…hints of modernity appear in the brain’s shape, Mr. Carlson says. “Malapa has more frontal lobe than other australopithecines do,” he says. In an area just behind and above the eyes, which in modern humans is associated with the ability to make long-term plans,sediba shows a bit of expansion. Another area that looks as if it might be changing and growing is in the region now called Broca’s area—a place linked to language processing in modern humans.

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A researcher at the U. of the Witwatersrand created this computerized reconstruction of the brain of Australopithecus sediba, a 2-million-year-old human forerunner, based on markings found inside a fossil skull.