Taking a ‘Knapp’ With Our Ancient Ancestors - Stone Tools Through the Ages

Taking a ‘Knapp’ With Our Ancient Ancestors - Stone Tools Through the Ages

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The process of creating lithic tools took our hominin species millions of years to perfect. However, we often dismiss stone tools as simplistic primitive technology.

The mastering of stone knapping techniques (the act of shaping stone tools) allowed humans to create a plethora of stone devices ranging from hunting weapons to farming tools. Stone tools were so essential that the practice continued well past the Neolithic age, especially in places like Mesoamerica until the late 17th century.

The moment our hominin ancestors created stone tools; we became the shapers of our destiny. However, can one say that tool use is uniquely a human trait? After all, chimpanzees, as well as many other animal species, also use stone tools for foraging, hunting, and grooming. Did primates learn this from humans or was it the other way around?

Many other species utilize tools. According to researcher Christina J. Campbell and her colleagues, tool use among monkeys and apes has been thoroughly observed. Of the most interesting are the tools used by chimpanzees.

Chimpanzees use stones and wood to crack nuts. Chimps use stones to dig holes to extract roots. Chimpanzees also use sticks to mine for termites as well as craft crude spears to hunt other mammals hidden in trees, as mentioned by Campbell et al, “… Pruetz and Bertonali report that chimpanzees in Senegal probe with sticks into holes to capture trapped vertebrate prey”.

Chimp using stick as a tool to eat ants. (Mike R / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

The cognitive abilities in the primate cousins have shown the possibility that humans may not be the only ones who benefit from the use of stone and wooden tools. Though it may be alarming that primates use stone and wood tools for hunting and foraging, it is still crude compared to the robust history and relationship that our hominin ancestors have with stone tools.

Mode I: Oldowan Tool Industry. Australopithecus or Homo ? – 3.3 million years ago BC to 1.6 million years ago BC.

As stated in Spencer Larson’s textbook, Our Origins-Discovering Physical Anthropology , the earliest stone tools that were discovered, in 1978 by paleoanthropologists Mary and Louis Leakey in the Olduvai gorge in East Africa, dated to the Early Pleistocene between 2.6 – 1.6 million years ago.

Mary and Louis Leaky claimed these stones to be part of the Oldowan Complex of the Lower Palaeolithic. Their opinion was that these were the earliest signs of hominin culture ever to exist.

The stone tools discovered consisted of basic choppers, hammerstones, and deliberate flakes, used for slicing animal flesh. Though very basic, it was a sign of hominin cognition learning to manipulate the materials around them for a practical purpose.

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Stone tool known as an Oldowan chopper. (Locutus Borg / CC BY-SA 2.5 )

Given the proximity of the stone tools to the Homo habilis discovery in 1960, Tanzania, H. habilis was given credit for being the first tool user.

For the longest time, Australopithecines were perceived as not smart enough to create stone tools. However, when the discovery of 3.3 million year old stone tools and cut marks on fossilized animal bone remains, found in Dikika, Ethiopia in 2010, was made Shannon McPherron and her team mentioned, “our discovery extends by approximately 800,000 years the antiquity of stone tools and stone-tool assisted consumption of ungulates by hominins…”.

Additionally, in 2015, further discoveries were made by Sonia Harmand and her team in Lomekwi, Kenya, also dating to 3.3 million years ago, predating Oldowan by 700,000 years. With these discoveries, it proved that Australopithecines were indeed able to create lithic tools.

Mode II: Acheulean Industry Tools. Homo erectus’s Hand Ax Approach to Life - 1.5 million years ago BC to 150,000 BC.

The term Acheulean was named after the Saint Acheul site in France to which various hand axe artifacts were discovered in 1859. The Acheulean tools differed from the hammerstones and choppers made from Australopithecus or H. habilis . As the hominins continued to adapt, so did their lithic tools.

The hand ax was the most prominent tool used by the resilient Homo erectus who spread throughout Africa, Europe, and Asia, and parts of Indonesia sometime 1.5 million years ago. They then mysteriously disappeared from the fossil records around 130,000 years ago.

With H. erectus’s higher cranial capacity, their tools and social societies may have become more sophisticated. There is also a strong belief that H. erectus may have also discovered fire, allowing them to survive in the harshest of conditions. The stone tools used by H. erectus showed precision.

The stone tools were more substantial, larger, and notably tear-shaped. Another notable difference was the utilization of large flakes from the core of the hand ax. These flakes were also retouched, possibly for hide scrapers and bone and woodcarvers.

Along with H. erectus , was also Homo ergaster and Homo heidlebergensis , who were also associated with the Mode II Acheulean industry. One tool made most famous was a pink quartz hand ax found along with 30 other individuals from a 430,000 year old death pit at a site in Sim de os Huesos, Spain. Professor Eudald Carbonell and his team who discovered the tools and remains believed that this was “…the first evidence of ritual behavior and symbolism in the human species…”.

The significance of such a find reflected the progression and advancement of cognitive thinking, which revealed socio-cultural advancement. Academics and researchers such as Chris Stringer suggest that the abstract thinking brought forth from stone tools and culture may have also given rise to the concept of the afterlife.

Mode III: Neanderthal Levallois Techniques and the Mousterian Tool Industry - 100,000 BC to 40,000 BC.

Mode III Mousterian tool industry spanned between 100,000 years ago to about 40,000 years ago. When discussing the Mode III tool industry, there are two terms which are synonymously used. The first is Mousterian, which comes from a French site revealing two rock-shelters in Peyzac-le-Moustier located in Dordogne, France. This term is used to describe the placement of the lithic industry.

The second is the Levallois technique, which was based on finds discovered in Levallois-Perret of France in the 19th century. Levallois is a term used to describe a specific method in creating a lithic tool.

According to Whittaker, “…Mousterian industries all emphasize flake tools, especially scrapers…”. The sophistication that was revealed in the tool remains demonstrated by the significant advancements that Neanderthals achieved. The Levallois technique to which Neanderthals perfected revealed to be more challenging to produce than the Acheulean tools of their H. erectus predecessors.

Neanderthals made stone tools using the Levallois technique to make a sharp point. (Archaeodontosaurus / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Their process involved striking flakes from a prepared lithic core resembling the shell of a tortoise. Once it was shaped, the altered core's platform would finally be hit, resulting in a sizeable lithic flake separating in one large tear-shaped edge.

This revealed that Neanderthals needed an immense amount of preplanning, foresight, and cognitive intelligence to execute such a task. Neanderthals used this technique to produce various kinds of scrapers. Other tools were hand axes, knives, and spearheads. In further advancements of these tools, the technologies created by Neanderthals also incorporated the use of pitch for gluing their spears to the wooden staffs, as Paul Kozowyk and his researchers proved in 2016.

The advancement of stone tools, included Neanderthals incorporating the use of pitch for gluing their spears to the wooden staffs. (Image Credit: Paul Kozowyk/ The Seeker )

Although Neanderthals revealed a cognitive sophistication and adaptability that was unprecedented by any other hominin, there was also a darker side. One such side was the evidence of cannibalism, as explored by Helene Rougier and her researchers at the Troisieme Caverne of Goyet in 2015. Rougier and her team examined the skeletal remains of 99 Neanderthal remains to which “…nearly a third of the Neanderthal specimens bear cutmarks…”.

Additionally, The Goyet Caves yielded multiple Neandertal skeletal bones remains, specifically femurs, that were first processed from carcasses, then deliberately repurposed to be used as retoucher tools for lithic edge refinement.

Whether this was a ritualistic practice or a deliberate necessity for survival remains to be unknown. Regardless of the reasons, these remains still reveal potential insight into Neanderthal cognitive abilities and potential social and cultural mortuary practices they may have held.

Mode IV Aurignacian Tool Industry- 50,000 to 26,000 years ago.

