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Evolution of Man

What is it that makes us human?

That gives us the ability to reflect on the past and ponder the future?

Who we are as a species and where we came from make up the basis of a fantastic story sometime
around six or seven million years ago.

 There exists evidence that provides the framework for the human story. It’s a story that
begins in Africa, where our ancestors first stood up. Over millions of years they continued to
evolve and eventually spread out across the globe. Some species adapted to the changing
world while others went extinct. Today only a single species of humans survives. That
species flourished because they developed a culture, a culture more complex than has ever
been seen before.

The first humans

 The first members of our human family, Hominidae, evolved in Africa.

 They spent much of their time in trees. However, as they evolved and developed certain
abilities, they started to spend more time on the ground, walking on two feet –a trait that
scientists often use to define the human family.

Major Evolutionary Stages - “Family Tree”

Homo sapiens
ecus sapiens
afarensis Homo habilis


us ramidus Homo
Australopith sapiens
ecus boisei neanderthal
 The red line joining the figures shows the species thought to be direct ancestors of modern
humans; those in black are not regarded as direct ancestors. However, there is some debate
about the status of Homo erectus and Nearderthal man.
Australopithecus ramidus
 It lived 4.4 million years ago and was small and slighty built (like a chimpanzee). It may
have walked upright, but it is not known for certain.
 Its teeth suggest a diet which included fruit.
 Height: approximately 1-1.25 m (3-4 ft).

Australopithecus afarensis
 Lived 3.5-2.9 million years ago. The name means ‘southern ape of Afar’, from finds made
in Ethiopia’s Afar Triangle.
 This species includes “Lucy”, the 3.6-3 million years old fossil found by Donald Johanson.
 Members of this species ventured down from the trees and into the woodlands and forests,
where they walked on two limbs instead of four. This is known from studies of the
skeletons found.
 Height: 1-1.3 m (3-4 ft).

Australopithecus africanus
 This ‘southern ape of Africa’ lived from 3 million to 2.4 million years ago and probably
evolved from Australopithecus afarensis.
 It had a slightly larger brain than the Australopithecus afarensis
 The wear of the teeth suggests that they ate fruits and foliage.
 Height: 1-1.3 m (3-4 ft)

Australopithecus robustus
 The ‘robust southern ape’ lived from 2.1 to 1.6 million years ago, dying out finally 1 million
years ago.
 It had a large, ‘robust’ (heavier, thicker) skull, as well as a jaw and large teeth that were well
adapted to chewing.
 Height: 1.3-1.5 m (4-5 ft).

Australopithecus boisei
 It was named after the Englishman Charles Boise, who funded excavations in the 1950s.
 It lived in East Africa 2.3-1.1 million years ago.
 Like all of the other Australopithecus species, A. Boisei walked upright.
 Height: 1.3-1.5 m (4-5 ft)

Homo habilis
 The ‘handy man’ was the first known species of the genus Homo.
 It lived 2.4-1.5 million years ago.
 It is apparently the first species to make and use primitive stone tools (therefore the name
‘handy man’). Tools are a sign of changes in the eating habits. The Homo genus ate larger
amounts of meat.
 Height: 1.2-1.5 m (4-5 ft).

Homo erectus
 The ‘upright man’ lived 1.8 million to 400,000 or 300,000 years ago, probably evolving in
Africa and spreading to Europe, East Asia and Southeast Asia (fossils have been found
throughout these continents)
 Homo erectus was probably the first human to use fire. This allowed them to adapt to
different environments successfully.
 They may even have developed a simple language which would have enabled them to talk
 Height: 1.5-1.8 million (5-6 ft)
Homo sapiens neanderthalensis
 The ‘wise Neanderthal man’ takes its name from finds in the Neander Valley in the western
part of Germany.
 The species Homo sapiens evolved from about 200,000 years ago (or even earlier), and the
classic Neanderthals flourished from around 100,000-40,000 or 30,000 years ago.
 They were well-adapted to living in a cold climate.
 Height: 1.7 m (5.7 ft)

Homo sapiens sapiens (modern)

 The ‘wise man’ evolved as long ago as 120,000 years and is the first fully modern human.
 Homo sapiens living around 40,000 years ago made elaborate tools and produced fine
artwork in the form of carvings and cave paintings.
 Height: 1.7-1.8 m (5.6 ft – 5.8 ft).