Sink a spade into the ground near any area of long-term human habitation and you're likely to experience something not unlike time travel. Where day-to-day observations and recorded history fail us, discarded remnants shed light on ages past.
Such is the very meat of archaeology. Buried tombs, forgotten habitations and even garbage heaps cast a shadow through time. Dig deep enough, however, and the knickknacks and tools will begin to vanish. The further back into prehistoric time we delve, the more it becomes evident that the ascension of man is a tale told in bones.
Humans have left an evolutionary trail of fossils ever since our earliest ancestors split off from the rest of the hominid family. Before that, fossils clue us into the various hominids that roamed the Earth before us. Yet paleoanthropologists study these bones not only to discover all the links in the great chain of evolution, but also to learn about the biological and technical origins of evolution.
Following are 10 of the most important hominid fossil finds in order of discovery. All 10 take us to the very cradle of humanity: the African continent.