The evolution of man

Evolution of man or human evolution is the name of a series of biological changes that our species has undergone to become what we now call a human being, scientifically known as Homo sapiens .

This evolutionary process originated between 4 and 7 million years ago in Africa and began with the appearance of the first hominids, which were primates that moved on two legs, such as Australopithecus .

From here, the emergence of new species was determined by the development of the ability to create tools, move to new territories or learn to use fire. In the same way, each new species brought with it physical and biological changes until the current human being evolved.

SpeciesTime courseLocationCharacteristics
Australophitecus4 -2 million years agoAfrica
  • Bipeds.
  • Short stature.
Man handy2.3 -1.6 million yearsAfrica
  • Stone tool makers.
  • Short stature.
  • Carnivores.
Homo ergaster1.9 – 1.5 million yearsAfrica
  • Nomads.
  • Tool makers.
  • Rudimentary communication.
Standing man1.8 million years – 100 thousand yearsAsia
  • They walked upright.
  • They used fire.
  • They lived in groups.
homo predecessor900 thousand years – 75 thousand yearsEurope
  • Taller and stronger than previous species.
  • They did not use fire.
Homo heidelbergensis600 thousand years -200 thousand yearsEurope
  • Capacity for symbolic thinking.
  • Development of stone and wood tools.
Homo neanderthalensis230 thousand years – 30 thousand yearsEurope and Asia
  • Physical strength.
  • Development of grip with the thumb.
  • Articulated language development.
Homo sapiens200 thousand years – presentAll the world
  • Complex language development.
  • Logical and abstract thinking.
  • Creative ability.
  • Complex social organization.

Stages of the evolution of man

For the human being to have developed its current characteristics, it has had to go through millions of years of evolutionary changes that include from standing on its two lower extremities to developing language. Of all this process, there are representative species of the different evolutionary stages.

Australophitecus : the first hominids

The Australopithecus were a set of hominid primates who lived in Africa about four million years ago.

Hominids are primates that move on two legs, such as orangutans, bonobos, gorillas or chimpanzees. Australopithecus are believed to be the first to develop this feature, and for this reason they are considered a key factor in human evolution.

The primates of this group fed on plants and fruits, lived in the African savannah, were thin and short (up to 1.40 m, approximately). A climatic crisis that occurred 2.5 million years ago led to the extinction of Australopithecus and originated two new genera derived from them: the Paranthropus and the Homo . The latter, in turn, are the origin of the current human being.

Homo habilis : tool makers

The Homo habilis is a species of early human who lived in Africa about 2.3 million years ago. His name (skilled man, in Latin) refers to his ability to create rudimentary stone tools.

The development of this ability marks an important milestone in the human evolutionary process, because it indicates, among other things, the ability to have access to more and better food. In that sense, it is known that Homo habilis was a carnivore, but not a hunter, since it is believed that at this stage it fed on animal remains.

The habilis was short and weight as its predecessors Australopithecus , since only measuring 1.35 m weighed about 32 kilos. However, his brain, molars, and incisor teeth were larger.

Homo ergaster : the first nomads

The Homo ergaster was a kind of early human who lived 2 million years ago. Its main characteristic is that it did not settle in Africa, but moved to Asian and European territories, becoming the first species of the genus Homo to leave the African continent.

The Homo ergaster manufactured sophisticated tools such as stone axes double – edged. Their size and weight were relatively similar to those of the current human being (1.85 m and 68 kilos, approximately), their brain was larger than that of previous species and they could be the first species to establish some type of communication.

Homo erectus : the Asian ancestors

Called Homo erectus species of early humans that lived about 1.8 million years ago in East Asia. It is believed that they are descendants of Homo ergaster that settled in Asia, as they share common characteristics.

The distinctive feature of Homo erectus is its ability to walk fully upright, hence its name (upright man, in Latin). They lived in groups and probably exchanged goods to strengthen social ties. By moving to colder territories, Homo erectus learned to use fire to warm itself and cook its food. His height and maximum weight are estimated at 1.80 m and 68 kilos, respectively.

The Homo erectus disappeared about 500 thousand years ago in Asia, except on the island of Java in Indonesia. It lived there until about 100,000 years ago and it is presumed that the conditions of geographic isolation favored its survival.

Homo antecessor : the first Europeans

The oldest species of the genus Homo found in Europe is known as Homo antecessor . In that sense, it would be an equivalent of what Homo erectus was on the Asian continent in terms of archaeological relevance.

The first fossils of Homo antecessor were found in the Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain and suggest that they lived about 900 thousand years ago. They were characterized by being tall and strong: they measured approximately 1.90 m and weighed about 90 kilos, although their brain was smaller than that of other related species. Furthermore, they were not able to master the fire.

Homo heidelbergensis : pioneers of symbolic language

The Homo heidelbergensis was a species that lived 600,000 years ago in Eurasia. Its name derives from the German city of Heilderberg, where the first fossils were found.

The Homo heidelbergensis were large human skulls, pronounced nasal openings, projections jaws average height 1.75m and a weight of 62 kilos.

His greatest contribution to human evolution was his ability to mentally represent the world from his experiences. This is called symbolic thinking, and it allows individuals to think about the past and consider future events, making decisions based on their conclusions.

The Homo heidelbergensis used fire and made tools of stone and wood more sophisticated than other species, such as bifaces, which were symmetrically with sharp objects.

Homo neanderthalensis : use of thumbs and articulate language

Better known as Neanderthal man, it is an extinct species of the genus Homo that lived in Asia and Europe about 230 thousand years ago.

The Homo neanderthalensis were stronger than humans today, but his limbs were shorter. In fact, they were approximately 1.68m tall. The evolutionary contribution of this species was the adaptation of its thumbs for power grips, which are the type of grips we use to hold tools with a handle, such as hammers. This implies the development of larger and more efficient tools.

Furthermore, Neanderthals are believed to have been the first species to use articulate language, probably based on some basic phonemes (sounds).

The evidence found indicates that Neanderthals and Homo sapiens coexisted for a time. However, Neanderthals became extinct 30,000 years ago and only Homo sapiens prevailed.

Homo sapiens : the current human being

The Homo sapiens species refers to the modern human being that emerged 200 thousand years ago on the African continent.

The Homo sapiens is characterized by being the first species to develop logical and abstract thinking, oral and written language complex, creative ability and to organize society.

Their average height and weight is 1.80 m and about 80 kilos. However, this depends on various genetic and cultural factors.

These abilities have allowed the species to adapt and survive to changes in its environment. The construction of more resistant houses, the artistic expressions, the creation of rituals and the design of sophisticated tools are the expression of these capacities and mark a great difference with respect to the other already extinct Homo species .

Timeline of the evolution of man

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