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6. Early Humans
Humans are unusual. We walk upright and build cities. We travel from continent to continent in hours. We communicate across the globe in an instant. We alone can build bombs and invent medicines. Why can we do all these things that other creatures can’t? What makes us so different from other species?

6.0 Collective learning and big history

Our talent for preserving and sharing information, passing it from one generation to the next, has made us the most powerful species on the planet.

6.1 How did our ancestors evolve

We might share a lot with our primate cousins, but our bigger brains, our ability to walk upright, and other physical “improvements,” are all adaptations that make humans unique.

6.2 What makes humans different?

You may think you can talk to the animals, but our ability to use language separates us from other species. Without it, we wouldn’t have the talent for collective learning that allows us to dominate the biosphere.

6.3 How did the first humans live?

Our Paleolithic ancestors were foraging nomads who eventually migrated across six continents. These early humans made tools, used fire, and sustained themselves in diverse environmental conditions.

6.4 Ways of knowing early humans

We’re obsessed with understanding the roots of who we are as a species. Anthropologists, archaeologists, and primatologists are the most obsessed, as they work to paint a picture of early human life.

Practice and feedback

Test your knowledge and skills! Investigate how language makes humans different, and then take on the quiz and glossary challenge.