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Prehistory in the News

Before Lucy came Ardi, new earliest hominid found Associated Press, October 1, 2009 — “Ardi,” a 110-pound, 4-foot female hominid who lived 4.4 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia roamed forests a million years before the famous Lucy, long studied as the earliest skeleton of a human ancestor.

Human’s Oldest Relative Found (from Discovery, on YouTube)

Prehistoric man ‘used crude sat nav’ Telegraph, September 15, 2009 — Prehistoric man navigated his way across England using a crude version of sat nav based on stone circle markers, historians have claimed.

Top Prehistory Web Sites

The PBS Evolution web site compliments a seven-part, eight-hour television broadcast series. This rich and impressive site features video clips from the series, simulations, animations, interactive timelines, expert commentary, primary sources, and extensive links to evolution-related learning resources worldwide. Among the special educational features are a free, 40-page teacher’s guide available and an eight-session course for high school teachers, four 15-minute videos that highlight the teaching of evolution in real classrooms around the country, online lessons that use multimedia formats to enhance students’ understanding of evolutionary and a multimedia library that provides Web access to more than 150 multimedia resources and concepts.

Becoming Human
Presented by the Institute of Human Origins, Becoming Human is an impressive and regularly updated site that explores human evolution in “a broadband documentary experience” with video, articles, news and debates in paleoanthropology and a Web guide. Watch an introductory video overview of evolution with guide Donald Johanson, read paleoanthropology news and book reviews, and visit the learning center for educational activities and lessons. The Human Lineage Though Time is an excellent interactive timeline. The site also features a glossary of terms and recommended web sites.

BBC Prehistoric Life
This informative and engaging site, part of BBC Science and Nature, has many detailed sections, including Caveman Profiles, Lucy’s Legacy, Dinosaurs, Walking with Monsters, and more. In the caveman section you can click on a skull for handy facts about hominids. Lucy’s Legacy is a broad introduction to human evolution and discusses why Lucy is so important to human evolution. It then branches out to discuss Earth’s climate, new homo species, development of human intelligence, First Europeans, Ice Man, and more. In other parts of the site you can listen to Radio 4 programs on evolution and related topics and watch a 3D tours of dinosaur landscapes. The Human Evolution section provides an overview of a three million year human journey “from the treetops of Africa to civilisation.” The presentation is a mix of text and graphics supplemented with related BBC links.

Hall of Human Origins
The Anne and Bernard Spitzer exhibit from the American Museum of Natural History offers a broad and detailed general introduction to the history of human evolution. It explores evidence of early human origins, follows early man through Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Ice Age, examines what makes us human, and ponders the future of evolution. Interesting features include Meet the Ancestors which provides a visual side-by-side examination of man, chimpanzees, and neanderthals. There are many educational materials available for download and related resources include a guide to finding fossils, a Tree of Life “Cladogram,” Darwin resources, and tools of early man.

Prehistory General Resources

In Search of Human Origins
This National Geographic offering follows a team investigating prehistoric footprints in Botswana. You meet the leader, read reports from the field, and join them in trying to figure out the “puzzle.” Included is an exhibit on Africa as the cradle of evolution, an introduction to Hominids, and a “Hominid Family Album.” There are K-12 classroom ideas a small listing of related links. Very visual site.

Atlas of the Human Journey
This broad but engaging site from the National Geographic Society employs an interactive globe to explore key historical events and a “genetics journey” to explain personal lineage over tens of thousands of years. Highly visual presentation.

BBC History: Archaeology
This is an informative and engaging site from the BBC. There are special sections on excavating human remains and the story of carbon dating as well as archaeology news stories from the BBC. The Ages of Treasures Timeline showcases some of Britain’s finest archaeological artifacts while The Multimedia Zone has several fun simulations, including Hunt the Ancestor, Iron Age Life, Diver’s Quest, Wetwang Chariot, Roundhouse, and the Dig Deeper Quiz. Visit the Stonehenge Dig section for video of the historic Timewatch dig.

