Stories

Explore the world of anthropology and meet some of our anthropologists. Here you can learn about human societies and culture, and find out what is so cool about anthropology that someone would do it for a living. Pick a story to read or listen to one of our podcast shows filled with guest anthropologists who share their experiences and passion for discovery.

A Brief History of History Thumbnail image
What does it mean to be human? Take a look at the story of how we became…well…us. The search for our first ancestors who looked and acted like people today is the search for what it means to be human.
An Illustration showing a silhouetted scientist in the desert
The field of paleoanthropology is a young science. There have been many paleoanthropologists over the years who have found many important fossils.
Link to article A Human Climate
Scientists are drilling deep into the five ancient African lake beds to search for clues about the environment over the last five million years.
What animal fossils tell us about ancient ecosystems
It is possible to learn more about the environment where animals live by studying the animals themselves.
Do humans have big brains? image
We have big brains, but are we born with big brains or do they get big as we grow up? It turns out that it’s a little bit of both. Learn about how our incredible brains grow and find out what limits our brain size.
DNA illustration
Your DNA is unique, and it makes you a human, not any other animal. Sequencing DNA lets us identify genetic similarities and differences that relate to species similarities and differences.
Brains over Brawn illustration
The differences between our brains and the brains of other animals is an important part of what makes us human. Find out why your brain is so big and what that allows you to do.
How climate shaped human evolution image
Climate change has been a hot topic in discussions on the future of our global community. But looking into the past is also important. What do we know about how the climate and the environment affected our early ancestors?
baby chimpanzee
IHO Founding Director Donald Johanson visited the Jane Goodall Institute in Gombe, Tanzania, and was lucky to come upon this little band of mother chimpanzees with their babies.
Link Tools in the Stone Age
Since long ago, the survival of our ancestors has depended in part on technology. Even today, the shoes you put on and the car you drive are both built on previous discoveries. We can trace human technological developments way back to over three million years ago.
LInk to Chomp Into the Past
Sitting on the sofa, you flip through a family photo album. You see a young man dressed in a uniform from the 1940s. Your father looks a lot like the man in the black and white photograph.
epigenetics illustration
DNA controls all of your traits. Right? Well, kind of. The environment can actually control how your DNA works. Learn about how it does this through a series of switches known as epigenetic mechanisms.
Primates overlaid with the title of the video
Donald Johanson -- credited with discovering the Australopithecus afarensis skeleton known as "Lucy"-- talks about why humans are the way we are, and about whether any other animals might
Scientist who discovered the Ledi-Geraru Homo jaw
In 2013, a research team was working in the dusty hills of Ledi-Geraru, Ethiopia. The geologists identified a layer of sediment, or dirt, as belonging to the time period they were trying to study.
Paleontologist thumbnail
How do the anthropologists and paleontologists find fossils?
Fossils Rock Featured small image link
The fossil record is not only about bones. Geology is an important part in learning about fossils and uncovering their story.
Historical Human Habitats Small Image
Many types of plants and animals lived alongside our ancestors in East Africa over the last six million years. These organisms can help us learn about the habitats of early humans and how these habitats changed over time.
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Donald Johanson, credited with discovering the Australopithecus afarensis skeleton known as "Lucy" in 1974, talks about how he knew where to start looking.
Image of Don Johanson and title of video
Donald Johanson -- credited with discovering the Australopithecus afarensis skeleton known as "Lucy"-- talks about human evolutionary timelines and what the future might hold for humans.
Pondoland dig site
The research team at Mossel Bay, South Africa is expanding its field locations to include new field sites in Kynsna and Pondoland. Pondoland, along the eastern coast of South Africa, has not been previously explored for evidence of early modern human habitation. Join team leader Erich Fisher as they head out along the coast to search for our origins!
LInk to All About DNA
Life is complex and diverse but comes down to four little letters. The central code that makes all life on earth possible is found in a tiny molecule known as DNA.
Donald Johanson and Lucy
Dr. Biology talks with anthropologist Donald Johanson about the bits and pieces of Lucy and the interesting past that arose with her bones.
Technology and Human Learning illustration
Culture holds all the information needed to make tools, friends, and a living. Humans are good at learning and imitating what other people do, which has helped us survive and thrive.
Anthropology fieldwork sketching illustration
Cargo pants. Bug repellent. Duffel bag. Laptop computer. These are just a few of the “must-haves” for anthropologists as they set off to do fieldwork each year.
Photo of Darwin
In 1859, Charles Darwin published a book called On the Origin of Species that completely changed our understanding of how biodiversity arises.
Link to Primate family tree
As humans, we have a place on the primate family tree. We can find it by studying other primates and comparing their traits to our own.
Skeleton image by Sklmsta
Dead men tell no tales, but their bones can. It just takes a particular kind of scientist to read the clues that tell the story. Dr.
Team Primates thumbnail Illustration
Humans aren't the only animals with complicated social lives. Studying how other primates interact with each other can help us figure out why humans live the way they do.
Learn about William Kimbel and the brainy branch of human evolution
Our species, Homo sapiens, are incredibly unique among the species on Earth today.
Field and lab anthropology image
If you like being outdoors, digging up bones, and doing science, then check out what it’s like to be an anthropologist.
Tales of Teeth - photo of ancient tooth
You are sitting in a dark movie theater. You are trying to enjoy the movie, but you keep thinking about a pesky piece of popcorn stuck between your molars, the back teeth.
Link to There's No "I" in Human
Teamwork isn’t just something you do playing sports. It’s also a very important part of what makes humans unique.
Anthropology lab work image
The precious fossils are carefully bound in bubble wrap and placed in fireproof cases. Soon the fossils will have a new home—the laboratory— and the world will get to know all the secrets these fossils have to offer.
bipedality illustration
How do you move from one place to another? Well, most humans walk. Walking on two legs is a very human trait. Learn how the evolution of bipedal walking changed the course of our history.
Lucy fossil overlaid with title of video
Donald Johanson--credited with discovering the Australopithecus afarensis skeleton known as "Lucy" in 1974-- talks about what we can learn about humans from looking at Australopithecus
Don Johanson gesturing, overlaid with the title of the video
What sets us apart from other primates? Donald Johanson--credited with discovering the Australopithecus afarensis skeleton known as "Lucy"-- talks about what makes us uniquely human.
LInk to When Did Our Brains Get Big?
Big brains are one of the features that make us human. Find out when during our evolution our brains got big and why this change occurred.
Early human history: Who are you? illustration
Have you ever wondered how your cat, dog, bird, lizard, or fish is related to you? Animal bodies today are like living history books. They tell us a story that goes back at least 500 million years.