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Human Origins in Africa
KEY IDEA: Fossil evidence
shows that the earliest humans
first appeared in Africa.
Archeologists at Work
• People can learn about
the past by using written
records. However, these
records cover only the
last 5,000 years or so of
human life on earth.
• To learn about the more
distant time before the
first written records,
scientists need to use
special skills and tools.
Archeologists-History’s Detectives
• Archeologists are like detectives trying to
solve a mystery. That mystery is the puzzle of
the prehistoric human past—the story of
humans before history.
• The scientists concerned with this mystery
are called archaeologists. They work at
places called digs, pits dug into the ground to
find objects buried for thousands of years.
Artifacts vs Fossils
• Archaeologists uncover tools, jewelry, or other things
made by people. Such objects are called artifacts.
• They also dig up bones— the bones of ancient
humans and of the animals that lived with them.
Some of these bones have become fossils,
meaning they have survived over time because they
were preserved in stone. By studying bones and
artifacts, they can find clues about how the earliest
humans lived.
Artifacts vs Fossils
1. Define artifact-
2. Define fossil-
Artifacts vs Fossils
1. artifact- Tools, jewelry, or other things made
by people.
2. fossil- bones of ancient humans and of
the animals that lived with them that have
been preserved in stone.
Out of Africa
• In the early 1970s, archaeologists made
some important finds in Africa.
• At Laetoli, in East Africa, Mary Leakey
found the footprints of humanlike
beings, called humanoids, who had
lived about 3.6 million years ago. This
up right walking creature was called
The First Humanoid?
• First discovered in
1929, by Raymond
Australopithecus is
the longest surviving
hominid species in
the evolution tree,
spanning over
3 million years from
4 million to 1 million
years ago.
• In 1974, a world awakening
discovery was uncovered by
paleoanthropologist Donald
Johanson of a remarkable
and miraculous upright
skeleton of Australopithecus
afarensis, forever coined as
"Lucy". It is the best
preserved skeleton of any
erect walking human ever
found which prompted a
reevaluation of previous
evidence for human origins.
The Amazing Opposable Thumb!
• Because these early beings walked
upright, they could travel long distances
more easily than four-footed ones. They
could also use their free arms to carry
food, tools, and children.
• These creatures also developed one other
major human trait. They could move their
thumbs across the palms of their hands
and touch their other fingers.
Stone Age
• Because of this
opposable thumb,
they could pick up
and hold objects.
• Humans made
important advances
during a period
called the Stone
Age, when people
used tools made of
Old vs New Stone Age
• Scientists divide the
Stone Age into two parts.
• The Paleolithic Age, or
Old Stone Age, began
about 2.5 million years
ago and lasted until
about 8000 B.C.
The Neolithic, or New
Stone, Age went from
about 8000
around 3000 B.C.
The Last Ice Age
• Much of the Old Stone Age overlapped the
Ice Age, when the earth was colder than it is
now. Vast sheets of ice—glaciers—covered
much of the land.
• About 10,000 years ago, the temperature
warmed and the ice melted. The ice sheets
grew smaller and people began to roam wider
stretches of land
Achievements During the
• The invention of tools
• Mastery over fire
• Development of language
Homo habilis
• In East Africa,
archaeologists have found
a humanoid fossil that they
named Homo habilis.
• The name means “man of
skill.” It was given because
the site also held tools
made of lava rock by these
Homo habilis lived about
2.5 million years ago.
Homo erectus
• About 1.6 million years
ago, another kind of
humanoid lived. This
one, called Homo
erectus(upright man),
began to use tools for
special purposes.
• They dug for food in
the ground, cut meat
from animal bones,
and scraped animal
Homo erectus Moves out of
• Homo erectus is the first to migrate out of
Africa. This theory is supported by the
tools that they left behind.
• They moved in to India, China, Southeast
Asia and Europe.
The Mastery of Fire and
• Homo erectus also began using fire and may
have had the first spoken language. In order
to cooperate during their well organized
hunts, a spoken language was necessary.
• Both the use of fire and development of
language gave homo erectus greater control
over his environment.
• By about 200,000 years ago, many scientists
think, Homo erectus developed into humans.
Homo sapiens
• Homo sapien (wise man) is the name
given to modern humans. They had the
same physical build as homo erectus
except for a larger brain.
Neanderthal Culture
• One group of early humans,
the Neanderthals, was
• In the past, they were
thought to be rough and wild
• Now scientists think that
they may have held religious
beliefs. One site suggests
that they buried their dead.
Neanderthals Become Extinct
• Neanderthals found ways
to survive the freezing
cold of the Ice Age.
They lived in caves or
built shelters of wood or
animal skins.
• About 30,000 years ago,
though, the Neanderthals
disappeared. Their
demise was probably a
result of their lack of
Neanderthals A Very
Distant Cousin
• DNA test done in 1997 determined that
Neanderthals are not ancestors of modern
humans. This means that there were two
human species competing for resources for
nearly 10,000 years (40,000 BC to 30,000 BC)
until the Neanderthals became extinct.
Cro-Magnon Man Emerges
• About 10,000 years before
Neanderthals vanished, a new group of
prehistoric people appeared. They are
called the Cro-Magnons.
• Their bodies were just like those of
modern people.
Cro-Magnon Innovation
• Scientists think that Cro-Magnon people
worked with one another in planning largescale hunts of animals.
• They may have also had more skill at
speaking than did the Neanderthals.
• Because they had these skills, the CroMagnons were better at finding food. That
may explain why Cro-Magnons survived and
Neanderthals did not.
The Fossil Record
• Scientists have only a vague picture of
the origin of humans. The fossil record
is sketchy. However,more discoveries
may lead to new ideas about early
• What is clear now is that humans had
skills that helped them adapt and
survive in different lands and climates.