Fossil Fragments: The Riddle of Human Origins
This offering from Yale University is based on a 2004 exhibition and explores the history of fossil hunting and fossils themselves. The history section is essentially an essay, but the rest of the site is highly visual and features great up-close photos of bronze age and neanderthal skulls. It also features a helpful (thought somewhat-outdated) Timeline of Evolution, a video tour of the exhibition and related links and books.

Virtually the Ice Age
This section of the Creswell Crags museum site explores early Ice Age man and his landscape. Major sections include Stone Age People and Natural World. The Stone Age section has a quiz to test your survival skills, a description of tools and animals, a discussion of culture and creativity, and more. The Natural World section includes an Ice Age timeline with “cold” facts, and an interactive timeline of the warm/cold cycle. The site also has information on excavation techniques.

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial
This Nova companion website centers on the Kitzmiller v. Dover case over teaching Intelligent Design in schools and includes the Dover School Board’s controversial disclaimer on evolution and the memo science teachers wrote in response, a defense of Intelligent Design by Phillip Johnson, the father of ID, Judge John Jones reads key excerpts from his landmark ruling There are video and audio excerpts, such as an interview with Judge John Jones and even experts who describe the essence of science and how it differs from religion.

Understanding Evolution
Understanding Evolution is an excellent introduction to teaching the science and history of evolutionary biology. It explains “for a general audience” the mechanisms of evolution through varied resources and provides as overview of the history of evolutionary thought and the history of life on Earth history of ideas, research, and contributors in the study of evolution. A helpful chart Understanding Evolution for teachers is a subsite within Understanding Evolution dedicated to helping teachers with the subject of evolution.

The Darwin website by the American Museum of Natural History puts Darwin and his theories in historical context and provides much scientific, social, and personal information about the man and his theory of evolution. Of note is the “Controversies Timelines” that chronologically outlines the (often fiery) debate over his theories. The site is primarily text-based, aside from images there is limited multimedia, apart from a video of Darwin’s home and a few audio excerpts.

The Story of Africa: Early History
This BBC site features Africa’s top historians and analyzes the events and characters that have shaped the continent from the origins of humankind to the end of South African apartheid. The Early History focuses on Homo Sapiens in Africa, their switch from hunting to farming, and their tools and culture. A special feature of the section is several audio excerpts featuring experts discussing various aspects of early Africa. Unfortunately the site is not maintained as many of the external links are broken.

The Talk Origins Archive
This site presents scholarly evidence and views regarding human origins. It also synthesizes current scientific thinking on human evolution. Unfortunately Talk Origins Archive came under cyber attack in 2007 and the site no longer updated regularly. That said, the archives do contain detailed information.

Evolution of Modern Humans
This site bills itself as “A Survey of the Biological and Cultural Evolution of Archaic and Modern Homo sapiens” and offers a web tutorial on human evolution complete with graphs, charts, and more. Created and maintained by Dr. Dennis O’Neil of the Behavioral Sciences Department at Palomar in California, the site appears to be updated regularly, though the design looks tired and the site lacks interactivity.

Common Themes, East & West: Creation Myths & Sacred Narratives of Creation Created by by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D., this broad gateway contains links to scholarly articles, web sites, and more. (Some links to web sites are broken) For Hindu, Japanese, Mesopotamian, Greek, Roman, and Norse traditions, see Creation Myths — Page Two. For North America and Meso-America, see Creation Myths — Page Three. Last updated April 2009.

Ology – ArchaeOlogy: Clues from the Past
Developed for kids, this American Museum of Natural History site has lots of quizzes, games, and other active-learning features to foster “student-centered” learning. Kids meet archaeologists, explore evidence, and discover important sites. The technology is a little dated, but the approach is fun and enticing.

Human Evolution: The Fossil Evidence in 3D
This site from University of California, Santa Barbara showcases a gallery of modern primate relatives and fossil ancestors of humans. Images can be rotated 360 degrees and are accompanied by a short description of relevance to human evolution, and a site map.

Intelligent Design Network
The Intelligent Design Network promotes promote the scientific evidence of intelligent design and seeks to incorporate intelligent design into teaching and education. It provides teaching resources, news articles, links, and publications.

