anthropology anthropology

Human sacrifice helped solidify systems of social hierarchy, according to a new study of traditional cultures in the Pacific Ocean. Here, an engraving shows English explorer James Cook witnessing a human sacrifice ritual in Taihiti in the 1770s. The image comes from the 1815 edition of Cook's Voyages. Universal Images Group/Getty Images hide caption

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Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Easter Island is known best for its hundreds of colossal stone statues depicting human figures. The causes of its societal and economic collapse centuries ago are fiercely debated among scientists. Luis C. Cobo/Flickr hide caption

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Luis C. Cobo/Flickr
Sebastian Preuber/Flickr; Daniel Ramirez/Flickr

A sample of Georgian from the UCLA Phonetics Lab

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3-D renderings of four skeletons found buried near the altar of an early church in the Jamestown settlement in Virginia. Smithsonian X 3D hide caption

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Smithsonian X 3D

Bones In Church Ruins Likely The Remains Of Early Jamestown's Elite

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This clay facial reconstruction of Kennewick Man, who died about 8,500 years ago in what's now southeast Washington, was based on forensic scientists' study of the morphological features of his skull. Brittney Tatchell/Smithsonian Institution hide caption

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Brittney Tatchell/Smithsonian Institution

DNA Confirms Kennewick Man's Genetic Ties To Native Americans

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Humans have influenced Earth's history for thousands of years, though some scientists count changes of the last two centuries as especially notable. (Left to right) Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images; Hulton Archive/Getty Images; Liszt Collection/Heritage Images/Getty Images; Joint Task Force One/AP hide caption

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(Left to right) Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images; Hulton Archive/Getty Images; Liszt Collection/Heritage Images/Getty Images; Joint Task Force One/AP

When Did Humans Start Shaping Earth's Fate? An Epoch Debate

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During a wildlife survey in Madagascar, Mayor discovered a new species of mouse lemur. "[It] weighs less than two ounces, fits in the palm of your hands," she says. Mark Thiessen/Courtesy of Mireya Mayor hide caption

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Mark Thiessen/Courtesy of Mireya Mayor

Trading Pom-Poms For Field Boots: Mireya Mayor's Big Break

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In this June 2013 photo provided by National Geographic, diver Susan Bird, working at the bottom of Hoyo Negro, a large dome-shaped underwater cave in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, brushes the Naia skull found at the site. Paul Nicklen/AP hide caption

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Paul Nicklen/AP

Ancient Skeleton In Mexico Sheds Light On Americas Settlement

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Shaman Davi Kopenawa Yanomami is an advocate for his people and president of the Hutukara Yanomami Association. Fiona Watson/Survival International hide caption

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Fiona Watson/Survival International

A Filipino chicken vendor in Quezon City, east of Manila, Philippines. Researchers say Pacific island chicken are genetically similar to the variety found in the Philippines, but different from South American chicken. Rolex Dela Pena/EPA/Landov hide caption

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Rolex Dela Pena/EPA/Landov

Area A of the Happisburgh archaeology site in Norfolk, Britain, where coastal erosion has revealed mudflats containing 800-thousand-year-old footprints. Martin Bates/British Museum/EPA/Landov hide caption

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Martin Bates/British Museum/EPA/Landov

Human evolution is an unfolding process with chapters yet to be written; no one really knows where we're going. But we can look back to earlier chapters, with ancestors like Australpithecus afarensis, including the individual we call "Lucy" (seen above), for an understanding of how evolution works and what has happened to us over time. Tim Boyle/Getty Images hide caption

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Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Language may have evolved in concert with tool making. Sergey Lavrentev/iStockphoto.com hide caption

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Sergey Lavrentev/iStockphoto.com