EXPERT GROUP #1: Homo Habilis
By 2.5 million years ago, Homo habilis (HOH-moh HAB-uh-luhs) lived in Africa. The Leakey family first discovered bones from this kind of hominid in 1960 in Olduvai Gorge. Soon scientists found more Homo habilis bones in other parts of eastern Africa.
Like australopithecines, Homo habilis walked upright. However, it had a larger brain in a rounder skull, and its face and jaw were smaller.
Near homo habilis bones, scientists have found simple stone tools, making this hominid the first known toolmaker. In fact, the name Homo habilis means “handy person.” Homo habilis chipped stones to make tools, which they used to chop, scrape, and do other simple tasks.
The appearance of the first chipped stone tools began what is known as the Paleolithic (pay-lee-uh-LIH-thik) era, or Old Stone Age. This period began about 2.5 million years ago and ended about 10,000 years ago.
Homo habilis lived only in Africa, mainly in grassy areas near water sources and trees. Homo habilis ate mostly plants and some meat. Experts believe that Homo habilis got meat by hunting or by eating pieces left behind by animals.
EXPERT GROUP #2: Homo Erectus
About 1.9 million years ago a kind of hominid appeared in Africa. Today, is is known as Homo erectus (HOH-nih-ih-REK-tuhs), meaning “upright person.” The first discoveries of Homo erectus were made near Lake Turkana, in Kenya.
Homo erectus was larger and stronger than earlier hominids. It also had shorter arms and longer legs. Its brain was much larger too. Flexible hands allowed Homo erectus to make better tools, including stone axes for chopping and for digging up roots to eat. Later, Homo erectus made spears from wood for hunting.
Homo erectus is the first-known hominid to master the use of fire. Perhaps earlier hominids used fires caused by lightning or volcanoes. Yet, Homo erectus learned to start fires. With fire, Homo erectus cooked food, kept away wild animals, and stayed warm in colder places. Archaeologists have found the remains of fire by Homo erectus at several sites. Figuring out the age of the fire is difficult.
Earlier hominids communicated with hand and arm movements and simple sounds. With a larger brain, Homo erectus may have developed some speech. With speech, Homo erectus could live and work better and travel farther in groups. Members of these small groups hunted together, shared food, and solved problems.
EXPERT GROUPS #3: Neanderthals
The first Homo sapiens are believed to have been the Neanderthals. Neanderthal people first appeared on the Earth around 200,000 years ago, in Africa. They migrated from Africa to the rest of the world around 100,000 years ago.
Neanderthals were around five to six feet in height. They had thick sturdy bones, and muscular shoulders, legs, arms, and necks. The Neanderthals also had a large brain. In fact, their brain was slightly larger than that of modern humans.
Like earlier hominids, Neanderthals made and used tools. However, the tools produced by the Neanderthals were much more advanced than those used by their predecessors. Neanderthals learned to create specialized cutting, and scrapping tools by chipping away at the edge of a rock. They learned to combine different types of stone into a single tool, and they discovered how to use a wide variety of soft and hard stones for specialized tasks.
The Neanderthal lived throughout a widely divergent climate and habitat. These peoples adapted quickly to new environments as they migrated. Some lived in caves, while others built shelters out of branches and animal skins. Still others dug pits and covered them with branches, animal skins, and leaves.
Because the Neanderthal spread throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe, their cultures were as different as the places they inhabited. Archeological finds have given historians a small glance into some of their beliefs and ways of life.
There is strong evidence that the Neanderthal had a belief in the afterlife. Burial plots have been found where the dead were covered with flowers, and buried with food, and with the tools they would need in the next life. There is also evidence that Neanderthal cared for their sick and injured. Fossil remains show serious injuries, such as broken legs, which had healed completely. It is even possible that Neanderthal used medicines.
EXPERT GROUP #4: Homo Sapien
Like earlier hominids, Homo sapiens, or early modern humans, probably first lived in Africa. Most experts believed that Homo sapiens had appeared in tropical Africa by 200,000 years ago, which represents the beginning of human kind. Homo sapiens and Homo erectus probably lived side by side until Homo erectus died out.
The physical development of early humans was superior to that of earlier hominids. With fingers and hands like ours, early humans could handle things with more skill. Also, their bigger, rounder skulls held larger brains giving them greater intelligence. In fact, the name Homo sapiens means “wise person.”
Using their greater intelligence, early humans advanced the development of tools with new technology, or ways to make and do things. They developed more complex tools for specific purposes. They made tools from antler, bone, wood, and stone for cutting and scraping. They also crafted bone needles for sewing animal skins into clothing. Early humans designed weapons such as stone points attached to wood spears as well as spear throwers.
Early humans also used their greater intelligence in other ways. About 50,000 years ago, the development of language began to speed up, which greatly improved communication. Better communication allowed early humans to plan and organize better as well as to more easily share new ideas and new knowledge. Early humans went on to create jewelry, cave paintings, and sculptures to form religious beliefs. They began to change their lives in ways never before possible or imagined.
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GRAPHIC ORGANIZER: WORLD MAP
Date found: ____________________
Process Grid: Early Man
Date Found Location Adaptations Physical Development Achievements Interesting facts