TEMPE, Arizona—As a species of seeming feeble, naked apes, we humans
are unlikely candidates for power in a natural world where dominant
adaptations can boil down to speed, agility, jaws and claws. Why we rose
to rule, while our hominin
relatives died out, has long been a curiosity for scientists.
The study of our human
nature encompasses a variety of fields ranging from anthropology,
primatology, cognitive science and psychology to paleontology,
archaeology, evolutionary biology and genetics.
Representatives of each of these disciplines gathered February 19-22
at a workshop, "Origins of Human Uniqueness and Behavioral Modernity,"
staged by Arizona State University's Origins Project to discuss recent
advances in their respective fields.
Led by ASU professors anthropologist Kim Hill and paleoanthropologist Curtis Marean, co-organizers of the event, the panel of scientists agreed to adopt a working definition that human uniqueness is the "underlying capacity to produce complexity," and to think of behavioral modernity as "the expression" of those capacities.