At least 315,000 years ago, humans first appeared on Earth. The earliest-known remains of modern humans were discovered in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, and this figure is based on them.

Since species don’t come into being overnight, determining when humans initially emerged is difficult. Instead, from their ancestral species, they gradually change and develop.

The primordial species that generated the early humans of Morocco developed in Africa and their history dates back even further, to some six million years in the past.

The progress of increasingly bigger and more sophisticated brains is especially noteworthy in the evolution of these ancestral species.

See below for more about the amazing tale of human evolution.

Page Index

  • Where did humans first appear?
  • The human family tree
  • What are Australopithecines?
  • Which are the closest prehistoric relatives of modern humans?
  • What did early Homo sapiens look like?
  • How did modern humans spread around the world?
  • Further Reading And References

Where did humans first appear?

The oldest human fossils are found in Africa, including those from Jebel Irhoud, as well as others from Ethiopia in East Africa (dated between 196,000 and 160,000 years ago). As a result, archaeologists have concluded that our species originated in Africa.

In reality, over 6,000 ancient human fossils have been discovered in Africa so far, indicating that human evolutionary history on this continent dates back to the time when the human lineage (hominins) split from the chimps some six million years ago. As a result, Africa is referred to as the “birthplace of humanity.”

Humans belong to the Hominidae family of “great apes,” which includes chimps, gorillas, and orangutans. This is an interesting fact. While great apes and humans are closely connected, we did not descend from them; instead, they descended from us.

The order Primates contains the Hominidae family as well as other families. Lorises, lemurs, monkeys, and gibbons are among the other primates.

We don’t know which species were our direct ancestors, but early Homo sapiens arose from ancestral species. Because species that became extinct instead of becoming our ancestors are included in the human fossil record, it includes examples of both.

It is very difficult to determine the precise linkages between distinct species in fossil deposits since many fossils are made up of incomplete skeletons or just a few bones. Archaeologists also regularly discover and name new species, making the situation even more difficult.

The human family tree

In a long stream of unavoidable steps towards contemporary H. sapiens, human evolution does not involve one ancestral species changing into the next. The term “sapiens” refers to the species Homo sapiens. In reality, a tree appears to be more like our evolutionary history, with diverse ancient species strewn about the trunks and branches.

Several species have simply gone extinct, without producing new species, indicating that they have reached evolutionary dead ends. Other animals have evolved gradually into new species; human genes dating back millions of years are carried by those who are still alive.

FUN FACT: Chimpanzees and humans have 98.8% of their DNA in common, which is the highest amount between any two species. This implies that our genetic code is 1.2 percent different. Humans, on the other hand, vary by just 0.1% from one another.

Many lineages of significant forefathers may be found in the human family tree. Australopithecines and members of the genus Homo are two of these groups.

What are Australopithecines?

Australopithecus, a genus of early human ancestors, emerged in eastern Africa some 4.5 million years ago and evolved into a group of human ancestors. Their fossils may be discovered in a variety of locales across the African continent. Around 1.9 million years ago, they went extinct.

While they still climbed trees, the australopithecines were bipedal (walked on their back legs). They had chimpanzee-like body proportions.

They had brains that were roughly one-third the size of those of a modern human, and they stood only about a meter in height. Their faces were also slanted, with the lower jaw protruding like that of a chimp. You’d think of it more like an ape than a human if you saw one today.

Which are the closest prehistoric relatives of modern humans?

The genus Homo originated from the Australopithecus family some two million years ago, according to certain estimates.

Homo habilis

Homo habilis, the ‘handy man,’ was the first member of the genus Homo and was named for his ability to manufacture and utilize stone tools. From roughly 2.3 million years ago, Homo habilis is thought to have existed.

H. has a relatively large brain, The abilis individuals were somewhat bigger than the australopithecines, although only half the size of a modern human brain. These were small-stature hominins that could climb trees and walk with an upright posture, as well as other activities.

Homo erectus

Around 1.9 million years ago, Homo erectus, or upright man, appeared in the fossil record. Whether or not H. The H. erectus progenitor evolutioned quickly. The two species co-existed in East Africa approximately 1.5 million years ago, according to the scientific literature.

The legs were longer, and the arms shorter, than in modern human ancestors. This was clearly a ground-dwelling species, not a tree-dwelling species.

The first of our ancient forefathers to venture beyond Africa was Homo erectus, who did so about 1.7 million years ago. H. fossils have been found. South-east Asia, eastern Asia, China, Indonesia, and Europe have all been home to erectus. These early human progenitors crossed swaths of earth that are now submerged under water as they moved to different continents.

Although Homo erectus lived on the planet for almost two million years and spread throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe, no trace of a Homo erectus population has been discovered since. All populations everywhere died out.

AN INTERESTING FACT: Homo erectus, the oldest known species on Earth, lived for nine times as long as current humans did; Adaptation to changes in the environment was clearly something Erectus was excellent at.

Homo neanderthalensis

From at least 430,000 years ago, Homo neanderthalensis resided in Europe. Neanderthals were shorter and stockier than current humans, with bigger brains, according to fossils. We know they existed since they left many relics behind.

Modern humans and Neanderthals arose from the same common ancestor, perhaps as far back as 800,000 years ago, according to neanderthal experts.

Neanderthals were great hunters who employed a range of tools. They managed to make their own clothes from the skins of animals after surviving in some very cold situations. They might also possibly communicate using language.

INTERESTING FACT: For hundreds of thousands of years, modern humans and Neanderthals coexisted and even interbred in Europe. Modern people carry some Neanderthal genes, but only in certain parts of the world (excluding Africans).

The final Neanderthals vanished from the planet some 35,000 years ago, leaving us, Homo sapiens, as the final and only living replay of a long and extraordinary human evolutionary tale.

Homo sapiens

The ancient hominin species in the family tree are thought to have given rise to Homo sapiens, the thinking man. We’re fully bipedal and have enormous brains. We are masters of tools, and we no longer have body hair like our forefathers.

What did early Homo sapiens look like?

The five individuals who perished at Jebel Irhoud in Morocco and are believed to be the first modern humans look a lot like us, despite being 5,000 years old. Their teeth and jaws were the same as ours, although they were somewhat bigger. Their faces were flat, like ours. Yet, unlike current human skulls, their skulls were more stretched out.

How did modern humans spread around the world?

They walked, mostly, according to the short answer.

A single, tiny tribe of anatomically modern Homo sapiens left East Africa about 70,000 years ago and started to expand eastwards. They came to a halt along the way, and their numbers grew. The population progressively migrated south along the Arabian Peninsula’s southern shore, Asia, and the Indonesian Islands as a result of this. 50,000 years ago, populations arrived in Australia.

Moreover, about 40,000 years ago, descendants from the original population traveled north to Europe. Following in their footsteps were other relatives who lived throughout Asia, and finally, 20,000 years ago, the first modern humans arrived in the Americas. Several of these early Americans are supposed to have arrived by boat, while others walked.

As a result, all people alive today are descended from African ancestors. Moreover, virtually everyone outside of Africa can trace their ancestors to that solitary, tiny group who walked out of that continent and embarked on a migration to populate the rest of the globe.

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