Chapter 11, The Origins and Evolution of Early Homo habilis and Homo erectus Homo habilis: The First Species of the Genus Homo



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Chapter 11, The Origins and Evolution of Early Homo habilis and Homo erectus

Homo habilis: The First Species of the Genus Homo

The Path to Humanness: Bigger Brains, Tool Use, and Adaptive Flexibility

First discovered by Louis Leakey at Olduvai Gorge

Name means “handy man”

Change took place 3.0–2.5 mya

Found in Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa

Homo habilis: The First Species of the Genus Homo

Homo habilis’s Adaptation: Intelligence and Tool Use Become Important


Anatomical evidence from the hand bones suggests precision grip.

Tools becoming fundamental to survival, unlike for australopithecines

Habitat Changes and Increasing Adaptive Flexibility

Spread of warm season grasses and increasing habitat diversity.

Skull and tooth morphology suggest dietary variability in Homo habilis.

Stone tools important for obtaining food resources as well as for processing foods.

Homo erectus

1) First to migrate out of Africa

2) First to use fire extensively

3) First to make complex tools, the handaxe

4) First true hunter, not a scavenger

Evolution of Homo erectus: Biological Change, Adaptation, and Improved Nutrition

Tool manufacture and the development of social structures to facilitate group cooperation

in hunting were critical.

Acheulian tool complex is represented by a variety of tools and tool materials.

Acheulian tools are more refined than the Oldowan tools.

Acheulian tools are bifacial. The most important is the handaxe

Homo erectus: Early Homo Goes Global

First discovered by Eugène Dubois in Java

Fossils date from 1.8–0.3 mya


African fossils dated to 1.8–0.3 mya

Nariokotome skeleton



An 80 percent complete skeleton
Short arms, long legs
Likely a young male
Would have stood 6 feet tall in adulthood
Cranial capacity over 900 cc

Homo erectus in Asia (1.8–.3 mya)

Fossils dated to 1.8 mya–0.3 mya

Earliest evidence found in Dmanisi, 1.7 mya, similar to East African Homo erectus

Also found in Indonesia, Sangiran, and China, indicating a rapid spread through Asia

Evolution of Homo erectus: Biological Change, Adaptation, and Improved Nutrition

Increase in body size is one main difference between H. erectus and H. habilis.

The increase took place rapidly, perhaps in as little time as 2.0–1.7 mya.

Climate change and its impact on the food supply may be one reason for the change.

Most significant impact was increased access to animal food (protein) from hunting.

Patterns of Evolution

Earlier forms have smaller brains than forms dated later.

Cranial capacity ranges from 650 cc to 1200 cc.

Skull robusticity declined.

Reliance on tools and tool use changed structure of face and jaws as a result of food

processing.

Changes in social structure and dispersal patterns, and increasing reliance on culture for

survival.

Homo erectus in Europe (800,000–400,000 yBP)

Stone tools, animal remains, hominid fossils

Stone-tool cut marks on animal and hominid fossils



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