new Homo species 

Stunning ‘Dragon Man’ skull may be an elusive Denisovan—or a new species of human

‘Dragon man’ claimed as new species of ancient human but doubts remain 


Unearthing Neanderthal population history using nuclear and mitochondrial DNA from cave sediments

Bacho Kiro

Initial Upper Palaeolithic humans in Europe had recent Neanderthal ancestry

Early Homo sapiens groups in Europe faced subarctic climates

Like Neanderthals, Early Humans Endured a Frigid Europe

White Sands footprints

Evidence of humans in North America during the Last Glacial Maximum

Ancient Footprints Push Back Date of Human Arrival in the Americas

National Park Services White Sands Website

Camera trap research on Dryas monkeys

A natural history of Chlorocebus dryas from camera traps in Lomami National Park and its buffer zone, Democratic Republic of the Congo, with notes on the species status of Cercopithecus salongo 

Using local knowledge and camera traps to investigate occurrence and habitat preference of an Endangered primate: the endemic dryas monkey in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Picture Perfect: Camera Traps Find Endangered Dryas Monkeys 

The Leakey Foundation

Origin Stories is a project of The Leakey Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding human origins research and outreach.

This month, thanks to Jorge and Ann Leis and the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, all donations will be quadruple-matched. Click here to make a donation!


This episode was hosted and produced by Meredith Johnson and Ray Pang. Our editor is Audrey Quinn. 

Music by Henry Nagle and Lee Roservere. Additional music by Blue Dot Sessions.

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