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Ask the Maxwell Friday: What is Man?

Comparison between modern (left) and archaic (right) Homo sapiens skulls.
Friday, April 10, 2020 - 10:00am to Thursday, April 16, 2020 - 9:00pm

The first question for ask the Maxwell Friday:

"What is man?"

This is a great question and one that can be discussed at length; but here is a short answer! From an evolutionary perspective, anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens), belong to the taxonomic group Hominoidea, that includes all apes and humans. More specifically, within the group Hominoidea, anatomically modern humans belong to a group called Hominin that includes humans and our recent fossil human ancestors. The first known anatomically modern humans appear in Morocco around 315,000 years ago. For more information about the oldest known modern human fossils visit:

There are several skeletal traits make humans unique. For example, compared to our fossil human ancestors, such as Neandertals, anatomically modern humans have a high rounded cranium, small supraorbital tori (the ridge of bone under your eyebrows), small teeth, a protruding chin, and longer limb proportions relative to the length and width of the torso. There are also many behavioral traits that are unique to modern humans including, complex material culture, the use of art and symbols, social organization and cooperation, and spoken language. 

Post by Carmen Mosley

Taxonomic chart of the primate order

Taxonomic chart of the primate order. Figure by Stephanie Etting under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License

Top image: Comparison between modern (left) and archaic (right) Homo sapiens skulls. Drawing by Mary Nelson under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License

Question mark for Ask the MaxwellHave you got a question about anthropology, curious about archaeology, ethnology, evolutionary anthropology? The Maxwell is here to help! Send your questions via email to or facebookand we'll post an answer the following Frida- questions are answered in the order recieved.  There is no question to small or to large for our experienced staff!