What do we truly have in common with the Neanderthals? What can fossilized teeth tell us about the life expectancy of our ancient ancestors? How can simple geometric comparisons of fossils suggest a possible origin to our social nature? Korea’s first paleoanthropologist Sang-Hee Lee explores some of our greatest evolutionary questions from new and unexpected angles. She joins us with excerpts from her book Close Encounters with Humankind, and shares fresh perspectives and surprising conclusions about our first hominin ancestors by combining anthropological insight with exciting, cutting-edge research. Lee shares how our big brains may have set our species apart and spurred our societal development—though perhaps not in the ways we have often assumed—and suggests that our infamous Neanderthal ancestors may not have been the primitive beings portrayed by twentieth-century science. She reveals our species’ history of continuous change, from our first steps on two feet to our first forays into toolmaking and our formations of community. Join Lee for an illuminating discussion on the evolutionary path to the present, and tackle one of our most pressing scientific questions—does humanity continue to evolve?
Sang-Hee Lee is a professor of anthropology and associate dean of the college of humanities, arts, and social sciences at UC Riverside. Her research is multidisciplinary in nature, bridging biology and anthropology and centering on five research topics: variation and taxonomy, longevity, sexual dimorphism, brain size, and sampling bias. Her approach is focused on “excavating” new knowledge by rephrasing a question, redefining a concept, and developing innovative methods—all in ways that make it possible to get empirical information from fossil data that have not been possible before.
Presented by Town Hall Seattle as part of the Science series.