Many researchers have questioned what exactly happened to the Neanderthals as the emergence of modern Homo sapiens came to be. Whether they interbred or whether they were displaced and killed by the H. sapiens will remain a mystery. However, with the global expansion of H. sapiens across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, came another lithic technological breakthrough in techniques and tool variation that was explicitly designed for the H. sapien nomadic way of life.

Though scrapers, hand axes, and blades were still produced, the sophistication came in the efficiency in the processing of the stones they used. The period to which this technology was placed was in the Upper Paleolithic .

One of the most defining features of Aurignacian stone tools was the creation of lithic blades as opposed to sharpened flakes from prepared cores. Another aspect to the lithic working was also the detail and precision placed in making other tools from bones and antler points.

Mode V: The Microlithic Tool Industry - 35,000 BC to 3,000 BC.

As time continued and H. sapiens began to spread, the further precision regarding the continual manufacturing of further specific tools began to happen. The production of Microliths, or lithic tools measuring a centimeter or so in length for thinner spearheads and arrowheads. These may have also consisted of retouched arrowheads and blades due to a lack of resources, or for the sake of being efficient.

Aurignacian stone tools – Microliths. (Th. Fink Veringen / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Microliths became very prominent throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe. They were now part of a more complex system of spear and arrow manufacturing.

What was initially made to be a worked flake fastened to a shaft was now streamlined by thousands of years of innovation. Microliths would be fastened to wooden shafts by utilization of bone, resin, fiber, and pitch to create a more accurate, flexible, and durable weapon.

Also, the weapons made that consisted of microliths now served specific purposes rather than a generalized tool. Such weapons were the creation of the harpoons, light javelin-like projectiles, and differing arrowhead designs for differing fauna.

Neolithic Tool Industry. The New Stone Age - 12,000 BC to 6,500 BC.

With the development of farming emerging in the Near East, the changes in lithic technology started to take on another development. Though there was still evidence of lithic tool use for hunting purposes, several tool designs were started for use in farming.

Grinding stones, manos, and mortars emerged to process farmed grains and wheat. Also, the techniques further refined from flaking to more precise methods of sharpening and shaping lithic tools.

Grounding stones from Neolithic used to grind up grains. (José-Manuel Benito Álvarez / CC BY-SA 2.5 )

In the years to come, the creation of bronze and iron tools would soon become prevalent in hunting and farming; however, it would not signal the end of stone tool use. Given how rare and expensive the creation of bronze and metal tools were, stone tools for hunting, weapons, and sickles were still used in households due to their practical and accessible nature.

This period also revealed the beginnings of animal domestication. Other forms of tools began to develop, including the creation of pottery and other cultural material items. However, not all cultures around the world developed these tools and material goods in the same order as listed.

Still, other cultures around the world continued to perfect and adjust lithic tools, as seen in North America with the extensive use of Clovis technology, as well as in the Americas later with the Mesoamerican prismatic blades.

Tool Use in the Americas from Clovis to the Aztecs - 10,000 BC to 1521 AD.

Although there is evidence of pre-Clovis groups inhabiting the Americas, one of the best examples tool use specification was the Paleoamerican Clovis culture and their tools for hunting megafauna. The name Clovis originated from the discovery of a spearhead in Blackwater Locality near Clovis, New Mexico in the 1920s.

While the actual Paleo people who used these tools remain mysterious, the prominence of the Clovis spear design is found predominantly in the Americas. As addressed by Whittiker, “Clovis points have been found alongside the butchered bones of mammoths… they also hunted bison, horses, camels, mastodons…”.

Clovis projectile points. (Bill Whittaker / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

The range in which Clovis technology was in use spanned between 12,500 BC to roughly 10,000 BC. However, Clovis technology disappeared at the same time of the megafauna demise. This does not necessarily mean that the Clovis people died out as well, they may have continued to adapt their hunting methods and change their toolset to survive.

As further agricultural advances happened throughout the Americas, further use of lithic tools developed as well. Intricate trade networks also developed. One such massive trade route, regarding the trade of obsidian blades, can be found in the river trade networks of mysterious Cahokia. A civilization which may have controlled the river trade routes from Canada to Mexico itself.

The Mesoamerican techniques of obsidian blade production were some of the most elaborate in the world. Their production of prismatic blades, long narrow blades, contained a single long sharp edge and were used for several purposes.

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Obsidian prismatic blade fragment from the ancient Maya site of Chunchucmil, Yucatan. A prismatic blade is a long, narrow, specialized stone flake tool with a sharp edge, like a small razor blade. (David R. Hixson / CC BY-SA 2.5 )

Other techniques involved indirect percussion, which sometimes involved two artisans to prepare, bipolar reduction, to which an anvil stone and a hammerstone would be needed, as well as many other techniques to continue refining and creating stone tools.

Stone tool use in the Americas continued until the first contact with the Spanish, to which the Aztecs used obsidian Atlatls and wooden swords lined with obsidian blades known as the Macuahuitl against them during the post-classic period in 1521. Even after colonization, many Mesoamerican groups used stone tools for farming and household uses well into the late 17th century.

The history of stone tools is closely tied to the development of human cognition, society, and culture. These were one of many adaptations our species developed to survive in an unforgiving paleo world.

Currently, there is a push to continue the study of lithics in the hope of furthering the understanding of prehistoric cognition. Hopefully, between what has been witnessed with tool using chimps and a long history of hominin's using tools , researchers may someday uncover what specifically shaped our ancient origins.

The Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages

Early human history can be divided into three ages: stone, bronze, and iron. Note that the dating of these ages is very approximate.

Timeline of the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages
ca. 2,500,000 BC-present
1 2 3 4 5 6
1 2 3 4 5 6
Lower Paleolithic
ca. 2,500,000-200,000 BC
Middle Paleolithic
ca. 200,000-50,000 BC
Upper Paleolithic
ca. 50,000-10,000 BC
ca. 10,000-3000 BC
Bronze Age
ca. 3000-1000 BC
Iron Age
ca. 1000 BC-present

Prehistoric Climate

Throughout its history, the Earth has cycled between cold glacial periods (during which large masses of ice, known as glaciers, cover much of the world's land area) and warm interglacial periods (which lack widespread glaciers). Humans have lived through many such cycles, which take place over thousands of years. While glacial periods made survival more difficult, they also lowered the sea level, easing human colonization of the world. We currently live in an interglacial period, which began ca. 10,000 BC.

Pre-human Evolution

About 14 billion years ago, the Big Bang gave birth to a universe containing pockets of dust. About 4.5 billion years ago, our solar system (the sun and its planets) formed via the accretion of dust into spheres Earth is therefore roughly 4.5 billion years old. Life began about 3.5 billion years ago, with the appearance of single-celled marine organisms since then, evolution has continuously given rise to new forms of life. 53,54,55

Eventually, multicellular organisms developed. Increasingly large and complex types of multicellular life emerged, with one branch of evolution leading to fish. Fish are the original vertebrates (animals with a backbone) and the ancestors of all other vertebrate groups.

The Five Major Groups of Vertebrates
tetrapod blood reproduction
fish no cold aquatic eggs
amphibians yes
reptiles hard-shelled eggs
birds warm
mammals live birth

Vertebrates made the transition to land-based life when fish evolved into amphibians: cold-blooded tetrapods that lay aquatic eggs. The term cold-blooded denotes that a creature's internal temperature is determined by its environment (in contrast to warm-blooded creatures, whose bodies maintain an internal temperature independent of their environment). A tetrapod is a creature with four limbs a limb is a jointed appendage that extends from an animal's body. An aquatic egg is laid in water, and thus lacks a hard shell.

Amphibians evolved into reptiles, which lay hard-shelled eggs. Consequently, reptiles were the first vertebrates that could live their entire lives on dry land. The final two major vertebrate groups, birds and mammals, evolved from reptiles.

