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Human evolution

  
Human evolution table
• All dates are approximate
• Based on recent scientific knowledge and theories

The evidence

Sahelanthropus tchadensis skull Sahelanthropus
tchadensis
Sahelanthropus art
© Didier Descouens © Mateuszica
DATE About 7 million years ago
REGION Djurab desert of Chad
CHARACTERISTICS
Also known as «Toumaï», only a small cranium has been found.
Their brain was about the size of a chimpanzee's.
Some suggest they were bipeds.
Orrorin bones Orrorin
tugenensis
© Lucius
DATE Between 6.2 and 5.6 million years ago
REGION Tugen hills of Kenya
CHARACTERISTICS
A few bones and teeth have been discovered.
Many think they walked upright because of grooves on the femur, but they conserved tree-climbing skills.
About the size of modern chimpanzees, they ate mostly fruits.
Ardipithecus ramidus skull Ardipithecus
ramidus
Ardipithecus art
© T. Michael Keesey © Jason Sannar
DATE About 4.4 million years ago
REGION Middle Awash river valley, Ethiopia
CHARACTERISTICS
They walked on two feet, but they could still grasp with their big toe to climb.
They had reduced canine teeth.
Their brain was the size of a modern chimpanzee's.
Australopithecus afarensis skull Australopithecus
afarensis
Australopithecus art
© Patrick Bürgler © 1997
DATE Between 3.7 and 2.9 million years ago
REGION Northern Africa
CHARACTERISTICS
Known for their famous fossil «Lucy», they were slenderly built.
With smaller canines, their brain was relatively modest.
They were definitely bipedal, but the anatomy of their hands, feet and shoulder joints shows they were equally competent in the trees.
Paranthropus boisei skull Paranthropus
boisei
Paranthropus art
© Guérin Nicolas © Lillyundfreya
DATE Between 2.7 and 0.8 million years ago
REGION Northern Africa
CHARACTERISTICS
All Paranthropus species were bipedal and many lived at the same time as our own genus Homo.
They ate harder plant material and roots.
There are big differences between Paranthropus and Australopithecus skulls, the first are more massive and have a crest at the top like gorillas.
Homo habilis skull Homo
habilis
Homo habilis art
© J-M Benito Álvarez © Lillyundfreya
DATE Between 2.3 and 1.4 million years ago
REGION East Africa
CHARACTERISTICS
They were short, with very long arms and a cranial capacity about half the size of modern humans.
They are known for the primitive stone tools they produced.
They walked bipedally, but retained an ape-like morphology.
Homo ergaster skull Homo
ergaster
Homo ergaster art
© ? © flowcomm
DATE Between 2.2 and 1.5 million years ago
REGION Eastern and southern Africa
CHARACTERISTICS
They are thought to be direct ancestors of Homo sapiens.
They stood over six feet tall and used more diverse and sophisticated stone tools.
They walked like present-day humans and their big toe could not grasp anymore.
Homo erectus skull Homo
erectus
Homo erectus art
© Thomas Roche © Ryan Somma
DATE Between 1,800,000 and 200,000 years ago
REGION Migrated to the Old World from Africa
CHARACTERISTICS
They were some of the earliest fossils discovered, so they were named «Upright man» before it was found that bipedalism had been going on for a long time.
They possibly lived in hunter-gatherer societies and were probably the first migrating humans.
They used primitive tools compared to Homo ergaster.
Homo heidelbergensis skull Homo
heidelbergensis
Homo heidelbergensis art
© Ryan Somma © J-M Benito Álvarez
DATE Between 600,000 and 300,000 years ago
REGION Out of Africa and into Asia and Europe
CHARACTERISTICS
Their brain was almost as large as today's humans.
Recent findings suggest that they were right handed and that they buried their dead.
Their footprints show that their bone structure and gait were identical to modern humans.
Homo neanderthalis skull Homo
neanderthalensis
Homo neanderthalis art
© ? © grapitix
DATE Between 500,000 and 22,000 years ago
REGION Europe, Western and Central Asia
CHARACTERISTICS
Recent studies (2010) suggest that there was some interbreeding with Homo sapiens sapiens.
The Neanderthal's brain size was comparable, if not larger than our own.
They were heavily built and much stronger than Homo sapiens.
Their diet was almost exclusively carnivorous.
Homo floresiensis skull Homo
floresiensis
Homo floresiensis art
© Ryan Somma © Ryan Somma
DATE Between 200,000 and 12,000 years ago
REGION Island of Flores, Indonesia
CHARACTERISTICS
Discovered in 2002, they were nicknamed «hobbits».
Their extinction possibly occurred as recently as 12,000 years ago, so they probably lived along modern humans.
They had very small bodies and brains.
Some isolated groups may have survived up to a few centuries ago.
Homo sapiens sapiens skull Homo
sapiens sapiens
Homo sapiens sapiens art
© ixo/Moa © Leonardo da Vinci
DATE From 200,000 years ago to now
REGION Originated in Africa
CHARACTERISTICS
Modern humans are all Homo sapiens (wise humans), the only remaining species of the Homo genus, but they don't fit their name very well.
Humans have progressed in intelligence, but have lost their strength during their evolution and are now proportionally 3 to 10 times weaker than the other great apes.
With a more erect posture, they are among the best long-distance runners of the animal world.

What the names mean

Anthropopithecus or pithecanthrope? Early humans are considered as being half-human or half-monkey.

WORD MEANING
Anthrop... Human being
Pithecus Ape, monkey

So Sahelanthropus means «Human from the Sahel region» and Australopithecus translates into «Southern ape».
Scientists only start calling them real «humans» with the genus Homo, about 2.4 million years ago.
They group all the species above in Hominina.

Wasted diversity

When you look at the chart higher up, you can see that things started out with one species of humans, then diversified into over twenty species, just to return to a single species 7 million years later.
We can't even figure out the path our own race took through this adventure.
This is why I call them all «humans», even though some were quite different from us.
We know their fate, they have all disappeared except us, but they are still part of our history and genes.

They were all humans because
they all walked on two feet

 

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