Human Evolution

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Homo Habilis

Homo Erectus

Homo Sapiens

Homo Habilis

The earlist evidence for tool making comes from Homo Habilis (handy man), about 2.5 million years ago in northern Ethiopia (or did Australopiticines, who lived side-by-side with early Homo invent this - the jury is still out). These were the first of the genus homo to appear, the first 'true' humans to register in the fossil record. And they had a new trick for survival.

Rocks were crudeley fashioned and sharpened and used to butcher the carcass of animals for food. And these early toolmakers were selective in their choice of rock, as they usually choose hard cobbles made out of volcanic rock. And the cobbles used often seemed to have been carried purposefully to sites where they were worked on and made into tools.

Homo Habilis

Its uncertain whether hunting or scavenging animals took place with these tools at this time. But its most likely that the tools were used to help scavange for food rather than used as a weapon. But this important step of making tools to help produce a livelihood from the environment was very significant. It was a conscious creation of implements. And this tool making and tool use was one of the defining characteristics of homo, distinguishing them from the other primates.

The Olduvai gorge, in northern Tanzania, has revealed the earlist stone tools, used by Homo Habilis about 1.9 mya. They were simple pebble choppers (the Oldowan Chopper) with flakes knocked off them to create a cutting edge.

Another very important difference between the genus Homo, and Australopithecines was seen in the skull, which had clearly encased a larger (and more complex?) brain. The cranial capacity for Australopiticines was approximately 500cc, for Homo Habilus it was greater than 600cc.

But a cornerstone of our human life today (as is common to many animal species) most likely began with Homo Habilis. The sharing of food amongst relatives and friends. In fact the first evidence of the human institution we call home began at this time. Traces of the first identified building, a windbrake of stones, has been found at the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, dated about 1.9 mya. Other evidence seemed to suggest that children of these early hominids would not have been able to easily cling to their mothers for long foraging expeditions. So perhaps the children and the females stayed at the home base and the males went out in search of food to bring back for family consumption. A home base for the relative safe consumption of food, away from the ever watchful eyes of the numerous dangerous predators. A home base to rest and recover from hazards such as sickness or accidents. Surely an advantage from an evolutionary point of view.