Some mammals came to abandon a ground-based life, evolving to swing among the trees. This lifestyle encouraged the development of hands with dextrous fingers and opposable thumbs (for grasping branches), as well as sharp colour eyesight (for navigating the complex, multicoloured, shadowy environment of the forest). A3 Sub-Saharan Africa was one region where tree-dwelling mammals thrived.

One day, a species of Sub-Saharan tree-dwelling mammal returned to a ground-based life, leaving the forests behind for open grassland. This animal subsequently evolved to walk upright (rather than on all fours), allowing it to see much farther across the plains. (Animals that walk upright are referred to as bipedal.) When these bipedal mammals started to develop larger brains, they evolved into a remarkable new creature: human.

550,000 to 750,000 Years Ago: The Beginning of the Homo sapiens Lineage

A facial reconstruction of Homo heidelbergensis, a popular candidate as a common ancestor for modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans (John Gurche)

Genes, rather than fossils, can help us chart the migrations, movements and evolution of our own species—and those we descended from or interbred with over the ages.

The oldest-recovered DNA of an early human relative comes from Sima de los Huesos, the “Pit of Bones.” At the bottom of a cave in Spain’s Atapuerca Mountains scientists found thousands of teeth and bones from 28 different individuals who somehow ended up collected en masse. In 2016, scientists painstakingly teased out the partial genome from these 430,000-year-old remains to reveal that the humans in the pit are the oldest known Neanderthals, our very successful and most familiar close relatives. Scientists used the molecular clock to estimate how long it took to accumulate the differences between this oldest Neanderthal genome and that of modern humans, and the researchers suggest that a common ancestor lived sometime between 550,000 and 750,000 years ago.

Pinpoint dating isn't the strength of genetic analyses, as the 200,000-year margin of error shows. “In general, estimating ages with genetics is imprecise,” says Joshua Akey, who studies evolution of the human genome at Princeton University. “Genetics is really good at telling us qualitative things about the order of events, and relative time frames.” Before genetics, these divergence dates were estimated by the oldest fossils of various lineages scientists found. In the case of H. sapiens, known remains only date back some 300,000 years, so gene studies have located the divergence far more accurately on our evolutionary timeline than bones alone ever could.

Though our genes clearly show that modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans—a mysterious hominin species that left behind substantial traces in our DNA but, so far, only a handful of tooth and bone remains—do share a common ancestor, it’s not apparent who it was. Homo heidelbergensis, a species that existed from 200,000 to 700,000 years ago, is a popular candidate. It appears that the African family tree of this species leads to Homo sapiens while a European branch leads to Homo neanderthalensis and the Denisovans.

More ancient DNA could help provide a clearer picture, but finding it is no sure bet. Unfortunately, the cold, dry and stable conditions best for long-term preservation aren’t common in Africa, and few ancient African human genomes have been sequenced that are older than 10,000 years.

“We currently have no ancient DNA from Africa that even comes near the timeframes of our evolution—a process that is likely to have largely taken place between 800,000 and 300,000 years ago,” says Eleanor Scerri, an archaeological scientist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany.

Our hominid ancestors made and used tools

William & Mary archaeologist Neil Norman discusses a set of almost unbelievably ancient stone tools that he brought back from a site on the horn of Africa. Credit: Stephen Salpukas

Neil Norman found the tools when he and Bruce Larson were walking down the local wadi, a usually dry watercourse that hadn't moved much in a long, long time.

Seasonal rains would flood the stream, drowning animals and washing them downstream, creating what Norman calls "a buffet of rancid carrion." Scavengers converged on the wadi, butchering the drowned animals with stone tools they constructed on the spot.

Norman found two of those tools on that one short walk, likely near where they were dropped by their makers as long as two and a half million years ago. The individuals who made and used those tools were hominids, primate ancestors of modern humans. Back in his lab at William & Mary, Norman holds up one of the artifacts he brought back from Africa.

"This is what is known as an Oldowan chopper. You can see that it is very crude," he explained. "The toolmaker selected a river-rounded cobble and hit it with another rock around 14 times to make a cutting tool. Feel the sharpness of the edge!"

The edge is nowhere near razor-sharp, but it is keen enough to make you handle it carefully. The worked piece of stone is astoundingly businesslike, considering how long the chopper was lying around what now is the nation of Djibouti, on the horn of Africa.

They're old … but how old?

And there is some question about exactly how old the tools actually are. Norman identifies the two oldest pieces, both choppers, as Oldowan—up to 2.5 million years old. Larson doesn't challenge Norman's identification. In fact, he says he hopes the choppers could be proved to be Oldowan, but he waits for further research to bear out Norman's interpretation.

Norman and Larson were working an area on a U.S. military institution in Djibouti. Norman is an associate professor of anthropology at William & Mary. Larson, a 2003 M.A. graduate of the department, is an anthropologist working with the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

Larson explained that his job is to make sure that construction at military installations doesn't destroy any material that might be important to a nation's culture, history and people.

"Whenever the Navy does any kind of work on shore installations, stateside or outside the continental United States, I have been charged with making sure that we take into account historic resources, both above and below ground," he said.

Larson had been working the installation for 12 years. As the base was formulating plans for expansion, he went out to do a pedestrian survey of the site of the expansion. By walking the grounds, Larson was able to get a good idea of the richness of the site.

His pedestrian survey prompted Larson to invite Norman and two Ph.D. students in anthropology, Maddy Gunter and Hayden Bassett, to Djibouti to do more extensive archaeological work in the area slated for expansion. A faculty fellowship from William & Mary's Reves Center for International Studies allowed Norman and the grad students to make the trip and to bring home some of the oldest tools in the world.

It's the context of the discovery that makes dating these artifacts so challenging. Carbon dating doesn't work on rock, so the age of stone artifacts has to be determined from the age of items in the matrix in which it was found. A home run, Norman explained, would be to find the tools in the company of fossils.

"If I found these with hominid fossils, they would be in The New York Times the next day," Norman said. He added that very few museums worldwide have such tools in their collections, most display resin models of famous finds. If Norman's choppers are indeed Oldowan, they're among the oldest manufactured items known.

"There are no stone tools that we know of that are older than Oldowan tools," Norman said. "There is some speculation that wood might have been used before that, or bone. But those things don't survive in the archaeological record."

Archaeologists use the term "provenience" to describe the circumstances of an artifact's location and situation at discovery. The choppers that Norman found had plusses and minuses in the provenience category. On the plus side, the choppers were found in a region rich in prehuman discoveries —just 700 miles from where the famous australopithecine Lucy was found.

On the minus side, Norman picked the choppers up right from the surface of the ground. The site was savannah long, long ago, but now is a rocky desert. The archaeologists found the top of the stony literally littered with artifacts representing the entire time span of humanity and pre-humanity. Larson said the richness of the site's surface becomes especially apparent following one of the rain showers that washed the dust off. Norman, Gunter and Bassett discovered the site's richness straightaway.

"Immediately we started finding artifacts that dated from a million years ago, all the way up to the present," Norman said. "There were Neolithic stone structures, where people would live around 6 to 8,000 years ago. There are pharaonic materials this area had a trading relationship with the pharaohs in Egypt. There are amphorae from the Mediterranean world. This really was the crossroads of the world for quite some time."

Imagine a mini-Pittsburgh

This area of the installation, the part that's richest in artifacts, is characterized by two watercourses merging into a third larger one, "something like a mini-Pittsburgh," Larson says. During the millennia that the area was savanna, the wadis had more water and made Little Pittsburgh prime real estate for human and hominid alike.

Norman returned to William & Mary with a number of stone tools representing various ages. In addition to the choppers, he found two Achulean hand axes, which were made 100,000 to a million years ago. He also brought back an awl and a scraper, each 500,000 to a million years old.

In the absence of fossils or other dateable matrix associated with the tools, Norman and other archaeologists have to rely on the style of manufacture to assign a tentative age to each piece, much as an appraiser does when confronted by an unprovenanced attic find on the Antiques Road Show.

