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A New Timeline — and an Old Brain — for Homo Sapiens

June 11, 2017

Anthropologists recently made a fascinating discovery: Homo sapiens fossils found in Morocco date back 300,000 years. Until about a week ago, we thought our species reaches back only 200,000 years. The extra hundred grand opens up all kinds of possibilities for how and where we evolved — possibilities anthropologists have hardly begun to digest.

Lead researcher, Jean-Jacques Hublin, at the site, Jebel Irhoud, Morocco

Even more interesting, the discovery reveals human beings few of us have ever imagined. These newly-discovered Homo sapiens had faces like ours. Unlike Neanderthals, they’d pass for John and Jane Doe if they walked down the street — assuming they wore hats. They’d need the hats because their skulls and brains were not quite like ours. They were longer and less rounded. In other words, these were full members of our species, sharing our faces, yet with non-trivial differences in their brains. No one knows yet how those differences impacted their minds.

The New York Times has a good article on the discovery, here.

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Images:

  • Photo: Jean-Jacques Hublin at Jebel Irhoud (Morocco), pointing to the crushed human skull (Irhoud 10) whose orbits are visible just beyond his finger tip. By Shannon McPherron, MPI EVA Leipzig; licensed through Wikimedia Commons.

© 2017 by David W. Tollen. All rights reserved.

 

Jericho River Article at Ancient History Encyclopedia

May 17, 2017

Ancient History Encyclopedia has just published an article about me and about my book, The Jericho River. Please check it out! Read more…

Teaching Center: News from the Turbo-Charged World of Education

April 20, 2017

This is how the world should work …

The Democracy Watch List

March 5, 2017

Here’s what to watch for.

How would the Trump administration erode American freedom and democracy, if it went down that road? I’ve approached this question as a lawyer and amateur historian, studying democracies that lost freedom in recent years, as well as some currently on the brink. I’ve put together a list of their leaders’ moves against liberty — then deleted those I consider barely possible in the United States, thanks to our culture and Constitution. The result is below: steps the Trump administration and its GOP allies might take without obviously violating the Constitution. Read more…

Teaching History by Sailing the Jericho River

January 30, 2017

How an Unusual Novel and an Ohio Teacher Are Repackaging History Education

I’m the author of a fantasy novel that teaches history, and a high school teacher in Ohio has done some smart, creative instruction with it. This post describes her lesson-building and offers ideas on teaching with my book — along with links to sample lesson plans — in high school and middle school and at the college level. Read more…

The Black General in 18th Century Europe

January 12, 2017

Revolutionary France had a black general.

His name was Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, and he was born a slave in Haiti — then a French colony — the son of a French nobleman and his African slave. Dumas’ father had little money and actually pawned the boy in 1776, when he was fourteen, but then bought him back. Father and son moved to France, where Dumas gained his freedom and a gentleman’s education. He enlisted as a private in the army at age twenty-four and soared to the rank of general by thirty-one, thanks to courage, brains, and charisma — and thanks to the French Revolution, which created unheard-of opportunities for humble-born men. Dumas repeatedly distinguished himself in combat, and France’s Austrian enemies called him the Schwarzer Teufel: the black devil.

alexandre_dumas_1762-1806

Read more…

The Roman Empire Survived Unbalanced Executives — Maybe America Can Too

December 12, 2016

The early Roman Empire survived two mentally unbalanced emperors: Caligula and Nero. In fact, neither seems to have harmed the economy or disrupted the lives of the common people, despite bizarre behavior. That’s encouraging in the age of Donald Trump.

Nero entertains the crowds

Nero entertains the crowds

Read more…