Evolution of Humankind

I have always found the evolutionary path of our species to be very interesting. I was actually surfing the web earlier today and stumbled across and article talking about how a fossil of a human jaw has been recently discovered. This fossil dates back 2.8 million years making it the oldest fossil from the homo genus (smithsonianmag.com). The article then went on to say were the fossil was found and a theory on how humans evolved into what we are today. I enjoyed learning in class today about the anatomically modern humans and the Neanderthals. I think it’s really cool being able to trace our ancestors all the way back so far, but it also opens up a lot of questions. There is honestly so much to learn about the human race and we have barely scratched the surface. First off, we still don’t know how old the entire homo genus is. We are constantly discovering fossils that keep pushing back the age of our species. In all honesty we will probably never know the exact age of our genus though; there are plenty of natural occurrences that can destroy a fossil. There is also so much history in the artifacts that were created by our ancestors. Like we learned today, in the three Paleolithic periods alone there is still so much to learn. Our history extends before this period and leads all the way up to current times. If you really take the time you can learn so much about how our ancestors behaved and what kind of things they did and used. Just looking at tools alone we can see how we started off using our hands, then gradually made it into the use of primitive tools, slowly refining and creating new technologies until we reached where we are today, everyone has a cell phone and we have things like lasers and LED’s. It is absolutely astounding how far we have come since the beginning of our evolution. One can only imagine what people thousands of years from now are going to think about the tools that we use today. In the future they may look at us the same way we look at our current ancestors. We look at the Neanderthals and ancient Europeans as if they are these primitive creatures. In the future who knows what our species will look like, who knows what kind of tools we will be using, they will look back upon us and laugh at how simple our technology is, and how odd we looked, they will look at us as history and they as the modern humans.


One thought on “Evolution of Humankind

  1. I wrote on a similar topic (behavioral modernity) and found the evolutionary changes during the Upper Paleolithic to be mesmerizing. Although a gradual process, it was a time of great changes with the emergence of artistic expression.

    An article that I have recently stumbled upon (http://archaeology.about.com/od/homoerectus/a/pakefield.htm) discusses some of the early evidence for human occupation in England, focusing on that of the Homo erectus, and more specifically the Homo heidelbergensis. The article assemblages dates back 700,000 years; however, the core fragments and stone flakes lack much behavioral expression. Jumping forward 200,000 years we see major changes.

    As discussed in a relatively recent publication in Nature (http://www.nature.com/news/homo-erectus-made-world-s-oldest-doodle-500-000-years-ago-1.16477), there was a discovery of a freshwater mussel shell that Homo erectus had been etching zig-zag patterns into ca. 500,000 years ago, and is the oldest abstract marking ever found. Prior to this discovery, the oldest art form had been a series of engravings with ochre (we mentioned a little bit about this in class) had been found in South Africa dating back roughly 100,000 years ago.

    As more discoveries have been made of behavioral modernity in our ancient ancestors, archaeologists are reflecting on the differentiation between Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, and Homo erectus. There has been increasing realization that abilities including abstract thinking, which had previously only been ascribed to the Homo sapiens, have been found in other archaic peoples and ancestors. Many of the concepts originally applied exclusively to anatomically modern humans have been found in other hominids, and thus archaeologists have been working to redefine where to draw the line.

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