Human Origins from a Paleoanthropological Perspective


HumanOrigins from a Paleoanthropological Perspective

HumanOrigins from a Paleoanthropological Perspective

Paleoanthropologyis a branch of anthropology involving the study of human biology,culture, and society. The field focuses on differences andsimilarities between people and other species based on theirphysiology, genes, behavior and body form (Henke:75).Paleoanthropologists tried to discover the physical conduct andtraits of humans for many million years ago. Evolution has fashionedthe tendencies, limitations, and potentials of all humans. Earlyarcheological remains and fossils were used by thepaleoanthropologists to gather information about the prehistoricpast. The archeological remains included tools and bones left afterthe earlier people died a period of six million years ago. It isthrough the study of fossilized bones that enabled the scientists todiscover the previous physical appearances of earlier people and howit changed. In the paper, we shall discuss how the human body organschanged from different stages of evolution. Some differences andsimilarities depend on body posture, teeth, brain, face, heights andwalking styles.

Homosapiens represent the species of modern people while genus Homoaccounts for a group of earlier ancestors. It was discovered that allhumans originated from genus Homo. Homo sapiens are considered to bethe last living people according to evolutionary history. Peoplegenetically evolved from one level to the other. Humans areclassified in the group of primates including apes, gorillas, andchimpanzees among others. Gene’s mutation described that there weresimilarities between the bodies of humans and apes. Hands, internalorgans, bones and blood systems of non-human primates were closelyrelated to those of humans. Today, humans are the only homininspecies which survive. In a nutshell, the only similarity betweenearlier ancestors and human genus Homo is having a typical biologicaltribe. Both genera are customarily upright in the posture thatassisted efficient locomotion (Henke:81).

Theearlier ancestors had a height three to four foot and weighed 32kilograms, unlike modern humans who are tall and have muscularbodies. The head is the primary organ that gives a criticaldifference between Homo sapiens and australopithecines. Peoplesignificantly developed large brains and faces became relativelysmaller. The jaws and teeth progressively became smaller. Additively,Homo sapiens became more proficient than australopithecines bydeveloping technologies that assisted them on survival (Henke:83).Homo habilis and Homo Rudolf enosis were two species ofAustralopithecines Africanus who lived in East Africa. Acontradiction arose between the two species about their differences,but a slight difference in height and brain was discovered andclassified together as Homo habilis.

Theprolonged unstable climate in Africa coincided with the evolution ofthe Paranthropus and genera Homo in 2, 500,000 years ago. The climatefluctuated through drying and cooling where the scientists suggestedthat the adaptability of the environmental changes attributed humansto have larger and more competent brains. The earliest human fossilswere discovered in Tanzania at Olduvai George in 1960 by Mary Leakeyand Louis. Leakey classified them as Homo habilis because they madestone tools. Similar tools were also found in Kenya at East Turkanaby Leakey’s team in 1969. Homo habilis fossils have so far beendiscovered along Great Rift Valley system located in East Africa. Thefossils australopithecines were found in South Africa at Swartkrantsand Sterkfontein caves. Early evolutional humans have brains that are35 percent than those of previous humans, Australopithecus africanus.

Thebrain cranium of the earlier ancestors began to broaden due toenlarged brain size. The premolars and molars of the early humanswere smaller as compared to those of Australopithecus (Henke:87).It suggested that early humans ate soft foods. There were wearpatterns on the teeth of the earlier people suggesting that theirdiet comprised of meat and plants. Tearing of meat contributed inhaving big teeth for easier chewing. Australopithecines had long armsas compared to Homo sapiens that could enable them to reach fruitsand leaves from the plants. Brain lateralization of Homo habilisspecies supported the capability of making tools and also linguisticdevelopment. Early humans use advanced tools similar to thoseemployed by Homo erectus. The faces of the earlier people were moreslanting than those of the Homo sapiens. The australopithecines faceresembled those of chimpanzees or gorillas.

Homoerectus was also another species of human evolution. Erectus fossilswere revealed after two million years ago. Homo erectus had a doublebrain capacity than that of Homo habilis while the body postures wereclose to those of modern people. Skulls of Homo erectus changed inshape over short periods. Face flattening was discovered at thisstage (Khan:9).Sexual dimorphism progressively reduced until the modern days wheresexual dimorphism is for two sexes. Various tools were found inplaces in Homo erectus spots including pounding tools, cutting ordigging tools, scraping tools and small stones that were sharpened atthe edges. Tool-making portrayed that their brains were functioningbetter than those of australopithecines who never used tools. Cuttingtools and sharpened stones were used to slaughter animals. Humans atthis stage of evolution started to dig land for plantation of food.