"If you pull a pair of jeans from a drawer, and they have bell bottoms and a high waist, you start thinking about the Seventies," he explained.

Norman explained that the tools were made on the spot, as needed. Over the millennia, tools show advancements in quality. Tool manufacture is a learned skill and archaeologists believe these choppers and hand axes are tangible evidence of the first glimmerings of a culture.

The hominids that made and used these tools were not thinking about culture. Norman says the tools gave our remote ancestors distinct advantages over their non-primate competitors in the nasty, brutish and short existence that was daily life eons ago. He picked up one of the choppers again to demonstrate.

Norman found other ancient tools, including two Achulean hand axes, an awl and a scraper, whose ages vary from 100,000 to a million years old. Credit: Stephen Salpukas

"One of the parts of the animal that we can exploit—and that most others couldn't—is the marrow, what's inside the long bones," he said. "It's difficult, even for lions."

Norman is holding the tools in trust for the government of Djibouti. The artifacts will be returned to Djibouti, but first Norman will run some tests, notably microscopic examination of the wear pattern on the edges.

Such laboratory tests can provide insights on what the tools were used on, but are of little use in identifying the species of prehuman that used them. Not all species in the brushy evolutionary tree of hominids used tools. For instance, Norman notes that Lucy was probably not a tool user her species, Australopithecus afarensis, predates the Oldowan-era tool-using hominids.

"Once you get into the Homo line, you are talking about people—well, individuals, let's say—who are physically and genetically much closer to us than are australopithecenes," he said.

Norman added that the appearance of Homo habilis—the hominid who knew how to make tools—is widely regarded as one of the real watershed moments in human evolution as well as stone tool use.

"Quite possibly, those are the individuals who made these tools," he said. "There's some debate about that."

Larson says he isn't ready to identify the tools with Homo habilis, offering a few other hominid species as alternative candidates. He also offers a migration theory, an explanation of how the tools—and the toolmakers—came to Little Pittsburgh near the military installation.

He said he believes the tool-makers were part of a group that made their way from the savannas of interior Africa along arms of the Great Rift Valley, cracks in the earth created by recent geologic forces leading out of what is now Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya.

"These early hominids are coming right along these landforms," Larson explained. They're going into these fissures, cracks and whatnot that are created through volcanism and tectonics as the Horn of Africa is cracking apart. They're following it all the way out, They're just following food."

A long, slow journey to the gulf

The food, he said, was associated with the rivers, which led the migrant hominids on a long, slow journey through Little Pittsburgh and eventually to a bay on the Gulf of Aden where they could regale upon shellfish at low tide. Their trail follows the watercourses, now often-dry wadis, and is marked in places by the tools they made as needed, then dropped.

Little Pittsburgh was popular real estate for a long time, as made evident by the timeline of artifacts found on the scene. Norman says they found the remains of a stone-age workshop that probably dates to 30- to 40,000 years ago, in the early days of behavioral modernity among modern humans.

"Someone had sat cross-legged near a hearth and made a stone tool," he said. "And all the flakes from that tool were right there. It is really humbling to be surrounded by the residue of intelligent life, material that vastly predates the oldest artifacts in North America."

Terms and Concepts

  • DNA
  • Mutation
  • Marker
  • Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP)
  • Short Tandem Repeat (STR)
  • Haplogroup
  • Polymorphism
  • Common ancestor


  • What is a polymorphism?
  • How are different haplogroups defined?
  • Which members of your family share the same mitochondrial DNA? Include your aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
  • Which members of your family share the same Y-chromosomal DNA? Include your aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
  • After learning about haplogroups and taking in to account what you know about your family history, can you predict which haplogroup you will most likely belong to?


'For example, geneticists have concluded that areas of the human genome were closed off to enable a fat-rich diet, while in chimpanzees, areas of the genome were opened to enable a sugar-rich diet.'

Evidence from human biology was supplemented by archaeological evidence, allowing the Israeli team to pain a broader picture of stone age diets.

For instance, research on stable isotopes in the bones of prehistoric humans, as well as hunting practices unique to humans, show that humans specialised in hunting large and medium-sized animals with high fat content.

The team then compared humans to large social predators of today, who hunt large animals and obtain 70 per cent of their energy from animal sources.

This reinforced the conclusion that humans specialised in hunting large animals and were in fact 'hypercarnivores' - that is a creature with at least 70% of their diet made up of meat or animal products.

Evidence from human biology was supplemented by archaeological evidence, allowing the Israeli team to pain a broader picture of stone age diets. Stock image

This change continued until finally our earliest ancestors had no choice but to domesticate both plants and animals - and became farmers, the Israeli team said


The timeline of human evolution can be traced back millions of years. Experts estimate that the family tree goes as such:

55 million years ago - First primitive primates evolve

15 million years ago - Hominidae (great apes) evolve from the ancestors of the gibbon

7 million years ago - First gorillas evolve. Later, chimp and human lineages diverge

5.5 million years ago - Ardipithecus, early 'proto-human' shares traits with chimps and gorillas

4 million years ago - Ape like early humans, the Australopithecines appeared. They had brains no larger than a chimpanzee's but other more human like features

3.9-2.9 million years ago - Australoipithecus afarensis lived in Africa.

2.7 million years ago - Paranthropus, lived in woods and had massive jaws for chewing

2.6 million years ago - Hand axes become the first major technological innovation

2.3 million years ago - Homo habilis first thought to have appeared in Africa

1.85 million years ago - First 'modern' hand emerges

1.8 million years ago - Homo ergaster begins to appear in fossil record

800,000 years ago - Early humans control fire and create hearths. Brain size increases rapidly

400,000 years ag o - Neanderthals first begin to appear and spread across Europe and Asia

300,000 to 200,000 years ago - Homo sapiens - modern humans - appear in Africa

50,000 to 40,000 years ago - Modern humans reach Europe

'Hunting large animals is not an afternoon hobby,' says Ben-Dor. 'It requires a great deal of knowledge, and lions and hyenas attain these abilities after long years of learning.'

'Clearly, the remains of large animals found in countless archaeological sites are the result of humans' high expertise as hunters of large animals,' he added.

Many researchers who study the extinction of the large animals agree that hunting by humans played a major role in this extinction - and there is no better proof of humans' specialisation in hunting large animals.

'Most probably, like in current-day predators, hunting itself was a focal human activity throughout most of human evolution,' Ben-Dor said.

'Other archaeological evidence - like the fact that specialised tools for obtaining and processing vegetable foods only appeared in the later stages of human evolution - also supports the centrality of large animals in the human diet.'

The team spent the best part of a decade on the project to explore ancient human diets and better understand human evolution.

It allowed them to propose a paradigm shift in the understanding of how our species came to be the most dominant predator on planet Earth.

Before this it was largely thought that humans owed their evolution and survival to their dietary flexibility, combining hunting with vegetables and foraging.

However, the new study reveals hat the true picture is one of humans evolving mostly as predators of large animals.

'Archaeological evidence does not overlook the fact that stone-age humans also consumed plants,' adds Dr. Ben-Dor.

'But according to the findings of this study plants only became a major component of the human diet toward the end of the era.'

The team determined that the gradual increase in plant consumption happened around 85,000 years ago in Africa and 40,000 years ago in Europe and Asia.

They used genetic changes in humans and the appearance of unique stone tools for processing plants to make this conclusion.

This rise was accompanied by an increase in the local uniqueness of the stone tool culture, which is similar to the diversity of material cultures in 20th-century hunter-gatherer societies.

In contrast, during the two million years when, according to the researchers, humans were apex predators, long periods of similarity and continuity were observed in stone tools, regardless of local ecological conditions.

They discovered that humans were an apex predator for about two million years and it was only the extinction of larger animals that changed their diets. Stock image

'Our study addresses a very great current controversy - both scientific and non-scientific,' said professor Ran Barkai.

