African multiregionalism: The idea that modern Homo sapiens evolved as a complex web of small regional populations with sporadic gene flow among them.
Agriculture: The mass production of resources through farming and domestication.
Aquaculture: The farming of fish using techniques such as trapping, channels, and artificial ponds.
Assimilation hypothesis: Current theory of modern human origins stating that the species evolved first in Africa and interbred with archaic humans of Europe and Asia.
Atlatl: A handheld spear thrower that increased the force of thrown projectiles.
Band: A small group of people living together as foragers.
Beringia: Ancient landmass that connected Siberia and Alaska. The ancestors of Indigenous Americans would have crossed this area to reach the Americas.
Carrying capacity: The amount of organisms that an environment can reliably support.
Coastal Route model: Theory that the first Paleoindians crossed to the Americas by following the southern coast of Beringia.
Early Modern Homo sapiens, Early Anatomically Modern Human: Terms used to refer to transitional fossils between archaic and modern Homo sapiens that have a mosaic of traits. Humans like ourselves, who mostly lack archaic traits, are referred to as Late Modern Homo sapiens and simply Anatomically Modern Humans.
Egalitarian: Human organization without strict ranks. Foraging societies tend to be more egalitarian than those based on other subsistence strategies.
Foraging: Lifestyle consisting of frequent movement through the landscape and acquiring resources with minimal storage capacity.
Generalist-specialist niche: The ability to survive in a variety of environments by developing local expertise. Evolution toward this niche may have been what allowed modern Homo sapiens to expand past the geographical range of other human species.
Globalization: A recent increase in the interconnectedness and interdependence of people that is facilitated with long-distance networks.
Globular: Having a rounded appearance. Increased globularity of the braincase is a trait of modern Homo sapiens.
Gracile: Having a smooth and slender quality; the opposite of robust.
Holocene: The epoch of the Cenozoic Era starting around 12,000 years ago and lasting arguably through the present.
Ice-Free Corridor model: Theory that the first Native Americans crossed to the Americas through a passage between glaciers.
Institutions: Long-lasting and influential cultural constructs. Examples include government, organized religion, academia, and the economy.
Last Glacial Maximum: The time 23,000 years ago when the most recent ice age was the most intense.
Later Stone Age: Time period following the Middle Stone Age with a diversification in tool types, starting around 50,000 years ago.
Levant: The eastern coast of the Mediterranean. The site of early modern human expansion from Africa and later one of the centers of agriculture.
Megafauna: Large ancient animals that may have been hunted to extinction by people around the world.
Mental eminence: The chin on the mandible of modern H. sapiens. One of the defining traits of our species.
Microlith: Small stone tool found in the Later Stone Age; also called a bladelet.
Middle Stone Age: Time period known for Mousterian lithics that connects African archaic to modern Homo sapiens.
Monumental architecture: Large and labor-intensive constructions that signify the power of the elite in a sedentary society. A common type is the pyramid, a raised crafted structure topped with a point or platform.
Mosaic: Composed from a mix or composite of traits.
Neolithic Revolution: Time of rapid change to human cultures due to the invention of agriculture, starting around 12,000 years ago.
Ochre: Iron-based mineral pigment that can be a variety of yellows, reds, and browns. Used by modern human cultures worldwide since at least 80,000 years ago.
Sahul: Ancient landmass connecting New Guinea and Australia.
Sedentarism: Lifestyle based on having a stable home area; the opposite of nomadism.
Southern Dispersal model: Theory that modern H. sapiens expanded from East Africa by crossing the Red Sea and following the coast east across Asia.
Subsistence strategy: The method an organism uses to find nourishment and other resources.
Sunda: Ancient Asian landmass that incorporated modern Southeast Asia.
Supraorbital torus: The bony brow ridge across the top of the eye orbits on many hominin crania.
Upper Paleolithic: Time period considered synonymous with the Later Stone Age.
Urbanization: The increase of population density as people settled together in cities.
Wallacea: Archipelago southeast of Sunda with different biodiversity than Asia.
Younger Dryas: The rapid change in global climate—notably a cooling of the Northern Hemisphere—13,000 years ago.