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John Hawks

Hi, I'm John Hawks.

I'm a paleoanthropologist, exploring the ancient world of humans and fossil human relatives.


I write about the science of human origins, and how our ancient past can help make sense of today's world.

You can follow my writing here, or subscribe to have articles sent when they are published. Keep checking in for more changes.

Featured Posts

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A transition to a new platform for my words and video

The look and feel of the site is changing, with a new emphasis on subscriptions and connections.

A fountain pen writing on a page of paper
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Research highlight: Taking human origins research into the next decade

Notes on the recent history of paleoanthropology from my Distinguished Lecture for the General Anthropology Division of the American Anthropological Association

Hands reaching into the center of frame to make a cricle
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What is the ‘braided stream’ analogy for human evolution?

A discussion of the way that reticulation has manifested across human evolution, with reference to an essay by Clive Finlayson.

Channels of water draining in sand showing a braided stream network

Recent Posts

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Finding ancient fire use in the Rising Star cave system

The study of the underground landscape enters a new phase with evidence of charcoal and burned animal bone in deep chambers.

A piece of charcoal upon a brown surface with tiny rodent bones visible
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A Neandertal recipe that tasted like the foods of later people

Looking at a fascinating new study that finds mixtures of different plants within ancient morsels of charred foods.

A micrograph with a grass leaf cell structure visible surrounded by chunky blobs of stuff
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Bison bones from Gran Dolina show butchery practices 400,000 years ago

Ancient people left a bone bed of bison killed in two seasons and butchered at the site with expedient tools.

Panoramic image of excavation at Gran Dolina with archaeologists at work.
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Research highlight: The frontal sinuses of fossil hominins

A look inside the skulls of hominins reveals the extensive variation in the form of the internal structures known as the frontal sinuses.

Crania of Petralona and LES1 showing the extent of their frontal sinuses
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Panel: Who or what is Homo naledi?

Lee Berger, Agustin Fuentes, and I had a provocative conversation sharing our different perspectives on work related to the Rising Star cave system.

John Hawks with bookshelves in the background
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Numbers are a cognitive technology

Studies of a language without many words for numbers help to illustrate the way that language guides human thinking.

Dominoes with colorful dots
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Research highlight: Vertebral wedging in Homo naledi

In a new paper led by Scott Williams, we look at the way that the Homo naledi lower vertebral column compares to humans and other extinct hominins.

Vertebral column preserved for the LES1 skeleton in left lateral, anterior, posterior, and right lateral views.
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What killing methods enabled Neandertals to hunt large prey animals?

A look at sites where ancient people killed many animals at once provides insight into their knowledge of the social behavior of prey animals.

Vague painting of Neandertals with bison
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How I build ethics into my introductory course from the first day

The basic foundation of ethical practices includes honoring and respecting those who have made our research and learning possible.

John Hawks in the laboratory
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How the new White House policy on public access to federally funded research may affect data

The new policy establishes strong expectations for public access to data from federally funded research programs.

White House illuminated at night
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Different transport strategies for different large prey species at Abric Romaní

Interpreting the record of prey exploitation at a rock shelter site over thousands of years provides a window into past economics.

Two red deer does and a fawn standing within a misty fog layer with a rising sun in the background
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Why anthropologists rejected the aquatic ape theory, and what is left of it today

Human ancestors did not evolve in an aquatic environment. But they did make use of coastal and shoreline resources where they were abundant.

A painting showing an ape and some kind of fish in water, with an ape-looking-Darwin-looking figure at lower right
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Research highlight: The limbs of Homo naledi

In a new paper, Sarah Traynor, David Green and I show that the sizes of the arm bones of Homo naledi are more or less like today's humans, despite their many morphological adaptations to climbing.

Homo naledi skeletal material on a black table with dark background
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When did humankind's last common ancestor live? A surprisingly short time ago

The lines of genealogy of living people converge quickly into the past. Our last genealogical common ancestor lived within the last few thousand years.

Abstract image showing lines connected into a large network on a parchment background
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Kabwe: A famous fossil unearthed amid the human costs of mining

Mining led to the skull's discovery, destroyed its context, and left a century-long legacy of lead poisoning.

The Kabwe skull viewed from the left side