'For many people today, the Paleolithic diet is a critical issue, not only with regard to the past, but also concerning the present and future.

'It is hard to convince a devout vegetarian that his/her ancestors were not vegetarians, and people tend to confuse personal beliefs with scientific reality.

'As Darwin discovered, the adaptation of species to obtaining and digesting their food is the main source of evolutionary changes, and thus the claim that humans were apex predators throughout most of their development may provide a broad basis for fundamental insights on the biological and cultural evolution of humans.'

The findings have been published in the journal American Journal of Physical Anthropology.


The Stone Age is a period in human prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone tools that covers more than 95 per cent of human technological prehistory.

It begins with the earliest known use of stone tools by hominins, ancient ancestors to humans, during the Old Stone Age - beginning around 3.3 million years ago.

Between roughly 400,000 and 200,000 years ago, the pace of innovation in stone technology began to accelerate very slightly, a period known as the Middle Stone Age.

By the beginning of this time, handaxes were made with exquisite craftsmanship. This eventually gave way to smaller, more diverse toolkits, with an emphasis on flake tools rather than larger core tools.

The Stone Age is a period in human prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone tools that covers more than 95 per cent of human technological prehistory. This image shows neolithic jadeitite axes from the Museum of Toulouse

These toolkits were established by at least 285,000 years in some parts of Africa, and by 250,000 to 200,000 years in Europe and parts of western Asia. These toolkits last until at least 50,000 to 28,000 years ago.

During the Later Stone Age the pace of innovations rose and the level of craftsmanship increased.

Groups of Homo sapiens experimented with diverse raw materials, including bone, ivory, and antler, as well as stone.

The period, between 50,000 and 39,000 years ago, is also associated with the advent of modern human behaviour in Africa.

Different groups sought their own distinct cultural identity and adopted their own ways of making things.

Later Stone Age peoples and their technologies spread out of Africa over the next several thousand years.

The Debut of the Bidet (Late 1700s)

Does using a bidet constitute a form of wiping? Wiping scholars have debated this quandary for decades. Regardless, it’s an integral part of anal hygiene history, so we felt obliged to include it in the timeline.

The bidet appears to be of French origin however, the earliest written reference to the bidet was in 1726 in Italy. Contrary to popular belief, bidets were originally a bedroom apparatus until plumbing improvements in the 20th century prompted people to move them into their bathrooms.

The Music Of Classical Antiquity And Beyond

This section will be taking a brief glance at the music of classic antiquity, looking at Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece. Then we’ll continue on to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Ancient Greece And Ancient Rome

As society began to form into something more like the society we know today, so did the importance of social gatherings revolving around feasting and drinking. Music and other forms of entertainment, such as dancing, accompanied these feasts.

The Classical Antiquity, and even Ancient Greece and Rome are such wide spanning eras. To talk about them and their music thoroughly would warrant an epic novel.

For the purposes of this short exploration of the music of this era and how it connects to the wider picture, we will just be taking a quick glance at the era.

Ancient Romans were known for their love of extravagance. Wining and dining practically started there (not a fact, so don’t quote us on that!).

Ancient Roman celebrations could last days, with lots of entertainment to go along with the food.

In fact, Roman Banquets were described as a feast for the senses.

Of course, food and drink were important but the entertainment factor was designed to really wow the guests. There were often musical performances that involved instruments.

The flute, as we know, was one of the earliest instruments, so it featured heavily. They also used other instruments such as the lyre and water organ. In terms of singing, they often had choirs and choral pieces.

Some more wealthy people may have hired cooks who could sing as well as serve and cook the food.

In Ancient Greece, the passion for music as an accompaniment to food was just as important. The Greeks were known for lavish celebrations too, making use of the same kinds of instruments as the Ancient Romans.

The lyre often accompanied Greek lyrical poetry and was performed at feasts. They also used the harp and sistrum. Ancient Greeks honored gods and goddesses, associating many of them with music.

Pan was often portrayed with panpipes, and Apollo was thought to represent music and harmony.

The Greeks sand many types of songs, like hymns to honor the gods and goddesses or dithyrambs for celebrations and in honor of Dionysus (the god associated with wine and celebrations).

The Ancient Greeks and Romans both set the ball in motion with their shared love of dinner entertainment, solidifying forever the need for dinner party music and the importance of being entertained.

Both of the cultures also enjoyed theater performances, leading the way for the musicals and plays of today.

Music In The Middle Ages And The Renaissance

Music through the Middle Ages progressed quickly. The instruments used in the Ancient Greek and Roman eras were also used in the Middle Ages. Plus many more.

Many of them closely resemble instruments we still have today. There were lutes, flutes, lyres, harps, and even early guitar-like instruments such as the mandore and citole.

The genres of music largely revolved around religion. Gregorian chants by monks were commonplace, developing from monophonic chants to polyphonic chants with harmonies and instruments.

Another popular genre was liturgical drama and plainchants. This was a type of Gregorian chant. These were sung in polyphonic style. The best example we have of this is the Winchester Troper which is a manuscript of tropes used at Winchester Cathedral.

This was a way of singing that was popular in England during this time.

The Middle Ages also saw the rise of troubadours who sang about courtly love, women, chivalry, and war. They would sing solo, often with an instrument to accompany them.

They were a common feature in the area we now know as the Mediterranean, especially in Monaco, Provence, Italy, and Spain. Another similar type of singer was the trouveres, although these tended to be noblemen who sang poetry and were more well-received.

They were common in the North of France.

It is clear that the music of this period had a lasting effect, influencing many 21st century composers such as John Luther Adams and Steve Reich.

This focus on religious chant-like music, as well as the singing troubadours, was developed upon as the world entered the period we know as the Renaissance.

Again, to talk about this period fully, we would like to dedicate a whole novel. But we don’t have the space for that here.

Suffice to say that the Renaissance period was hugely influential, seeing the invention of various instruments and styles of music and singing.

Some of the instruments used in this era, especially as the Renaissance was ending, are still used today. There were early forms of the trumpet, the creation of the tambourine, violas, the triangle, and organs galore.

Music was becoming less about religious and communal expression (although these, especially the former, were still extremely important) and a means to worship.

It was becoming something far more personal. People could use it as a way of expressing their emotions, much like we do today.


A tabular overview of the taxonomic ranking of Homo sapiens (with age estimates for each rank) is shown below.

Rank Name Common name Millions of years ago (commencement)
Life 4,200
Archaea 3,700
Domain Eukaryota Eukaryotes 2,100
Podiata Excludes Plants and their relatives 1,540
Obazoa Excludes Amoebozoa (Amoebas)
Opisthokonts Holozoa + Holomycota (Cristidicoidea and Fungi) 1,300
Holozoa Excludes Holomycota 1,100
Filozoa Choanozoa + Filasterea
Choanozoa Choanoflagellates + Animals 900
Kingdom Animalia Animals 610
Subkingdom Eumetazoa Excludes Porifera (Sponges)
Parahoxozoa Excludes Ctenophora (Comb Jellies)
Bilateria Triploblasts / Worms 560
Deuterostomes Division from Protostomes
Phylum Chordata Chordates (Vertebrates and closely related invertebrates) 530
Olfactores Excludes cephalochordates (Lancelets)
Subphylum Vertebrata Fish / Vertebrates 505
Infraphylum Gnathostomata Jawed fish 460
Teleostomi Bony fish 420
Sarcopterygii Lobe finned fish
Superclass Tetrapoda Tetrapods (animals with four limbs) 395
Amniota Amniotes (fully terrestrial tetrapods whose eggs are "equipped with an amnion") 340
Synapsida Proto-Mammals 308
Therapsid Limbs beneath the body and other mammalian traits 280
Class Mammalia Mammals 220
Subclass Theria Mammals that give birth to live young (i.e., non-egg-laying) 160
Infraclass Eutheria Placental mammals (i.e., non-marsupials) 125
Magnorder Boreoeutheria Supraprimates, (most) hoofed mammals, (most) carnivorous mammals, whales, and bats 124–101
Superorder Euarchontoglires Supraprimates: primates, colugos, tree shrews, rodents, and rabbits 100
Grandorder Euarchonta Primates, colugos, and tree shrews 99–80
Mirorder Primatomorpha Primates and colugos 79.6
Order Primates Primates / Plesiadapiformes 66
Suborder Haplorrhini "Dry-nosed" (literally, "simple-nosed") primates: tarsiers and monkeys (incl. apes) 63
Infraorder Simiiformes monkeys (incl. apes) 40
Parvorder Catarrhini "Downward-nosed" primates: apes and old-world monkeys 30
Superfamily Hominoidea Apes: great apes and lesser apes (gibbons) 22-20
Family Hominidae Great apes: humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans—the hominids 20–15
Subfamily Homininae Humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas (the African apes) [1] 14–12
Tribe Hominini Includes both Homo, Pan (chimpanzees), but not Gorilla. 10–8
Subtribe Hominina Genus Homo and close human relatives and ancestors after splitting from Pan—the hominins 8–4 [2]
(Genus) Ardipithecus s.l. 6-4
(Genus) Australopithecus 3
Genus Homo (H. habilis) Humans 2.5
(Species) H. erectus s.l.
(Species) H. heidelbergensis s.l.
Species Homo sapiens s.s. Anatomically modern humans 0.8–0.3 [3]