Creation Stories From Around the World
Actually a fifty-page online book from University of Georgia with links to various chapters. There are two Hebrew stories, a brief and accessible creation myth, and stories from Japan, China, Cherokees, and other regions/cultures.

Archaeology: From Reel to Reel
This National Science Foundation site introduces students to archaeology and separates the truth of what archaelogists do from the popular fiction of “Indiana Jones.” This teaching tool explains what archaeologists do and how they do it, who helps them, and why it matters. It also explains how satellite technologies help locate lost cities and has specific sections on ancient Egypt and the American Southwest. Mostly essay format with supplemental images, but little engaging multimedia.

The Story of Pech
This offering from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology focuses on Pech de l’Azé  IV, a Neanderthal site in southern France. today’s sophisticated technologies. The multimedia Web site tells the story in detail. The dig site contains many hearths, an uncommon find and a special small stone artifacts. The story of Pech is detailed in essay format with a FAQ and glossary and supplement by images.

dig is an archeology magazine for kids. It includes an “Ask Dr. Dig” feature, where popular questions on ancient world are answered, and a test of your “archaeological know-how.” There are “factoids,” a glossary, links, and more, though no evidence the sections are updated. The information is sound, but the site lacks the kind of multimedia interactivity seen on many other sites aimed at kids.

Mr Dowling’s Electronic Passport: Prehistory
Mr. Dowling’s Electronic Passport helps kids browse the world in his virtual classroom. He introduces many civilizations with clear explanations, graphics for kids, and “cool links”. His study guides, homework assignments, and exams are free and available for you to print or to edit. Mind you, most kids would not find the site so “cool.” Its design and graphics hark back to the 1990s and it lacks multimedia interactivity seen on many other sites aimed at kids.

Prehistoric Humans
Another site aimed at kids, this offering from is organized as a “chapter” of roughly 20 pages of text and graphics covering prehistoric humans to village technologies. Images play a large role in the lesson, though in that lacks engaging multimedia.

Bill Moyers: Genesis
Based on the popular PBS series, the Genesis site contains a resource guide, program descriptions, biographies of participants, links to discussion groups and audio excerpts from the program’s interviews. Good information, but don’t expect to find anything new. Most “current” discussion group comments are from 1998.

Web Geological Time Machine (UCMP)
The Time Machine introduces the visitor to prehistoric geology and prehistoric sites around the world. Simple information site that lacks interactivity and does not appear to be updated.

Earth Mysteries
This informative site is designed as an introduction to the mysteries of megaliths, druids, and more.

Silbury Hill
Silbury Hill is a massive artificial mound approximately 130 feet high located close to the village of Avebury in Wiltshire, England. This link is to a 10-minute video that explains the site and its significance.

Prehistoric Art

Prehistoric Art
This 14-part section from the State Hermitage in St. Petersberg, Russia, connects to one aspect or another of Russian history from the paleolithic era to Ancient Russis. Each pages features good quality images of Hermitage pieces. Site was last updated in 2006.

Art History Resources on the Web: Prehistoric
This section of Art History Resources on the Web contains many links to sites on prehistoric art.

The Cave of Lascaux
This is a visually engaging and informative site produced by the French government that offers a visual tour of the famous cave art at Lascaux. There are more than 600 animals depicted in Lascaux.

The Cave of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc
This is a another visually engaging and informative site produced by the French government. It features animals rarely-depicted in cave art.

The Cosquer Cave
The Cosquer Cave near Marseilles on the Mediterranean Sea contains several dozen works painted and engraved between 27,000 and 19,000 years ago. Take the Virtual Tour.

The Great North Museum: Tyne & Wear
Is a virtual gallery of special exhibits, including Hadrian’s Wall and Flints and Stones, with nice images and explanatory text. Also offers a Special of the Month.

Oldest Art: The Top 50
This is an image-supplemented list of the 50 oldest pieces of art in the world compiled by the encyclopedia of Irish and World Art. The period and location of each piece is identified though only a minority include images.

Paleolithic Virtual Museum
Few images, dated, and lacks interactivity, but provides much helpful background information by Russian/European researchers.

