History Module: Hominization, or The History of the Human Lineage

Chimpanzees are the primates that most closely resemble human beings genetically. Though we are not descended from chimpanzees, we do share with them a common ancestor who lived 8 to 10 million years ago.

The series of transformations that primates have undergone since then to produce the human beings of today are known as hominization. In this process of hominization, a number of different species have been born and died out. Paleoanthropologists use the term “hominids” to designate all these past and present human species.

The dawn of humanity began in Africa between 6 and 4.5 million years ago. The primates of that time who are our ancestors may have used very primitive tools, but the fossil record shows very few traces of human intelligence.

Between 4 and 2 million years ago, another hominid genus, Australopithecus, lived in Africa. Members of this genus walked on two feet, had larger brains than monkeys of the same size, and ate mainly plants. In 1974, a complete skeleton of an adult female Australopithecus was discovered in Ethiopia. This famous specimen has been nicknamed “Lucy”.

Around 2 million years ago, the line of the genus Homo made its official appearance with the species Homo habilis. This species manufactured various crude tools that it used for purposes such as butchering the animals that it ate to supplement its plant diet.

Homo erectus supplanted Homo habilis starting about 1.8 million years ago and lived until about 200 000 years ago. Homo erectus had an even larger brain. This species hunted large herds of animals, had mastered fire, manufactured axes, and spread from Africa to the tropical and temperate zones of Eurasia.

About 500 000 years ago, the earliest forms of our own species, Homo sapiens, first appeared. About 250 000 years ago, a new variety, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, emerged. These early humans possessed more sophisticated tools, made of stone and possibly of wood. There is little evidence of Neanderthal art, science or religion, but the Neanderthals are believed to have buried their dead (the oldest mortuary site dates back about 100 000 years). Neanderthals were very strong physically, and they were also excellent hunters. They died out scarcely 30 000 years ago.

The Neanderthals’ disappearance was no doubt somehow related to the spread of the next variety of their species, Homo sapiens sapiens (that is, us). Homo sapiens sapiens first appeared about 100 000 years ago, and remains of Cro-Magnon man, the European representative of this group, have been found that date back 35 000 years. With Homo sapiens sapiens, we see the emergence of specifically human activities, such as art and religion. These early humans left behind magnificent cave paintings, the oldest of which, in the Chauvet Cave in France, date back more than 32 000 years.

Over a few tens of thousands of years, Homo sapiens sapiens conquered every climate region of the Earth. Starting about 10 000 years ago, agriculture, the domestication of animals, cities, and writing soon followed.

Lien: L'origine et l'avenir de l'HommeLien: Human EvolutionLien:The Life & Times of Early ManLien: L'AUBE DE L'HUMANITÉHistoire: Chronologie de -35000 à 1435Lien: Human EvolutionLien: Origins of Humankind
Lien: Hunting originsLien: The Record of Human EvolutionLien: DERNIÈRES NOUVELLES DE L'ÉVOLUTION DE L'HOMMELien: L'ODYSSÉE DE L'ESPÈCE  Histoire: Quelques repères pour une chronologie globaleLien: How did human evolve?Lien:  Arbre phylogénétique du genre homo
Lien: La bipédie humaine - Premières Traces à LaetoliLien: Hominid SpeciesLien: Paleoanthropology in the 1990'sLien: A Look at Modern Human OriginsLien: D. Formenti's links: PALEOANTHROPOLOGY & EVOLUTIONLien: De l'homme - et de la femme - préhistoriques Lien: Hommes et hominidés
Lien: How many ancesters do we have?Chercheur: Pascal PicqChercheur: Michel Brunet : Origine des hominidés. Toumaï, l'ancêtre des humainsLien: Nous sommes tous des singesLien: Archaeology InfoLien: La lignée humaineLink : The origin of species, as read through DNA
Lien: La multiplication des HobbitsChercheur : Ian Tattersall: the humans we left behindLien : Livre : Ian Tattersall : THE MONKEY IN THE MIRROR. Essays on the science of what makes us humanLien: Quand «Ardi» livre ses secrets, Lucy peut se rhabillerLien: Ardi : Le singe descend de l'homme !Lien: Avant « Lucy », il y a eu « Ardi »Lien: Ardipithecus ramidus


The Shrinking Human Brain: What Does It Mean?


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