Unicellular life Edit

The choanoflagellates may look similar to the ancestors of the entire animal kingdom, and in particular they may be the ancestors of sponges. [5] [6]

Proterospongia (members of the Choanoflagellata) are the best living examples of what the ancestor of all animals may have looked like. They live in colonies, and show a primitive level of cellular specialization for different tasks.

Animals or Animalia Edit

Urmetazoan: The first fossils that might represent animals appear in the 665-million-year-old rocks of the Trezona Formation of South Australia. These fossils are interpreted as being early sponges. [7] Separation from the Porifera (sponges) lineage. Eumetazoa/Diploblast: separation from the Ctenophora ("comb jellies") lineage. Planulozoa/ParaHoxozoa: separation from the Placozoa and Cnidaria lineages. Almost all cnidarians possess nerves and muscles. Because they are the simplest animals to possess them, their ancestors were very probably the first animals to use nerves and muscles together. Cnidarians are also the first animals with an actual body of definite form and shape. They have radial symmetry. The first eyes evolved at this time.

Urbilaterian: Bilateria/Triploblasts, Nephrozoa (555 Ma), last common ancestor of protostomes (including the arthropod [insect, crustacean] and platyzoan [flatworms] lineages) and the deuterostomes (including the vertebrate [human] lineage). Earliest development of the brain, and of bilateral symmetry. Archaic representatives of this stage are flatworms, the simplest animals with organs that form from three germ layers.

Most known animal phyla appeared in the fossil record as marine species during the Cambrian explosion. Deuterostomes, last common ancestor of the chordate [human] lineage, the Echinodermata (starfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, etc.) and Hemichordata (acorn worms and graptolites).

An archaic survivor from this stage is the acorn worm, sporting a circulatory system with a heart that also functions as a kidney. Acorn worms have a gill-like structure used for breathing, a structure similar to that of primitive fish. Acorn worms have a plexus concentrated into both dorsal and ventral nerve cords. The dorsal cord reaches into the proboscis, and is partially separated from the epidermis in that region. This part of the dorsal nerve cord is often hollow, and may well be homologous with the brain of vertebrates. [8]

Chordates Edit

The lancelet, still living today, retains some characteristics of the primitive chordates. It resembles Pikaia.

The first vertebrates appear: the ostracoderms, jawless fish related to present-day lampreys and hagfishes. Haikouichthys and Myllokunmingia are examples of these jawless fish, or Agnatha. (See also prehistoric fish). They were jawless and their internal skeletons were cartilaginous. They lacked the paired (pectoral and pelvic) fins of more advanced fish. They were precursors to the Osteichthyes (bony fish). [13]

The Placodermi were prehistoric fishes. Placoderms were some of the first jawed fishes (Gnathostomata), their jaws evolving from the first gill arch. [14] A placoderm's head and thorax were covered by articulated armoured plates and the rest of the body was scaled or naked. However, the fossil record indicates that they left no descendants after the end of the Devonian and are less closely related to living bony fishes than sharks are. [ citation needed ]

Tetrapods Edit

Some fresh water lobe-finned fish (Sarcopterygii) develop legs and give rise to the Tetrapoda.

The first tetrapods evolved in shallow and swampy freshwater habitats.

Primitive tetrapods developed from a lobe-finned fish (an "osteolepid Sarcopterygian"), with a two-lobed brain in a flattened skull, a wide mouth and a short snout, whose upward-facing eyes show that it was a bottom-dweller, and which had already developed adaptations of fins with fleshy bases and bones. (The "living fossil" coelacanth is a related lobe-finned fish without these shallow-water adaptations.) Tetrapod fishes used their fins as paddles in shallow-water habitats choked with plants and detritus. The universal tetrapod characteristics of front limbs that bend backward at the elbow and hind limbs that bend forward at the knee can plausibly be traced to early tetrapods living in shallow water. [16]

Panderichthys is a 90–130 cm (35–50 in) long fish from the Late Devonian period (380 Mya). It has a large tetrapod-like head. Panderichthys exhibits features transitional between lobe-finned fishes and early tetrapods.

Trackway impressions made by something that resembles Ichthyostega's limbs were formed 390 Ma in Polish marine tidal sediments. This suggests tetrapod evolution is older than the dated fossils of Panderichthys through to Ichthyostega.

Lungfishes retain some characteristics of the early Tetrapoda. One example is the Queensland lungfish.

Tiktaalik is a genus of sarcopterygian (lobe-finned) fishes from the late Devonian with many tetrapod-like features. It shows a clear link between Panderichthys and Acanthostega.

Acanthostega is an extinct amphibian, among the first animals to have recognizable limbs. It is a candidate for being one of the first vertebrates to be capable of coming onto land. It lacked wrists, and was generally poorly adapted for life on land. The limbs could not support the animal's weight. Acanthostega had both lungs and gills, also indicating it was a link between lobe-finned fish and terrestrial vertebrates.

Ichthyostega is an early tetrapod. Being one of the first animals with legs, arms, and finger bones, Ichthyostega is seen as a hybrid between a fish and an amphibian. Ichthyostega had legs but its limbs probably were not used for walking. They may have spent very brief periods out of water and would have used their legs to paw their way through the mud. [17]

Amphibia were the first four-legged animals to develop lungs which may have evolved from Hynerpeton 360 Mya.

Amphibians living today still retain many characteristics of the early tetrapods.

From amphibians came the first reptiles: Hylonomus is the earliest known reptile. It was 20 cm (8 in) long (including the tail) and probably would have looked rather similar to modern lizards. It had small sharp teeth and probably ate millipedes and early insects. It is a precursor of later Amniotes and mammal-like reptiles. Αlpha keratin first evolves here. It is used in the claws of modern lizards and birds, and hair in mammals. [18]

Evolution of the amniotic egg gives rise to the Amniota, reptiles that can reproduce on land and lay eggs on dry land. They did not need to return to water for reproduction. This adaptation gave them the capability to inhabit the uplands for the first time.

Reptiles have advanced nervous systems, compared to amphibians, with twelve pairs of cranial nerves.

Mammals Edit

The earliest mammal-like reptiles are the pelycosaurs. The pelycosaurs were the first animals to have temporal fenestrae. Pelycosaurs are not therapsids but soon they gave rise to them. The Therapsida were the ancestor of mammals.

The therapsids have temporal fenestrae larger and more mammal-like than pelycosaurs, their teeth show more serial differentiation, and later forms had evolved a secondary palate. A secondary palate enables the animal to eat and breathe at the same time and is a sign of a more active, perhaps warm-blooded, way of life. [19]

One subgroup of therapsids, the cynodonts, evolved more mammal-like characteristics.

