Together, they are answering burning questions about our origin story, from when and where the first Homo sapiens emerged to how the first people braved the icy passage between what is today Siberia and North America — and when they did it.
"It definitely challenges what most people learned in high school," Mikkel Winther Pedersen, a geogeneticist at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and the lead author on a paper that suggested that the first Americans arrived via a previously unidentified inland route rather than the widely-known Bering land bridge, told Business Insider of his findings in 2016.
Further digging gave way to a nearly-complete skull.
The worthless-looking diamond encloses a tiny piece of an olivine mineral called ringwoodite, and it's the first time the mineral has been found on Earth's surface in anything other than meteorites or laboratories.
Ringwoodite only forms under extreme pressure, such as the crushing load about 320 miles (515 kilometers) deep in the mantle. Most of Earth's volume is mantle, the hot rock layer between the crust and the core.
"It really sets the world alight in terms of the possibilities for understanding the evolution of Homo sapiens," Sonia Zakrzewski, an associate professor of archaeology at the University of Southampton, told Business Insider in June.
"It certainly means that we need to rethink our models." Hublin is one of several anthropologists and archaeologists who are combing the planet for evidence that could rewrite various aspects of ancient human history.
In June, Hublin published two papers in the highly-respected journal Nature suggesting that the first Homo sapiens — that is, the first members of our species — lived 100,000 years earlier than previously thought in a place that no one would have expected.
They also had faces that looked surprisingly like ours.But a set of recent evidence suggested that timeline could be 100,000 years off.In April, archaeologists working in San Diego, California uncovered a set of 130,000-year old mastodon bones (dated using uranium) that showed signs of having been processed by humans, placing them in the Americas at that time.”I’m not sure these people would stand out from a crowd today," said Hublin on a call with reporters shortly before his research was published.Hublin's findings, while controversial, were generally greeted by other researchers in the community with excitement about the other kinds of research opportunities that could be opened up by this new idea.Remember back in high school when you learned all those human-history basics, like the fact that we share a common ancestor with the African ape or that the first Americans reached the continent by way of a grassy strip of terrain called the Bering land bridge that emerged as the ice retreated between Russia and Alaska? According to a study, published in August 2016 in the journal Nature, the first people to reach the Americas most likely never even saw this route.