Natural History Museums
A good clearinghouse of links to natural history museums.

Cave Paintings and Rock Art
Aimed at kids, this educational site by Mr. Donn provides a brief introduction to Cro Magnon art and some links to cave art websites.

Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides, Activities, and more

Lesson Plan: Human Origins
This PBS Teachers Domain lesson plan uses various media clips to help students investigate hominid evolution. Students study the difference between a relative and an ancestor, study the emergence of bipedalism and the related physical adaptations and cultural ramifications, and chart patterns of hominid migration. Registration is required to use all resources.

Mystery of the First Americans: The Dating Game
Play this PBS Nova Shockwave game to see how scientists use radiocarbon dating to learn about ancient people.

Human Evolution: You Try It
When did humans evolve? Who are our ancestors? Why did we evolve? This activity shows the major hominid (human or human-like) species discovered to date, when they lived, and possible connections between them. Requires Shockwave.

Course Models: Early Humankind and the Development of Human Societies
This course model is produced in collaboration with the California Department of Education and is aimed at sixth graders. Its lessons and resources aim to have students describe what is known through archaeological studies of the early physical and cultural development of humankind from the Paleolithic era to the agricultural revolution.

Ology – ArcheOlogy: Clues from the Past
Developed for kids, this American Museum of Natural History site has lots of quizzes, games, and other active-learning features to foster “student-centered” learning.

BBC History: Archaeology
In the Inside Archaeology there are several engaging multimedia simulations: Hunt the Ancestor, Iron Age Life, Diver’s Quest, Wetwang Chariot, and Reconstructing an Iron-Age Roundhouse.

BBC History: Ages of Treasure Timelines
From the Palaeolithic to the Norman Conquest, explore archaeological sites and treasures from the past, and then test yourself on the eras and events in the Ages of Treasure game.

Science Safari Teaching Guide: The First People
Use bone measurements to make inferences about people who lived long ago, and learn more about cave paintings. PBS Scientific American.

BBC History: Iron Age Tasks
From forging iron to collecting water, feeding animals to grinding corn, Iron Age Britons were mostly occupied by many relentless tasks each day. Explore these BBC images and you will see that some of the Celts at least were skilled artists and craft workers.

Stonehenge: Solving Ancient Mysteries
How do we learn about the past? What clues help us piece together a picture of life long ago? In this high school lesson, students become detectives as they investigate a mystery at Stonehenge, featured on the Thirteen/WNET New York program, “Secrets of the Dead: Murder at Stonehenge”. They learn about archeologists and anthropologists and the tools and methods they use to gather and interpret scientific evidence. They research current archaeological excavations and contact the scientists working at these digs. As a culminating activity, students advise a colleague on how to proceed with the excavation of a mysterious skeleton.

The Dawn of Humanity: Searching for Clues to Human Origins by Exploring African Geography and History
In this New York Times lesson, students learn about recent archaeological challenges to theories of human origins. They then research the history and geography of various African regions to create proposals for future excavations.(August 7, 2002)

Mr. Donn’s Ancient History Page: Early Man
Don Donn of the Corkran (Maryland) Middle School provides a complete unit with daily lesson plans and unit test for sixth graders. There are also links to multiple K12 lesson plans and activities.

Mr Dowling’s Electronic Passport: Prehistory
Mr. Dowling’s Electronic Passport helps kids browse the world in his virtual classroom. His study guides, homework assignments, and exams are free and available for you to print or to edit.

Early Man in North America: The Known to the Unknown
This strong unit from the from Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute carries the premise that archaeologists must study the environment in which ancient man lived, along with what he has made, in order to better understand his way of life. This unit is divided into three parts: Prehistoric time scale, environment of North America, evidence of early map. transparencies, charts, diagrams and artifacts are supplements, but not available from the website.

Atlantis Quest
This WebQuest was created by Carolyn O Burleson, LA Unified School District, for Grade 9-12 English or Social Studies. Students will have to determine what is fact and what is fiction and create a multimedia presentation to present their findings.

MET: Find an Educational Resource

This site uses a timeline to search through works of art through time. Each piece has a lesson plan and curriculum materials associated with it.