Homoerectus humans were considered to be upright and australopithecinesused to bend forward (Castro:4).Limbs and torsos of people during that lineage were similar to thoseof modern human beings. The aspect of becoming upright suggested thatHomo erectus people adapted on how to walk on grassland and openenvironments instead of swinging on trees like australopithecines.The aspect of being upright enabled the humans to run after animalsfor meat. The people during that era required much food for theirbodies and brains. The bigger brains for Homo erectus humans requiredmore energy to enable plan on how to hunt and gather food.

Homoerectus remnants did not conserve characteristics associated withclimbing. Unlike australopithecines, Home Erectus, and modern peoplewere not much involved in climbing trees. The aspect of bendingforward portrayed by australopithecines was to enable them to swigalong branches in search of fruits and leaves. Modern people are themost upright humans as compared to other earlier primates. The modernpeople also consume more energetic food for better survival. In thecurrent world, there are so many activities that force people tothink and work. During the olden days, australopithecines were notinvolved in any activity so the fruits and leaves could sustain them.

Reusedhearths and bones of slaughtered animals were found at the Homoerectus sites. The bones remain of animals were proofs of cannibalism(Khan:12).Thetools that early humans have that Homo erectus never used areart-crafts for grinding and spears for hunting. Homo erectus usedfire in many ways with unclear circumstances whether they discoveredit or acquired opportunistically. The fire was used to keep warmthduring the cold weather conditions, scare away the predators fromattacking the humans during night time and roast meat. It was theorigin of the fire that the modern human still use today to cook foodor roast meat.

Homoerectus lived in permanent dwelling sites, unlike earlier ancestorswho were scattered everywhere. The people assembled all the tools attheir dwelling places as discovered by paleoanthropologists (AlanG., Thorne &amp Milford: 46). Brains with large capacity contributed in discoveries of fire andtool-making. The modern people also use fire to get warmth duringthe cold seasons. The discovery of hearth suggested that humansgathered together to eat and sleep. It was an indication that therewas social interaction among the humans. Other non-human primates didnot have gathering areas to share food hence lacked togetherness.Homo erectus became closely related to early humans due totogetherness that is still practiced by modern people. Currently,people live in communities based on cultural practices or tribes.Hunting was also an aspect of showing communism amongst the humansbecause it involved a group of men.

Additively,Australopithecines bodies were covered with big and squeezed hair,unlike modern people who have a smooth body (AlanG., Thorne &amp Milford: 48).Big and congested hair prevented the earlier ancestors from feelingcold. Early humans wear clothes for warmth since their bodies aresmooth. The ears also evolutionally changed where the modern peoplehave smaller ones than those from previous humans. All the bodychanges during the evolution of human beings were because of genemutation and environmental adaptations. The height in human beingsevolved in such a way that earlier ancestors were short while that ofthe modern people are tall. The ancestors had short and lighterbodies with long nails for efficient climbing of trees to search forfruits. Modern people have long and muscular bodies with broaderpelvis for better locomotion.

Conclusively,modern humans have an advanced brain in which they make differenttools, advanced in technology, advanced in farming, engaged in tocultural and religious beliefs among others. Modern people wearclothes and shoes to cover their bodies, unlike earlier humans wholived naked. Modern human seeks for medical attention while sick,unlike the ancestors who were unfamiliar with hospitals or curingmedicines. During Homo erectus and Homo sapiens, tools were used toperform various activities like hunting, digging, and cutting amongothers. From the discussion, there are various similarities anddifferences within the lineage of human evolution. Brain capacity ofmodern humans is occupied by broader knowledge and skills as comparedto the ancestors. Modern people attend schools to gain knowledge andexpertise while the earlier humans gained experience throughenvironmental adaptations and gene mutation. What is left in questionby paleoanthropologists is whether there will be a human evolution onmany years to come.


AlanG., Thorne &amp Milford H. W. (2003). The Multiregional Evolution ofHumans.ScientificAmerican&nbsp13,46 – 53.

CastroJ. (2015). HomoErectus: Facts About the `Upright Man’. Retrievedfrom: September 16, 2016.

Henke,W. (2007).&nbspHandbookof paleoanthropology: 2.Berlin: Springer.

Khan,R. (2011) Humanorigins in 2011. Retrievedfrom: September 16, 2016.