New fossil discoveries relevant to the origin of Homo have overturned conventional wisdom about the nature of the australopiths and early Homo, and particularly Homo erectus (including Homo ergaster). They have eroded prior assumptions about the differences between these genera and complicated interpretations for the origin and evolution of Homo. This special issue surveys what is now known about the fossil evidence and the environmental context of early Homo. It also moves beyond the hard evidence and sets the stage for integrated, multidisciplinary studies to provide a framework for interpretation of the hard evidence. The underlying premise is that to understand the adaptive shifts at the origin of Homo, it is essential to have a solid understanding of how and why modern humans and other animals vary. Contributors to this issue include paleoanthropologists, human biologists, behavorialists, and modelers. We tasked each with bringing her or his special expertise to bear on the question of the origins and early evolution of Homo. The papers in this collection are a product of a week-long Wenner-Gren symposium held in March 2011, and this introduction integrates this work and its significance for Homo.
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