Human Anthropology

Conjectural Human “Pre-History” is a lot Less Vague and Conjectural Than it Once Was.

Paleoanthropologist at work

Modern archeology and paleoanthropology has a lot more information on the pre-literate, “stone age” human society than the “cave man” myths which were popular in the literature of the last two centuries portrayed. The Stone Age of human history was a broad prehistoric (and therefor pre-literate) period during which stone was widely used to make implements with an edge, a point, or a percussion surface.

The Earliest Human Beings (the Appearance of Homo sapiens in the geological and anthropological Record):

The term Homo sapien was derived from the Latin root words: homo which means like or same (as in like us) and sapien which means wise (or thinking) by Carl Linnaeus in 1758 (see 1735 in this chronology). The Homo sapien species emerges from the primate fossil record around 300,000 years ago in what is generally referred to as the Middle Paleolithic era. Archeological evidence shows the emergence of Homo sapiens with “full behavioral modernity” as having occurred roughly 50,000 years ago, corresponding to the start of the Upper Paleolithic era which ended sometime between 8700 B.C. and 2000 B.C. with the advent of metalworking.

The term Behavioral modernity is used to describe a group of behavioral and cognitive traits that distinguish Homo sapiens from other non-human, anatomically modern hominids “AMHs” (human like primates). Although often debated, most scholars agree that modern human behavior can be characterized by abstract thinking, planning in depth, symbolic behavior (e.g., art, ornamentation), music and dance, the domestication of large game, and blade technology, among others. Underlying these behaviors and technological innovations are cognitive and cultural foundations (e.g., the development of verbal language skills). Some of these universal human patterns are cumulative cultural adaptation, social norms, language, and extensive help and cooperation beyond close kin (traits which are studied by social or cultural anthropologist). It has been argued that the development of these modern behavioral traits, in combination with the climatic conditions of the Last Glacial Maximum (last great ice age), was largely responsible for the human replacement of Neanderthals, Denisovans, and the other species of humanoids of the world.

Biological Classification of Homo sapiens:

The biological taxonomy of living organisms is divided into seven main categories and sub-categories: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus & Species.

The full categorization of homo sapiens is: Kingdom: Animalia (Animal), Phylum: Chordata (animals with spinal cords; a.k.a. Craniata animals having a brain case or skull), Sub-phylum: Vertebrata (animals with vertebral columns to protect the spinal cord), Class: Mamalia (vertebrates which have mammary glands, hair or fur, and 3 inner ear bones to accommodate hearing), Order: Primate, Suborder: Haplorhini (the Greek term haplorhine means “simple-nosed”), Parvorder (sub-sub order) Catarrhini (the old world anthropoids), Superfamily: Hominoidea, Family: Hominidae (the “great apes” or hominids), Genus: Homo, Species: Sapien. Clearly the biological taxonomist have needed to sub-sub divide the classic “7 categories” of taxonomy. Biological classification “is complicated”

Archaic Human-Like Species in the genus Homo

The first homo sapien is conjectured to have arisen from a protospecies of the genus Homo was once given the hypothetical name of Homo erectus that guy is hypothesized to have roamed the world from around 1,800,000 years ago. The only problems is there is NO definitive objective archeological or paleoanthropological evidence of that species. The few bone fragments which have been found which most anthropologist agree might be fragments of the conjectured and hoped for “missing link” species, are not nearly complete enough to convince any reasonable person who examines only the evidence (and ignores the “professional” professions of the “experts”). The more recent phylogenetic trees show Homo erectus on a branch that does connect to the Homo sapiens, so Homo erectus is no long considered to be an ancestor of the Homo sapiens.

Fossil fragment of the upper jaw and a portion of skull of Homo ancessor

Between 1994 and 1995 fossilized bone fragments found in Spain were dubbed Homo antecessor and have been claimed to represent the oldest direct fossil record of the presence of the genus Homo in Europe (accord to the investigator, Bermudez de Castro whose 1997 report was published in the journal Science).

Reconstruction of skull of Homo ancessor made from above fossilized bone fragments

The only known fossils thought to be of H. antecessor were found at two sites in the Sierra de Atapuerca region of northern Spain (Gran Dolina and Sima del Elefante). In 1994 and 1995, a total of 80 fossil fragment of six individuals who may have belonged to the species were found. The type specimen for H. antecessor is ATD 6-5, dating to approximately 780,000 years ago.

The putative most “human like” species in the Homo genus, Homo neanderthalensis:

Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) are an archaic and extinct species within the genus Homo. The neanderthals, lived within Eurasia from around 400,000 years ago until around 40,000 years ago.

Comparison between the skull feature of a human (Homo sapien) skull and those of a neanderthal individual.
Fossil neanderthal skull

Remember that the Homo sapien fossil record goes back some 300,00 years, so these two species co-existed for the first 250,000 years of Homo sapien existence. Again it is generally thought that the emergence of “full human behavioral modernity” occurred roughly 50,000 years ago, so the gist of it is that the smarter, more socially organized Homo sapiens out completed the Homo neanderthalensisians in that shared climate/habitat until the neanderthal species became extinct.

The Recent Africa Origin of Modern humans:

In paleoanthropology, the recent African origin of modern humans model, also called the “Out of Africatheory (OOA), recent single-origin hypothesis (RSOH), replacement hypothesis, or recent African origin model (RAO), is the dominant model of the geographic origin and early migration of anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens).

A map of the progressive replacement of neanderthals by humans

Independent, DNA based, evidence of human origin and world Migration:

In the most recent 1/2 century, molecular biologists have sequenced (mapped) the entire genome (all the DNA) of one person (the Human Genome Project, started in 1990 and completed on April 14, 2003). Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is not transmitted through the nuclear DNA (nDNA) which is found in the nucleus of human cells. Mitochondria are cellular organelles which exist in the cytoplasm of human cells. In humans (as in most multicellular organisms) have their own DNA and mitochondrial DNA is inherited only from the mother’s ovum (egg cell) and mtDNA is not a “recombined” version of the mtDNA of both parents. This means that baring mutations in the mtDNA sequence every person on earth would share the mtDNA sequence! However, mutations do occur, so a sort of genetic ancestry (or genealogy) can be derived by sequencing the mtDNA of many different individuals and comparing those genetic sequences to one another. This technique has yielded an independent data source of the history of human migrations throughout time.

Independent Map of the Prehistoric Human Migrations based of Human Mitochondrial (mtDNA) Sequencing and Haplogroup Typing Studies.