As we learned in this week’s lectures the evolution of humans has been one of many branching paths. We have had ancestors who had similarities and traits that we have. However they did not directly lead to our own evolutionary path rather they were dead ends. This is an important concept many do not realize. Human evolution has not been a straight linear one that leads directly to us today. As described in the lectures we are a branching tree that has had a common ancestor with apes, and the various ancestors that made us who we are today. Even the chimpanzees and other primates of today were not exactly the same a million years ago as they are today. They too have been evolving, perhaps not in the same way or as quickly as we have but they still been evolving none the less.
The first hominin trait that can be seen as vital for the modern human biology is dental changes and adaptations. Early hominins had much larger and wider premolars and molars. This trait was vital for them because it was through this trait that they were able to survive. These larger molars allowed them to better grind and break down plants or nuts which were a big part of their diet. Over time however this trait changed as hominins adapted and their diets changed as well requiring less large molars.
A second trait is the extensive use of bipedalism and the adaption of a push toe versus an opposable toe. As our ancestors left the tree tops and began to be on the ground more and more they adapted to a new form of transportation. This new means of getting from point A to point B was through the use of bipedal movement. Instead of using all four limbs (arms and legs) to move around, early hominins began using only two of those limbs. This was not an easy or quick adaption but it was one that set the stage for modern human biology to get to the point it is now. The early bipedal hominins still had their opposable toes this would have made walking or running harder and much more strenuous. This is where the adaptation for a straight push toe came in and allowed for modern human bipedalism to exist.
Fossilized skeletal remains of early human ancestors are a major key for any anthropologist attempting to reconstruct and understand the past. The fossilized remains allow anthropologist to get glimpse into the past of our early ancestors. From these we are able to see just how similar and how different we are living from our early ancestors. We also might be able to see how the environment our ancestors lived in shaped their existence. For example depending on the food sources available to them due to their environment could tell us just why our early ancestors were shorter on average them us today. We might also see how much work might have been required to maintain a group population fed. Fossilized remains for now are the best and closest we will get to, to understanding about our early ancestors who made us who we are today.