Humans, Evidence from the fossil record

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Modern humans (Homo sapiens or Homo sapiens sapiens) are the only extant members of the hominin clade, a branch of great apes characterized by erect posture and bipedal locomotion; manual dexterity and increased tool use; and a general trend toward larger, more complex brains and societies. Early hominids, such as the australopithecines who had more apelike brains and skulls, are less often thought of or referred to as "human" than hominids of the genus Homo some of whom used fire, occupied much of Eurasia, and gave rise to [[anatomically modern humans|anatomic


There is little fossil evidence for the divergence of the gorilla, chimpanzee and hominin lineages. The earliest fossils that have been proposed as members of the hominin lineag


e are Sahelanthropus tchadensis dating from , and Orrorin tugenensis dating from and Ardipithecus kadabba dating to . Each of these has been argued to be a bipedal ancestor of later hominins, but in each case the claims have been contested. It is also possible that either of these species is an ancestor of another branch of African apes, or that they represent a shared ancestor between hominins and other Hominoidea. The question of the relation between these early fossil species and the hominin lineage is still to be resolved. From these early species the australopithecines arose around diverged into robust (also called Paranthropus) and gracile branches, one of which (possibly A. garhi) went on to become ancestors of the genus Homo.

The earliest members of the genus Homo are Homo habilis which evolved around . Homo habilis is the first species for which we have positive evidence of use of stone tools. The brains of these early hominins were about the same size as that of a chimpanzee, and their main adaptation was bipedalism as an adaptation to terrestrial living. During the next million years a process of encephalization began, and with the arrival of Homo erectus in the fossil record, cranial capacity had doubled. Homo erectus were the first of the hominina to leave Africa, and these species spread through Africa, Asia, and Europe between . One population of H. erectus, also sometimes classified as a separate species Homo ergaster, stayed in Africa and evolved into Homo sapiens. It is believed that these species were the first to use fire and complex tools. The earliest transitional fossils between H. ergaster/erectus and archaic humans are from Africa such as Homo rhodesiensis, but seemingly transitional forms are also found at Dmanisi, Georgia. These descendants of African H. erectus spread through Eurasia from ca. 500,000 years ago evolving into H. antecessor, H. heidelbergensis and H. neanderthalensis. The earliest fossils of anatomically modern humans are from the Middle Paleolithic, about 200,000 years ago such as the Omo remains of Ethiopia and the fossils of Herto sometimes classified as Homo sapiens idaltu. Later fossils of archaic Homo sapiens from Skhul in Israel and Southern Europe begin around 90,000 years ago.

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  • WikipediaArchaeology InfoHomo sapiens

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