Our ancestors were australopithecines 2 – 3 MYA, a good fraction of Chapter 6. It is impossible to pinpoint the Australopithecus / Homo juncture down to the species level, but our ancestors of this time probably bore a strong resemblance to A. sediba (S. Africa, 2 MYA).
The oldest fossil assigned to Homo so far has been H. habilis (eastern and southern Africa, 1.5 – 2.5 MYA). Habilis still had an australopithecine body: chimp-sized, with long arms and short legs. Its human-like qualities were a flatter face, larger brain, and tool-making skills. Some habilis specimens show early signs of the forward-projecting nose. 2
The Oldowan industry was the first widespread technology. It is characterized by pebble tools: smooth river pebbles knapped into simple choppers. The Oldowan industry dates to late Australopithecus and early Homo species in Africa over 2 MYA. Homo erectus then carried it out of Africa across Asia.
Homo ergaster (eastern and southern Africa, 1.4 – 1.9 MYA) was an early African version (or ancestor) of Homo erectus. Two views are shown below.
Homo ergaster / erectus had a body virtually identical to ours, just slightly more robust. (This model is an adolescent boy). The main differences between ergaster / erectus and sapiens were in the face and skull. Erectus had prominent brow ridges and a long, flat skull. The teeth and jaws were large, with no chin. Otherwise, he was clearly recognizable as human.
Homo erectus invented Acheulean hand axes and used them extensively 1 MYA. They knapped these handheld, hand-sized axes from hard rock such as flint, obsidian, or granite.
The world’s oldest known wooden artifacts are 300 – 400 TYO hunting spears 9 attributed to H. heidelbergensis. They were sharpened in a process that, some scientists hypothesize, involved the controlled use of fire. 10
- A. sediba image by Cicero Moraes et al., CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_sediba_BLACK_PRINT.jpg (accessed and saved 11/17/19). ↩
- G. Philip Rightmire et al., “Homo habilis: Fossil hominin”, Encyclopedia Britannica (1/19/2006), https://www.britannica.com/topic/Homo-habilis (accessed and saved 7/28/18). ↩
- H. habilis photo by Nachosan, CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MEH_Homo_habilis_29-04-2012_11-50-21_2320x2980.JPG (accessed and saved 7/28/18). ↩
- Oldowan chopper image by Locutus Borg (Public domain), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Canto_tallado_2-Guelmim-Es_Semara.jpg (accessed and saved 11/17/19). ↩
- H. ergaster body model: Sculpture by E. Daynes, photograph by Wolfgang Sauber, CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.fr), https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:MNP_-_Turkanajunge_1.jpg (accessed and saved 7/25/18). ↩
- H. ergaster head drawing: Nariokotome_Boy.jpg: Bubblecarderivative work: H005 (Public domain), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nariokotome_Boy_Reconstruction.jpg (accessed and saved 7/25/18). ↩
- Acheulean hand axe photograph by Locutus Borg (Public domain), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bifaz_de_Atapuerca_(TG10).jpg (accessed and saved 3/25/18). ↩
- Sculpture by John Gurche for the Smithsonian Institution. Photo by Scot Fagerland. ↩
- Spear photograph by P. Pfarr NLD, CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sch%C3%B6ningen_Speer_VII_im_Sediment_1997_%C2%A9_P._Pfarr_NLD.jpg (accessed and saved 11/23/19). ↩
- Hannah Fluck, “Initial observations from experiments into the possible use of fire with stone tools in the manufacture of the Clacton Point”, Lithics 28:15-19 (2007), http://journal.lithics.org/index.php/lithics/article/view/403/0 (accessed and saved 11/23/19). ↩
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