Human Ancestors: Part II.

Our human cousins

Some time ago I wrote a blog which looked at how humans (the genus Homo) first evolved in Africa nearly 3 MYA [Million Years Ago] . They evolved from an earlier genus of apes called Australopithecus,  meaning ‘Southern Ape’. But it seems we should not think of this development as linear, as one species superceding another. Some, like Homo Habilis co-existed with earlier ape-men like Australopithecus Africanus

It is also interesting to see how many people mistakenly think of ourselves, Homo Sapiens, as the only human species.  But Yuval Noah Harari in his extraordinary book Sapiens A brief History of Humankind, makes the point that some 100 MYA there were at least 6 different species of humans.  Some of the things those in the genus Homo had in common were brain size, upright walking, social structures and the use of tools.   

The Genus Homo migrate to Europe and Asia

It seems that around 2 million years humans (ie the genus Homo) left Africa.   

  • In Africa humans continued to evolve. So the remains of Homo Rudolfensis have been found in East Africa and Homo Ergaster fossils have been found in East and South Africa
  • Homo Erectus evolved in East Asia
  • Homo Neanderthalensis lived in Europe and West Asia; become extinct about 30,000 YA
  • Other homo species include
    • Homo Soloeinsis in Java; become extinct 50,000 YA
    • Homo Floriensis on Flores; become extinct 13,000 YA 
    • Homo Denisova in Siberia; become extinct 12,000 YA 
Adapted from Harari’s time line of the evolution of humankind in his 2014 book Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind 

Homo Sapiens leaves Africa around 100,000 years ago

Movement of Homo Sapiens through the world.  Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Homo Sapiens affect on the environment

What I left out of the table above is that Harari makes the point that, after the arrival of Homo Sapiens in Australia and then in America, the megafauna of these continents became extinct.  

We have much to be deeply ashamed of as a species.  



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