The jaws of cynodonts resemble modern mammal jaws. This group of animals likely contains a species which is the ancestor of all modern mammals. [20]

From Eucynodontia (cynodonts) came the first mammals. Most early mammals were small shrew-like animals that fed on insects. Although there is no evidence in the fossil record, it is likely that these animals had a constant body temperature and milk glands for their young. The neocortex region of the brain first evolved in mammals and thus is unique to them.

Monotremes are an egg-laying group of mammals represented amongst modern animals by the platypus and echidna. Recent genome sequencing of the platypus indicates that its sex genes are closer to those of birds than to those of the therian (live birthing) mammals. Comparing this to other mammals, it can be inferred that the first mammals to gain sexual differentiation through the existence or lack of SRY gene (found in the y-Chromosome) evolved after the monotreme lineage split off.

Juramaia sinensis [21] is the earliest known eutherian mammal fossil.

Primates Edit

A group of small, nocturnal, arboreal, insect-eating mammals called Euarchonta begins a speciation that will lead to the orders of primates, treeshrews and flying lemurs. Primatomorpha is a subdivision of Euarchonta including primates and their ancestral stem-primates Plesiadapiformes. An early stem-primate, Plesiadapis, still had claws and eyes on the side of the head, making it faster on the ground than in the trees, but it began to spend long times on lower branches, feeding on fruits and leaves.

The Plesiadapiformes very likely contain the ancestor species of all primates. [22] They first appeared in the fossil record around 66 million years ago, soon after the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event that eliminated about three-quarters of plant and animal species on Earth, including most dinosaurs. [23] [24]

One of the last Plesiadapiformes is Carpolestes simpsoni, having grasping digits but not forward-facing eyes.

Haplorrhini splits into infraorders Platyrrhini and Catarrhini. Platyrrhines, New World monkeys, have prehensile tails and males are color blind. The individuals whose descendants would become Platyrrhini are conjectured to have migrated to South America either on a raft of vegetation or via a land bridge (the hypothesis now favored [25] ). Catarrhines mostly stayed in Africa as the two continents drifted apart. Possible early ancestors of catarrhines include Aegyptopithecus and Saadanius.

Catarrhini splits into 2 superfamilies, Old World monkeys (Cercopithecoidea) and apes (Hominoidea). Human trichromatic color vision had its genetic origins in this period.

Proconsul was an early genus of catarrhine primates. They had a mixture of Old World monkey and ape characteristics. Proconsul's monkey-like features include thin tooth enamel, a light build with a narrow chest and short forelimbs, and an arboreal quadrupedal lifestyle. Its ape-like features are its lack of a tail, ape-like elbows, and a slightly larger brain relative to body size.

Proconsul africanus is a possible ancestor of both great and lesser apes, including humans.

Hominidae Edit

Date Event
18 Ma Hominidae (great ape ancestors) speciate from the ancestors of the gibbon (lesser apes) between c. 20 to 16 Ma. [26]
16 Ma Homininae ancestors speciate from the ancestors of the orangutan between c. 18 to 14 Ma. [27]

Pierolapithecus catalaunicus is thought to be a common ancestor of humans and the other great apes, or at least a species that brings us closer to a common ancestor than any previous fossil discovery. It had the special adaptations for tree climbing as do present-day humans and other great apes: a wide, flat rib cage, a stiff lower spine, flexible wrists, and shoulder blades that lie along its back.

Hominini: The latest common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees is estimated to have lived between roughly 10 to 5 million years ago. Both chimpanzees and humans have a larynx that repositions during the first two years of life to a spot between the pharynx and the lungs, indicating that the common ancestors have this feature, a precondition for vocalized speech in humans. Speciation may have begun shortly after 10 Ma, but late admixture between the lineages may have taken place until after 5 Ma. Candidates of Hominina or Homininae species which lived in this time period include Ouranopithecus (c. 8 Ma), Graecopithecus (c. 7 Ma), Sahelanthropus tchadensis (c. 7 Ma), Orrorin tugenensis (c. 6 Ma).

Ardipithecus was arboreal, meaning it lived largely in the forest where it competed with other forest animals for food, no doubt including the contemporary ancestor of the chimpanzees. Ardipithecus was probably bipedal as evidenced by its bowl shaped pelvis, the angle of its foramen magnum and its thinner wrist bones, though its feet were still adapted for grasping rather than walking for long distances.

A member of the Australopithecus afarensis left human-like footprints on volcanic ash in Laetoli, northern Tanzania, providing strong evidence of full-time bipedalism. Australopithecus afarensis lived between 3.9 and 2.9 million years ago, and is considered one of the earliest hominins—those species that developed and comprised the lineage of Homo and Homo ' s closest relatives after the split from the line of the chimpanzees.

It is thought that A. afarensis was ancestral to both the genus Australopithecus and the genus Homo. Compared to the modern and extinct great apes, A. afarensis had reduced canines and molars, although they were still relatively larger than in modern humans. A. afarensis also has a relatively small brain size (380–430 cm³) and a prognathic (anterior-projecting) face.

Australopithecines have been found in savannah environments they probably developed their diet to include scavenged meat. Analyses of Australopithecus africanus lower vertebrae suggests that these bones changed in females to support bipedalism even during pregnancy.

Homo homo Edit

Early Homo appears in East Africa, speciating from australopithecine ancestors. Sophisticated stone tools mark the beginning of the Lower Paleolithic. Australopithecus garhi was using stone tools at about 2.5 Ma. Homo habilis is the oldest species given the designation Homo, by Leakey et al. (1964). H. habilis is intermediate between Australopithecus afarensis and H. erectus, and there have been suggestions to re-classify it within genus Australopithecus, as Australopithecus habilis.

Stone tools found at the Shangchen site in China and dated to 2.12 million years ago are considered the earliest known evidence of hominins outside Africa, surpassing Dmanisi in Georgia by 300,000 years. [34]

Homo erectus derives from early Homo or late Australopithecus.

Homo habilis, although significantly different of anatomy and physiology, is thought to be the ancestor of Homo ergaster, or African Homo erectus but it is also known to have coexisted with H. erectus for almost half a million years (until about 1.5 Ma). From its earliest appearance at about 1.9 Ma, H. erectus is distributed in East Africa and Southwest Asia (Homo georgicus). H. erectus is the first known species to develop control of fire, by about 1.5 Ma.

H. erectus later migrates throughout Eurasia, reaching Southeast Asia by 0.7 Ma. It is described in a number of subspecies. [35]

Homo antecessor may be a common ancestor of humans and Neanderthals. [37] [38] At present estimate, humans have approximately 20,000–25,000 genes and share 99% of their DNA with the now extinct Neanderthal [39] and 95–99% of their DNA with their closest living evolutionary relative, the chimpanzees. [40] [41] The human variant of the FOXP2 gene (linked to the control of speech) has been found to be identical in Neanderthals. [42]

Divergence of Neanderthal and Denisovan lineages from a common ancestor. [43] Homo heidelbergensis (in Africa also known as Homo rhodesiensis) had long been thought to be a likely candidate for the last common ancestor of the Neanderthal and modern human lineages. However, genetic evidence from the Sima de los Huesos fossils published in 2016 seems to suggest that H. heidelbergensis in its entirety should be included in the Neanderthal lineage, as "pre-Neanderthal" or "early Neanderthal", while the divergence time between the Neanderthal and modern lineages has been pushed back to before the emergence of H. heidelbergensis, to about 600,000 to 800,000 years ago, the approximate age of Homo antecessor. [44] [45]

Solidified footprints dated to about 350 ka and associated with H. heidelbergensis were found in southern Italy in 2003. [46]

Homo sapiens Edit

Fossils attributed to H. sapiens, along with stone tools, dated to approximately 300,000 years ago, found at Jebel Irhoud, Morocco [47] yield the earliest fossil evidence for anatomically modern Homo sapiens. Modern human presence in East Africa (Gademotta), at 276 kya. [48] A 177,000-year-old jawbone fossil discovered in Israel in 2017 is the oldest human remains found outside Africa. [49] However, in July 2019, anthropologists reported the discovery of 210,000 year old remains of a H. sapiens and 170,000 year old remains of a H. neanderthalensis in Apidima Cave, Peloponnese, Greece, more than 150,000 years older than previous H. sapiens finds in Europe. [50] [51] [52]

Neanderthals emerge from the Homo heidelbergensis lineage at about the same time (300 ka).

