Candidate Profile

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Anthropology & Cultural Studies
Earth Sciences, Geology & Geography
Professor Chris Stringer has worked at The Natural History Museum London since 1973, and is now Research Leader in Human Origins and a Fellow of the Royal Society. His early research was on the relationship of Neanderthals and early modern humans in Europe, but through his work on the ‘Recent African Origin’ theory of modern human origins, he now collaborates with archaeologists, dating specialists, and geneticists in attempting to reconstruct the evolution of modern humans globally. He has excavated at sites in Britain and abroad, and he is currently co-directing the Pathways to Ancient Britain project, funded by the Calleva Foundation.

He has published over 200 scientific papers and his recent books include The Complete World of Human Evolution (2011, with Peter Andrews), The Origin of Our Species (UK 2011), published in the USA as Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth (2012), and Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story (2014, with Rob Dinnis). He regularly lectures to University and public audiences, including cruises and tours for Fred Olsen, Scientific American and National Geographic.

Chris Stringer is a regular contributor to news items on human evolution for UK TV and Radio channels, national and international newspapers and websites, and he has made many appearances on documentaries for UK and international TV channels.

Click here to read more about Chris's work at The Natural History Museum >>

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1. Human Evolution: the Big Picture
An introduction to 7 million years of human evolution, from the time of our divergence from the African apes to the emergence of humans. In 1871, before there was any significant fossil evidence, Charles Darwin suggested that our evolution had begun in Africa. But it took another 50 years before that evidence started to emerge. The fact that we habitually walk bipedally — on two legs — distinguishes us from all our primate relatives, and Darwin attempted to explain this in evolutionary terms. In this presentation I look at how Darwin’s ideas have fared in the face of the latest discoveries, putting Darwin in context and perspective in terms of human evolution in Africa, Asia and Europe.

2. The First Humans
About 2 million years ago the first humans appeared in Africa. Through their larger brains, human body shape, tool-making and meat-eating, they were different from their more ancient African ancestors. Discover what drove their evolution and led to a spread from their evolutionary homeland to Asia and Europe. We will look at how these people lived and survived in the face of an increasingly unstable planet, as Ice Ages took hold. And we will look at remarkable new finds in Africa and Asia that may change the way we think about our early evolution.

3. The Early Human Occupations of Britain
The Ancient Human Occupation of Britain and Pathways to Ancient Britain projects have been investigating major questions about the human colonisations of Britain and Europe, since 2001. Questions addressed include the earliest evidence for human arrival, and the overall pattern of occupation during the Old Stone Age (Palaeolithic), and what was controlling this. In this talk I will provide an update on the progress of the project, including the latest finds of the earliest known human presence in Britain, and how this relates to evidence from continental Europe. At the other end of the record, I will discuss evidence that the Ice Age ancestors of modern Britons might have been cannibals!

4. The Neanderthals: Another Kind of Human
Our close relatives, the Neanderthals, evolved in parallel with our own species, living in Europe and Asia. They are often depicted as bestial ape-men, but in reality they walked upright as well as we do, and their brains were as large as ours. So how much like us were they, and what was their fate? Track the evolution of the Neanderthals in the light of the latest discoveries, including reconstructions of the Neanderthal genome, and be open to surprise. We will also look at a previously unknown relative of the Neanderthals, the Denisovans, who are known from fragmentary remains in a Siberian Cave, but whose DNA is so well preserved from 60,000 years ago that we have their complete ancient genomes. Their DNA is found today in many people in Asia, and especially in Australia and Oceania.

5. The Rise of Homo sapiens
Modern humans are characterised by large brains and creativity. How did our species arise and spread across the world, and how did we interact with other human species in Africa, Europe, Asia and Australasia? How and when did modern regional (‘racial’) differences arise? We will examine the different theories about modern human origins, including Recent African Origin (“Out of Africa”), Assimilation, and Multiregional Evolution. Delve in to the origins of human behavioural traits such as complex technology, art and burial of the dead for insights into what might have led to our eventual success. And given that most of us alive today show signs of ancient interbreeding with the Neanderthals, how does that affect our status as Homo sapiens?

6. Two mysteries of human evolution
In 1912 the sensational ‘discovery’ of ‘Piltdown Man’ was announced to the world. The apparently fossilised remains consisted of an ape-like jaw bone and parts of a human-like braincase, and these were assembled to reveal a new kind of ancient human “Eoanthropus dawsoni” (‘The Dawn Man of Dawson’). Many hailed the find as a ‘missing link’ on British soil, but it was to be another 40 years before the brutal truth began to emerge: the whole suite of finds had been forged and planted at the site. Over a dozen people have now been named as the hoaxer or hoaxers, working singly or in league with each other, and in this talk I will review the whole saga and discuss new approaches to solving this enduring palaeontological who-dun-it.
In 2004 a remarkable new discovery from the remote island of Flores in Indonesia was announced, a find which has divided scientific opinion and provoked bitter disputes. It was claimed that a new species of primitive human, Homo floresiensis (aka "The Hobbit"), was living on Flores as recently as 17,000 years ago, a species only 1 metre tall, and with a brain the size of a chimpanzee's. Other experts have challenged the evidence, saying that the remains are those of a diseased modern human, or a variant of the small-bodied peoples who live in the region today. So what was this creature, why has it provoked such controversy, and what were its origins and fate?
I lecture on cruise ships for Voyages to Antiquity, Fred Olsen, for Scientific American, and also on land tours for National Geographic.
The following recent Cruise History has been recorded for this candidate.
Braemar M1703 Amazon River Adventure 14 Bridgetown Thursday, February 2, 2017
Balmoral L1627 Madeira, Lisbon & the Canaries 13 Southampton Sunday, October 30, 2016