Some of the best paleoart is from the Chapter 7 timescale, including lifelike sculptures and masks of fossil apes. For the art that is copyrighted, I provide links to the best available photos.
The earliest known animal considered to be an ape is Rukwapithecus, which was found in Africa 25 MYA. This image of Rukwapithecus appears to be copyrighted, so I can not show it here. Today’s apes include orangutans and gibbons in Asia, gorillas and chimpanzees in Africa, and humans.
Proconsul was one of the earliest fossil apes, thriving in eastern Africa 20 MYA. We know it’s an ape by its lack of tail. Its teeth were becoming ape-like. Otherwise, its body was very monkey-like in size and form.
The golden age of apes was the mid-Miocene of 12 – 17 MYA, when climate was warmer and some species migrated to Europe and Asia. The upper body went through modifications for hanging rather than walking on branches, while the lower body was starting to allow for some upright postures. 3 Our mid-Miocene ancestors were the first great apes, closer in size to chimpanzees than gibbons.
“Ardi”, an Ardipithecus from 4 MYA, is one of the most famous 21st-century fossil discoveries. Ardi’s authoritative portrait is copyrighted. I encourage you to click the drawing to see her full body. Her appearance is strikingly human-but-not-human, like something you’d except in a Planet of the Apes movie.
The Australopithecus genus evolved in eastern Africa about 4 MYA and survived until the appearance of Homo 2 MYA. Australopithecus is widely assumed to be Homo’s parent genus. There were several Australopithecus species.
By this time, Australopithecines were about 99% genetically human. These ancestors fascinate us because they represent the transition from wild animals to modern humanity. They walked upright on feet very much like ours. They were still semi-arboreal and smaller than humans. Their faces had pronounced snouts. Culturally, they probably behaved more like chimps than humans. They may have been in the early stages of flaking stone tools.
- Aegyptopithecus image by Nobu Tamura (http://spinops.blogspot.com), CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aegyptopithecus_NT.jpg (accessed and saved 10/27/19). ↩
- Proconsul image by Nobu Tamura (http://spinops.blogspot.com) CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Proconsul_NT.jpg (accessed and saved 5/13/17). ↩
- Ashley S. Hammond et al., “Middle Miocene Pierolapithecus provides a first glimpse into early hominid pelvic morphology”, Journal of Human Evolution 64(6):658-666 (June 2013), https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0047248413000742 (accessed and saved 10/27/19). ↩
- Pau reconstruction (Pierolapithecus catalaunicas): Photograph by Catalaalatac, CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pierolapithecus_catalaunicus_(Pau)_a_l%27Institut_Catal%C3%A0_de_Paleontologia_Miquel_Crusafont.JPG ↩
- Toumai reconstruction: Sculpture by John Gurche for the Smithsonian Institution. Photo by Scot Fagerland, 2014. ↩
- A. afarensis reconstruction: Sculpture by John Gurche for the Smithsonian Institution. Photo by Scot Fagerland, 2014. ↩
- A. africanus reconstruction: Sculpture by John Gurche for the Smithsonian Institution. Photo by Scot Fagerland, 2014. ↩
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