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Tuesday, 18 June 2024, 16:48 (04:48 PM) CDT, day 170 of 2024

Prehistoric Cultures

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Fall 2012 Calendar  -- EVENING [archive]

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Tuesday, 18 June 2024, 21:48 (09:48 PM) GMT, day 170 of 2024
. . . in History 
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OWL logo, Online Writing Lab, Purdue University.


Alan Alda
talks with anthropologist
Mary Marzke

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"Handmade Humans"

from Scientific American Frontiers
"Life's Really Big Questions"

15 min., 2000, CC, VC 426 -- Segment #2

Abstract Terms / Concepts Notes
Cultures Sites Individuals Bibliography
/ Resources


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"What happened some four or five million years ago that set us off on our journey to become human?"

When did we become modern?

Where did we become modern?

"People have long wondered what separates humans from the rest of the animals. Is it a soul, tool use, language? Could it be baseball? Our hands are unique in their flexibility and grasping capabilities. A chimp's hands, good for swinging in trees, are virtually useless on the baseball diamond. In 'Handmade Humans' anthropologist Mary Marzke suggests that the traits that make people the world's best ball players might have spurred on the evolution of the human mind. Itís the flexible joints of our index and pinky fingers that allow us to palm a ball and choke up on a bat. Those same joints allowed our ancestors to fashion stone tools and wield clubs. According to one hypothesis, tool-making offered early humans such a competitive advantage, natural selection favored the evolution of our dexterous and versatile hands. But making tools also requires a brain that can think ahead and consider cause and effect. The ability to look into the future- thatís what truly separates us from the rest of the animals." -- PBS

"For more on this topic, see the web feature: 'Meet Lucy'" -- PBS

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Terms / Concepts / Features

  • Note the numan ability to rotate the little finger across the palm to touch the thumb -- the "opposibility of the pinkey."

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  • Alan Alda
  • Mary Marzke
  • William Kimbel
  • Nick Toth
  • Kathy Schick
  • Steve Shakely

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Bibliography / Resources

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Orrorin / Ardipithecus / Australopithecus / Kenyanthropus

Alternative Name













 "Black Skull"


(aka A. robustus)





"Flat-faced Kenya Man"  
"Millenium Man"

Adapted from Intoduction to Physical Anthropology, 8th ed, Jurmain, Nelson, Kilgore, and Trevathand
(Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2000, pp. 285 - 290).


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