Human Evolution Research

Excavations at Site 15, Olorgesailie, Kenya

Smithsonian Human Origins Program & Field Research

The Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program conducts field and lab research on the evolution of early human adaptations. Our key research partners are in East Africa and East Asia – especially in Kenya, China, and Indonesia. Our digs and studies in these regions, along with investigations by associates working in Ethiopia, Tanzania, India, Mozambique, among other countries, help generate scientific data on the long-term interaction of human ancestors with their surroundings. Curiosity about human origins drives our research. The research supports our effort to bring the latest findings to public audiences worldwide.

Image of volcano erupted.

Explore how environment change influenced evolution – and how dramatic climate instability over the past 6 million years may have shaped human adaptations.

Image of the top of an early human skull.

The Human Origins Program has been conducting research in East Africa for over 25 years. Read about some of our current field projects, focused in Kenya, here.

Image of artifacts found at Bose, China.

The Human Origins Program conducts research at a variety of sites in Asia, currently with a focus in China and Indonesia. Read about the earliest humans in China, 'hobbits' of Indonesia, and other research projects here.

image of Human Origins Program Team members at Olorgesailie, Kenya

Meet the Smithsonian scientific team and hear about our interests.

Fossil Forensics thumbnail

Bones contain evidence of how early humans lived, died, and interacted with other organisms. Explore what kinds of important clues scientists can find on bones.

Members of the Human Origins Program team describe how they use cutting-edge technology in their scientific investigations.