Patrilineal and matrilineal most recent common ancestors (MRCAs) of living humans roughly between 200 and 100 ka [53] [54] with some estimates on the patrilineal MRCA somewhat higher, ranging up to 250 to 500 kya. [55]

160,000 years ago, Homo sapiens idaltu in the Awash River Valley (near present-day Herto village, Ethiopia) practiced excarnation. [56]

Modern human presence in Southern Africa and West Africa. [57] Appearance of mitochondrial haplogroup (mt-haplogroup) L2.

Early evidence for behavioral modernity. [58] Appearance of mt-haplogroups M and N. Southern Dispersal migration out of Africa, Proto-Australoid peopling of Oceania. [59] Archaic admixture from Neanderthals in Eurasia, [60] [61] from Denisovans in Oceania with trace amounts in Eastern Eurasia, [62] and from an unspecified African lineage of archaic humans in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as an interbred species of Neanderthals and Denisovans in Asia and Oceania. [63] [64] [65] [66]

Behavioral modernity develops, according to the "great leap forward" theory. [67] Extinction of Homo floresiensis. [68] M168 mutation (carried by all non-African males). Appearance of mt-haplogroups U and K. Peopling of Europe, peopling of the North Asian Mammoth steppe. Paleolithic art. Extinction of Neanderthals and other archaic human variants (with possible survival of hybrid populations in Asia and Africa.) Appearance of Y-Haplogroup R2 mt-haplogroups J and X.

Early Humans Unit

Please use the keynote uploaded onto Schoology called "Week One Task" to fill in the information on the map and make your timeline. Mr. Cory will hand you each an A3 sized map to complete.

Next, we are going to do an activity/project called World Traveler Project. The instructions for the project are located here for C Block and here for D Block. We will work on this project in class.

Class 1: Background

What is Adaptability? Who, What, Why, Where, When, How.

Class 1: The First People

Review- Essential Questions

1. What are 5 important features of a map?

2. How do I used chronology to create a map?

For this section of the unit, we are going to begin by reading and defining a couple key terms and ideas. To start, we will read through a couple pages together in the textbook, pg. 28 to 32. While reading, we will stop to take notes on key terms and ideas.

Once finished, we are going to look specifically at the use and control of fire. Why was this such an important advancement in human history? Lets look at this video. The class will then be split into groups to plan and preform a skit that relates to the discovery of fire!

Homework: For homework, you will upload the graphic organizer at the bottom of this page titled "3 Advances Graphic Organizer". Please complete by choosing the 3 advances you feel at the most important to human history and writing a brief description of each and provide a picture of each a well.

Class 2: Major Anthropological Discoveries- Lucy

Review last Classes terms (prehistory, hominid, ancestor, tool, Paleolithic): Kagan "Find the Fiction"

First we are going to study a keynote, uploaded below called "LucyKeynote.key". We will learn all about Lucy and the importance of her discovery to understanding prehistory.

Who is Lucy? Please read up on who Lucy is.

Answer these questions using the website and my keynote:

4. Did she speak a language?

5. Did she live with other family members?

Then, as a class we are going to re-create lucy's skeleton using her bones! We are going to create her skeleton as well as a modern homo sapiens skeleton to put up and compare sizes in class.

Good site to see how our ancient ancestors have evolved over the years.

Class 3- Stone Age Tools

First, we are going to take about 15 minutes to finish our skeletons and discuss what they tell us about our ancient ancestors. We will compare the size of a modern human and that of Lucy.

Next, the focus of this class is going to be on Stone Age tools. We will review the textbook (pages 31-33) and discuss Stone Age tools. Focus will be on their development, uses and advancement through time.

We will then look at the keynote titled "Stone Age tool making project and language use" and complete the assignment on our Skitch program.

Class 4- Early Human Migration

We will take some time at the beginning of class to share our Stone Age tools with the rest of the class.

First, please get out your map on the A3 paper that you completed a couple classes ago. Go to this google doc (C Block, D Block) and fill in the new pieces that have been added at the bottom.

We are going to look at a keynote titled "Human Migration.key" that is uploaded onto the bottom of this page. There are 2 activities that we are then going to complete once Mr. Cory is done teaching you about Human Migration and we have a discussion about the differences between "forced" and "voluntary" migration.

On a pages document, not your notebook, answer these questions.

1. If you were an early human migrating to a new place, how would you feel about moving?

2. According to the map, which continent did humans reach last?

3. How did the ice ages influence human migration?

Read the textbook, page 36-39

The human migration map is on page 37

Class 5- "Neander Could Have Had It Tal"

Neandertal vs. Cro-Magnon People

Please download the internet search document below titled "Cro-Magnon vs. Neanderthals". We are going to then do a google search to try to find the answers to the aspects of both types of early ancestors.

We are going to watch the youtube video located here about the Cro-Magnon and Neanderthals

Class 6- Lascaux Cave Project

Lascaux Cave Project- First, please go to the bottom of my website and download the Lascaux Cave Project. You will have class time to finish the poster and if you don't finish it in class, please do so for homework.

You can also use http://www.citefast.com/ for your works cited page.

Due date: C and D Blocks are due on Monday, Sept 9th

Class 7- Making Your Own Stone Age Cave Art

Kagan Review- Review of the Lascaux Caves Project (Questions)

Today we are going to create your own Stone Age cave art. Each table group will be given a large piece of paper to create their cave art on. In groups, students are going to paint their own cave art reflecting the lives they are living now that if an archaeologist found 20,000 years from now they will learn about how we lived in our time. Draw important aspects of life, including food, family, recreation, culture, schooling, architecture (i.e. buildings), etc.

After students finish, they will present their art to the rest of the class, explaining their art and how it is the key to finding out about their lives 20,000 years from now.

Primary and Secondary Sources- Please download the sheet titled "Identifying Primary and Secondary Sources" and finish on your own. We will then do an activity with your answers.

Then, please go to this link and fill in your answers.

Class 8- Otzi

First we are going to review the differences between our Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal ancestors you completed for homework last class.

Otzi, also called The Iceman, was discovered in the snowy Alps of Italy in 1991. He lived about 5,300 years ago and his body was mummified in the ice. We are going to watch this quick video on Otzi and answer the questions uploaded at the bottom of this page called "Otzi Questions".

Next, using www.glogster.com program, I would like you to make an Otzi profile, using pictures and the information found on page 35 in your textbook and on the internet.

Homework- Read pages 40-43 in your online textbook and take at least 1 page of notes on your notebook.

Class 9- Beginnings of Agriculture

We are going to split the work up into sections and the students are going to teach their classmates!! There will be 4 groups, with the topics being 1. The First Farmers, 2. Plants, 3. Animals, 4. Farming Changes Society. Student will have 25 minutes to research their topic and create a 4 slide keynote presentation (1 title page and 3 content pages). You will then prepare your presentation and preform it. Presentations are expected to be 3-4 minutes long.

The information for each topic is located in pages 40-43 in your textbook.

Once students finish, they will be divided into 4 groups, with a presentation representative from the 4 topics as the group "Expert". The groups members will take notes they learn from the group expert. The template for taking notes is uploaded below titled "Class 7 Notes Template".

Watch the video: When We First Made Tools