The Genus Homo Overview

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1 The Genus Homo Overview There are five subspecies of hominids in the genus Homo: Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Homo sapiens, Homo sapiens neanderthalenis and Homo sapiens sapiens. Between 2.5 and 2 million years ago one group of hominids discovered how to make tools from stone. These tools helped them harvest and prepare food. Hominids ate more meat because the tools helped them cut skins and large chunks of meat from animal bones. When they ate more meat, their brains grew larger. The larger brain set them apart from the australopithecines. To be classified in the genus Homo, a hominid must have a large brain and made tools. Animals sometimes use objects as tools, but members of the genus Homo are the only animals that manipulate objects for a particular use. They are the only animals who depend on the tools for survival. Similarities between early Homo species and australopithecines: Same size, small heads Hairy bodies Adaptations and differences between early Homo species and australopithecines: Homo had larger brains. As the brain expanded, the skull became thinner and rounder. Foreheads and jaws became flatter Wider jaws for larger tongue muscles = capacity for speech Homo had smaller teeth Different hip bones and upper leg bones for better walking Homo used tools to cut meat Later Homo killed animals for food instead of just scavenging About 1.5 million years ago, some of the Homo species left Africa for Asia and Europe For more info:

2 Homo Habilis Handy Human Homo habilis is the oldest species of Homo sapiens. The first fossil was discovered by a teenage boy named Jonathon Leakey and named Johnny s Boy in his honor. H. habilis is considered to be in the Homo genus because all their fossils have been found with tools. Their species name, habilis, means able or handy in Latin. H. habilis lived in Africa about 2.5 to 1.5 million years ago, alongside A. robustus, A. boise and perhaps A. africanus. H. habilis was more advanced physically and mentally than australopithecines. They were slightly larger than australopithecines. Their arms were long but their bone structure was more like modern humans. Hands and feet were nearly identical to modern humans. H. habilis face was flatter, skull was thinner and rounder and the brain capacity was greater than an australopithecine s. H. habilis probably lived in campsites along riverbeds and lakeshores. They would live in one area for a few days or weeks and then move on in search of food. They probably ate many kinds of fruit and vegetables, along with nuts, insects, eggs, fish, pigs, rats, lizards and snakes. They were not able to take down large animals, but could butcher already weakened or dead animals. There is no evidence that H. habilis cooked their meat or used fire. For more information: 2.ht ml

3 Homo Erectus Upright Human This species gets its name from the Latin word meaning upright because its legs and pelvis clearly show it was bipedal. They lived from 1.6 million years ago to about 250,000 years ago. H. erectus first appeared in Africa where they lived beside A. robustus and A. boisei for several thousand years. H. erectus then left Africa, being the first ones we know to do so. The first H. erectus fossil was found on the Indonesian island of Java, and nicknamed the Java Man. Some of the most famous fossils were found near Peking, China and are known as Peking Man. Peking Man lived in the caves there for 230,000 years and left behind twenty thousand tools and artifacts. A nearly perfect skeleton was found in Kenya. This 12-year-old boy is nicknamed Turkana Boy for the lake he was found near. H. erectus was much bigger than all the previous hominids. Stocky bones suggest he was stronger than modern human H. erectus lived in a variety of environments, from tropical climates in Africa to woodlands in Europe. They built shelters and lived in campsites for longer periods than H. habilis, probably about three to four months. H. erectus used fire and had a fire pit or hearth in their shelters. Charred bones and charcoal were found in almost every H. erectus living site, proving they used fire. Their teeth became smaller because cooked food is softer and easier to eat. They wore animal skin clothing They had plenty of food and a well-balanced diet because they were excellent hunters. They hunted elephants, deer, giant sheep, wild oxen, rhinos, giant boars and other animals. Their tools were smaller, sharper, better patterned and more skillfully made. One of their best-known inventions is the hand ax. Because H. erectus spent less time hunting, they had more time for other activities. They began practicing rituals like laying bones in patterns, which suggests a form of religion. For more information: 3.html

4 Homo Sapiens Wise Person There are three subspecies of H. sapiens: the archaic H. sapiens, the H. sapiens neanderthalensis and H. sapiens sapiens. Modern humans are the last subspecies. Little is known about the archaic, or earliest H. sapiens, but there is widespread evidence in Europe, Asia, and Africa. No one knows for sure when they first appeared. Very few fossils have been found, but a nearly complete skull was found in Germany. Other fossils have been found in the UK, Greece, Italy, and Yugoslavia. Fragments have been found in Africa and Asia. The earliest H. sapiens were about halfway between H. erectus and modern humans in appearance. The cranium was low and thick, nose was broad, and forehead was short, like H. erectus. But their brains were larger. And as H. sapiens brains grew, their foreheads bulged and the brow ridges were less distinct. The back of the head was also round like a modern human s. The vocal tract was fully modern. Even though H. sapiens could probably talk as well as we do, they most likely did not. H. sapiens made lots of tools and used advanced techniques to work their materials. Some lived in caves, others created shelters in the open. Fire was used to cook food. They probably knew how to start their own fires. For more information: 4.html

5 Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis Wise Person from Neander Valley The first extinct hominid species to ever be found was a Neanderthal. They were more primitive than modern humans, but had advanced technology and a more sophisticated social life than previous hominids. The name Neanderthal comes from the Neander valley in Germany, where the first specimen was found. The oldest Neanderthal was found in Egypt, and others have been found in Africa, Asia, and nearly every country in Europe. Because the first species to be found had arthritis, people believed that all Neanderthals walked stooped over. People also believed that they were slow and stupid. (See more here: newer evidence proves that Neanderthals were a successful, well-adapted people. They existed for much longer than modern humans have. Since Neanderthals lived over a long period of time and in many different places, their appearances differ, just like modern human s. They were generally short and stocky. They were probably stronger than we are. They had short legs and thick bones. They had short but strong fingers. The skull was different than H. sapiens. It was flat on top with a distinct bulge at the back, called the occipital bun. They had a larger brain than H. erectus. The nose was large, the forehead sloped, and the chin receded. Their jaws were large with heavy muscles for chewing. Except for the pelvis, which was long and flat, the Neanderthal skeleton is almost exactly the same as that of a modern human. Neanderthal tools were skillfully made. They made the same tools, even if they were far away from another group. Neanderthals were nomadic, but would come back to the same camp at the same time of year. They lived in Egypt and later Europe. At this time the ocean level was lower and the UK and Ireland were part of the European continent. Then the climate changed, and huge sheets of ice covered Northern Europe and Asia. The winters

6 were very cold, but the Neanderthals adapted. They wore heavy clothes and kept their shelters warm. They also stored food. Their lives were culturally advanced. They took care of their old and sick. They practiced medicine and used plants for medicinal purposes. They were the first hominid to bury their dead. This and their hunting rituals suggest religion. No one knows exactly why the Neanderthals became extinct. It could be that Cro-Magnons, a group of Homo sapiens sapiens invaded Europe and wiped them out. Others suggest that Neanderthals evolved into modern humans. The most widely accepted theory is that Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons intermarried and were absorbed by them. There are many caves in Israel with both of their fossils. Interesting National Geographic article: Adapted from Hominids: A Look Back at our Ancestors by Helen Roney Sattler

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