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A tale of four skulls: what human bones reveal about cities

22 / 02 / 2017, The Guardian

Has the great urbanisation of our species over the last 5,000 years been good for humanity or bad? It’s a story that can be told by examining ancient skeletons – which reveal incredible dangers, but also point to a bright futureThe UN human settlements programme predicts that homo sapiens will soon be a majority urban species: 60% of humans will live in cities by 2030. More than 10 millennia of adaptations have gone into changing our lives from free-range to metropolitan. Yet in evolutionary terms this is a blindingly swift change of habitat, and to understand what it means for our future we must turn to the long view of archaeology. The accumulation of humans in dense habitations – cities – has had enormous and frequently fatal consequences. Problems of access to resources, disease transmission and pollution follow rapidly on the heels of our great urban experiment. And it is precisely these problems, originating many thousand of years ago, that we must come to terms with if we are going to survive as a species. Continue reading...

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