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Cela-Conde, Camilo J. “The Hominid Evolutionary Journey: A Summary.”

It is Camilo Cela-Conde’s central claim that “no straight line can be drawn from our ancestors to the modern human species.” Instead evolution depicts a much more complex picture of human evolution. A basic question is that of taxonomy: how are we to define a hominid? One way is by discovering an exclusive trait that might serve to distinguish hominids from other primates. Cela-Conde discusses but rejects such candidates as bipedalism, a large brain, an articulated language, a large coefficient of encephalization, the ability to create tools and thus culture, etc. He then takes a different approach, describing in some detail the variety of species that are considered as belonging to the hominid family. He begins with the appearance of early hominids some 4.4 million years ago and points out the many subtleties involved in attempting to classify them. He describes the complex issues surrounding the evolution of Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis, and finally Homo sapiens, citing arguments against a direct link between Neanderthals and morphologically modern humans. He concludes his essay with a careful discussion of morphological and genetic studies of the origin of human beings, including two opposite models: multiregional transition and mitochondrial Eve. Although he disagrees with the widespread idea that all humankind shares one ancestral grandmother, he does support the theory of the “out-of-Africa” spread of modern humans.

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