Human Evolution

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Homo Habilis

Homo Erectus

Homo Sapiens

Homo Erectus: 2 million -> 400,000 years ago

Turkana Boy

Homo Erectus, the descendents of Homo Habilis were discovered in 1984 near Lake Turkana in Kenya (Turkana boy), living about 1.6 million years ago. It is the most complete skelton of a human ancestor this old. And its fairly convincing evidence in the creationism versus evolution debate. Homo Erectus lived from 2 million years ago to about 400,000 years ago and had a brain size ranging from 900cc to 1200cc, which falls within the range of modern humans or is at least comparable to modern humans. Homo Erectus has also been found in Java (Java man, 1 million years old), Indonesia, China (Peking man) and perhaps even Europe.

Perhaps mankinds first great achievement happened in the time of Homo Erectus. Sometime around 1 million years ago we can see evidence that Homo Erectus may have learned to tame and control brushfire created from lightning or the heat of the sun. Fire opened up many new opportunities for mankind. It provided warmth in the cold, light in the darkness and an increased protection from predators. In addition, cooking became possible allowing previous indigestible substances, as well as distasteful foods to be cooked and consumed. Any new food supply is a welcome addition to any scavanger's or hunter's diet. Fire would have extended the environment to exploit and migrate too, since coldness and darkness were no longer such a barrier. Also, the occuption of caves as a safe home began in earnest as fire provided ample heat and light and animals could be driven out and kept at bay with fire. And more than likely fire was also used as a hunting tool. Big game animals were almost certainly on their menu. This would have required much cooperation between a group of hunters.

The fire must have become a focus amongst early humans. As families and friends gathered around, it must have provided a sense of well-being, happiness, a place of comfort and a place to relax a place to interact at ease, a place to bond. Did this 'sense' or 'feeling' become hardwired in our brains from that time on, as today we still find something hypnothic, relaxing, enchanting, mysterious, magical, theraphutic about gazing into the flames of a fire.

Homo Erectus had many advantages. They were taller in stature, possessed bigger brains and were more active in hunting large animals. They became more reliant on meat-eating and the resulting concentrated protein diet allowed a greater economy of effort when compared to the incessant nibbling of a mostly vegetarian diet. This increasing brainpower (Homo Erectus had a brain size twice that of Australopithecus, and seems to have acheived this in only about 2 million years), improvement in toolmaking (handaxes and cleavers), and the use of fire, helped Homo Erectus to migrate beyond the continent of Africa into other parts of the old world (Europe & Asia). They were the first hominids to leave Africa. Was it natural curiosity that drove them to new pastures?