Evolution of modern humans is a result of self-amplifying feedbacks beginning in the Miocene and continuing without interruption until now


  • Maciej Henneberg Institute of Evolutionary Medicine, The University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland Biological Anthropology and Comparative Anatomy Unit, The University of Adelaide, Australia
  • Robert B. Eckhardt Laboratory for the Comparative Study of Morphology, Mechanics, and Molecules Department of Kinesiology, and Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, Pennsylvania State University, USA




Humans are a part of the complex system of life. This consists of a multitude of feedbacks among all parts of living systems. In the case of human origins, many feedbacks became positive rather than homeostatic, thus producing self-amplifying effects in basic morphological and behavioural characteristics of emerging humans: erect bipedalism, social structure, tool-making, food procurement and environmental management, symbolic communication, sexuality, extended childhood, and mental capacities. These, plus many other human characteristics, changed gradually, though at varying rates, over the last 6 million years, producing directional variation in extant morphological and behavioural characteristics of what are considered modern humans. The change through time and geographic space of those characteristics is an ongoing dynamic process, thus it is futile to pose essentialist questions about the precise date and place of the modern human origins. Modernity is a process, not an endpoint.


Download data is not yet available.


Bielicki T. 1969. Niektóre związki zwrotne w procesie ewolucji Hominidae. [In Polish]. Eng: Deviation-amplifying cybernetic systems and hominid evolution]. Mat. i Prace Antrop 77:3–60.
View in Google Scholar

Berger LR, De Ruiter DJ, Churchill SE, Schmid P, Carlson KJ, Dirks PHGM, Kibii JM.2010. Australopithecus sediba: a new species of Homo-like australopith from South Africa. Science 328(5975):195–204. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1184944
View in Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1184944

Debec GF. 1960. Certain aspects des transformations somatiques de l’Homo sapiens. Communiques de la delegation soviétique au Ve Congrès International des Sciences Anthropologiques, Moscow. p 25.
View in Google Scholar

De Miguel C, Henneberg M. 2001. Variation in hominid brain size: How much is due to method. Homo 52(1):3–58. https://doi.org/10.1078/0018-442X-00019
View in Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1078/0018-442X-00019

De Ruiter DJ, Laird MF, Elliott M, Schmid P, Brophy J, Hawks J, and Lee R. Berger LR. 2019. Homo naledi cranial remains from the Lesedi chamber of the rising star cave system, South Africa. J Hum Evol 132:1–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2019.03.019
View in Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2019.03.019

Galik K, Senut B, Pickford M, Gommery D, Treil J, Kuperavage AJ, and Robert B. Eckhardt RB. 2004. External and internal morphology of the BAR 1002’00 Orrorin tugenensis femur. Science 305(5689):1450–53. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1098807
View in Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1098807

Henneberg M. 1988. Decrease of human skull size in the Holocene. Hum Biol 60(3):395–405.
View in Google Scholar

Henneberg M. 1990. Brain size/body weight variability in Homo sapiens: consequences for interpreting hominid evolution. Homo 39:121–30.
View in Google Scholar

Henneberg M. 1992. Continuing human evolution: bodies, brains and the role of variability. Trans Roy Soc S Africa 48(2):159–82. https://doi.org/10.1080/00359199209520260
View in Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00359199209520260

Henneberg M, de Miguel C. 2004. Hominins are a single lineage: brain and body size variability does not reflect postulated taxonomic diversity of hominins. Homo 55:21–37. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jchb.2004.03.001
View in Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jchb.2004.03.001

Henneberg M, Steyn M. 1993. Trends in cranial capacity and cranial index in Subsaharan Africa during the Holocene. Am J Human Biol 5:473–79. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajhb.1310050411
View in Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/ajhb.1310050411

Jacob T, Indriati E, Soejono RP, Hsü K, Frayer D, Eckhardt RB, Kuperavage AJ, Thorne A, Henneberg M. 2006. Pygmoid Australomelanesian Homo sapiens skeletal remains from Liang Bua, Flores: population affinities and pathological abnormalities. Proc Natl Acad Sci 103(36):13421–6. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0605563103
View in Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0605563103

Levendis J, Eckhardt RB, Block W. 2019. Evolutionary psychology, economic freedom, trade and benevolence. Review of Economic Perspectives 19(2):73–94. https://doi.org/10.2478/revecp-2019-0005
View in Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/revecp-2019-0005

Lovejoy CO. 2009. Reexamining human origins in light of Ardipithecus ramidus. Science 326(5949):74–74e8. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1175834
View in Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1175834

McKee JK. 2017. Correlates and catalysts of hominin evolution in Africa. Theory in Biosciences 136(3–4):123–40. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12064-017-0250-5
View in Google Scholar DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12064-017-0250-5

Schwidetzky I. 1962. Das grazilisierungsproblem. Homo 13:188–95.
View in Google Scholar

Tobias PV. 1981. Evolution of Human Brain, Intellect and Spirit: University of Adelaide. The University of Adelaide, South Australia, Adelaide.
View in Google Scholar




How to Cite

Henneberg, M., & Eckhardt, R. B. (2022). Evolution of modern humans is a result of self-amplifying feedbacks beginning in the Miocene and continuing without interruption until now. Anthropological Review, 85(1), 77–83. https://doi.org/10.18778/1898-6773.85.1.05




Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 3 4 5 > >>