HERC evolved from the Laboratory for Human Evolutionary Studies (LHES) founded by F. Clark Howell in 1970. LHES was originally established within the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. In February 1995, LHES moved to the Valley Life Sciences Building, where it became a unit of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. By 2004 LHES had grown beyond what could classically be defined as a laboratory and was renamed the Human Evolution Research Center. HERC is currently directed by Tim D. White.

Major HERC related Fossil Discoveries and Publications:

1966 to 1974: Fieldwork in the Omo Basin of Ethiopia recovers thousands of vertebrate fossils, including human ancestors, dated between 1.5 and 3.4 million years ago.

1978: Fieldwork in Tanzania on the earliest human footprints.

1978: Naming of the new species, Australopithecus afarensis.

1981: Discoveries of Australopithecus afarensis at Maka, Middle Awash, Ethiopia.

1986: Fieldwork at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania yields partial skeleton of Homo habilis.

1992-present: Fieldwork at Aramis, Middle Awash, Ethiopia recovers new genus and species Ardipithecus ramidus.

1997-present: Fieldwork in Middle Awash recovers oldest hominid fossils, in new species Ardipithecus kaddaba.

1999: Earliest hominid butchery and new species Australopithecus garhi announced from Hata Member, Middle Awash, Ethiopia.

1999: Neanderthal cannibalism at Moula-Guercy, Ardeche, France announced.

2002: Homo erectus calvaria from Daka, Bouri is published.

2003: Earliest Homo sapiens, subspecies H. s. idaltu announced from Herto, Middle Awash, Ethiopia.

2006: Earliest Australopithecus species A. anamensis, discovered at Asa Issie, Middle Awash Ethiopia.

2009: Ardipithecus ramidus presented anatomically, contextually, and phylogenetically in Science.