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Discoveries about Human Ancestors

02-FEB-2016 10:45

    Living and Extinct human beings and their near-human ancestors are called “hominids” and belong to the Hominidae family of primates. Most of the other life forms and different types of animals developed much before the humans and some of the them even became extinct before the humans came into being. Evolution of human beings around 7, 00,000 B.C and continued till 1, 50,000 B.C. When the first human species i.e. Homo erectus evolved then it is believed that this evolution took place probably in Africa.

    Jagranjosh

    Early Human Behaviour and Ecology

    Hominids and Time Periods (Years Ago)

    Inference

    Nature of the evidence

    A. Hominid  ancestors (8-5 million)

    Equatorial African origin.

     

    Humans are genetically closest to African apes, which today are distributed across equatorial Africa; earliest hominid fossils are in eastern Africa.

    B. Earliest hominids

    (5-3 million) (3-2 million)

    Habitually bipedal on the ground, occasionally arboreal. Inhabited a mosaic of grassland, woodland and thick shrub.  Occupation of open savannas. Emphasis on a fibrous plant diet in robust australopithecines. First known manufacture of stone tools.

    Post-cranial anatomy of fossils from Hadar in Ethiopia (but disagreements about similarity to modem human bipedalism and degree of arboreality).Faunas from Laetoli in Tanzania, Hadar and Makapans in South Africa. Microwear on teeth; large teeth and jaws. Tools from Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, and Democratic Republic of Congo dated between 2.5 and 2.0 million years.

    C. Plio-Pleistocene hominids  (2.0-1.5 million) (Stone technology and changes in diet, brain size, etc. are usually associated with Homo)

    Increased commitment to bipedalism on the ground.  Increased dexterity related to tool use and tool making, and possibly foraging. Stones and animal bones carried repeatedly to specific sites.  Use of tools to procure and process food.  Dietary increase in protein and fat from large animals.  Scavenging and possible hunting of large animals, processing of animals at specific spots.  with making tools, foraging, social arrangements, and/or developing linguistic  skills. Changes in maturation rate. Increased mobility and predator defence.

    Post-cranial anatomy associated with archaic Homo established. Anatomy of hand bones and characteristics of stone tools and cores. Earliest known complex sites with many stone artefacts and fossils. Bone and stone tools with distinctive traces of use. Cut marks made by stone tools on animal bones. Limb bones of animals concentrated at undisturbed archaeological sites. Increase in brain size from about a third to a half that of modern humans. Implied by brain size increase and possible changes in tooth development. Large stature evident in skeletal remains of early Homo erectus from West Turkana in Kenya.

    D. Early Pleistocene  hominids 1.5- 0.1  million

    Occupation of new habitats and geographic zones. Definite preconception of tool form. Manipulation of fire. Increased levels of activity and stress on skeletons.

    Sites occur in previously unoccupied areas of eastern Africa; first appearance of hominids outside Africa.  Biface hand axes of consistent shape made from rocks of varying original shape.  Indications of fire differentially associated with archaeological sites.  Massive development of postcranial and cranial bones

     

    Increased sophistication of toolkit and technology, still slow rate of change to tool assemblage.  Intentional burial of dead and suggestions of ritual. Maintenance of high activity levels (locomotors endurance: powerful arms) and high levels of skeletal stress (for example, teeth used as tools). Decreased levels of activity and stress on skeleton. Enhanced technological efficiency. Innovations in hunting and other foraging activities, including systematic exploitation of particular animal species.  Colonization of previously uninhabited zones.  Elaboration of artistic symbolic expression.  

     

    E. Late Pleistocene hominids [1,00,000-35,000]  (Neanderthals)

    3,50,000--10,000 (fully modem Homo sapiens)

    Increased sophistication of toolkit and technology, still slow rate of change to tool assemblage.  Intentional burial of dead and suggestions of ritual. Maintenance of high activity levels (locomotors endurance: powerful arms) and high levels of skeletal stress (for example, teeth used as tools). Decreased levels of activity and stress on skeleton. Enhanced technological efficiency. Innovations in hunting and other foraging activities, including systematic exploitation of particular animal species. Colonization of previously uninhabited zones.  Elaboration of artistic symbolic expression and notation.  Surge of technological and cultural differentiation and change.  Harvesting and first cultivation of grains: first domestication of animals.

    Larger number of stone-tool types than before; complex preparation of cores. Preservation of skeletons, some with objects. Robust skeletons, especially thick leg bones and large areas for muscle attachment on arm bones; prominent wear patterns on incisor teeth. Decrease in skeletal robusticity (also seen in early modern humans before 35,000 years ago).  Innovations in stone and bone-tool production (for example, blades and bone points). Evidence of spear thrower and harpoon, and trapping and netting of animals; animal remains in archaeological middens. For example, sites in tundra in Europe and Asia; colonization of the Americas (Australasia was probably first inhabited around 50,000 years ago). Engraving, sculpting and painting of walls and figurines; repetitive marks on bones; jewellery. Variation in toolkits over space and time. Evidence of seeds and fauna from sites dating to the end of the Pleistocene.

    Image Courtesy: www.i.infopls.com

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