TUKUL 3: Palaeoanthropology

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List of Hominids

Sahelanthropus tchadensis
- 7.0/6.0 Myr

This species was named in July 2002 from fossils discovered in Chad in Central Africa.
It is the oldest known hominid or near-hominid species, dated at between 6 and 7 Myr. This species is known from a nearly complete cranium nicknamed Toumai, and a number of fragmentary lower jaws and teeth. The skull has a very small brain size of approximately 350 cc.

It is not known whether it was bipedal. S. tchadensis has many primitive apelike features, such as the small brainsize, along with others, such as the brow ridges and small canine teeth, which are characteristic of later hominids. This mixture, along with the fact that it comes from around the time when the hominids are thought to have diverged from chimpanzees, suggests it is close to the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees.

Orrorin tugenensis - 6.0 Myr

This species was named in July 2001 from fossils discovered in western Kenya.
The fossils include fragmentary arm and thigh bones, lower jaws, and teeth and were discovered in deposits that are about 6 Myr.
The limb bones are about 1.5 times larger than those of Lucy, and suggest that it was about the size of a female chimpanzee.

Its finders have claimed that Orrorin was a human ancestor adapted to both bipedality and tree climbing, and that the australopithecines are an extinct offshoot. Given the fragmentary nature of the remains, other scientists have been skeptical of these claims so far. A later paper has found further evidence of bipedality in the fossil femur.

Ardipithecus kadabba - 5.8/5.2 Myr

A number of fragmentary fossils discovered between 1997 and 2001, and dating from 5.2 to 5.8 Myr, have been assigned first to a new subspecies, Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba, and then later as a new species, Ardipithecus kadabba. One of these fossils is a toe bone belonging to a bipedal creature, but is a few hundred thousand years younger than the rest of the fossils and so its identification with kadabba is not as firm as the other fossils.

Ardipithecus ramidus - 4.4 Myr

This species was named in September 1994. It was dated at 4.4 Myr. Most remains are skull fragments. Indirect evidence suggests that it was possibly bipedal, and that some individuals were about 122 cm tall. The teeth are intermediate between those of earlier apes and A. afarensis, but one baby tooth is very primitive, resembling a chimpanzee tooth more than any other known hominid tooth. Other fossils found with ramidus indicate that it may have been a forest dweller.

Australopithecus anamensis - 4.2/3.9 Myr

This species was named in August 1995. The material consists of 9 fossils, mostly found in 1994, from Kanapoi in Kenya, and 12 fossils, mostly teeth found in 1988, from Allia Bay in Kenya. Anamensis existed between 4.2 and 3.9 Myr, and has a mixture of primitive features in the skull, and advanced features in the body. The teeth and jaws are very similar to those of older fossil apes. A partial tibia is strong evidence of bipedality, and a lower humerus is extremely humanlike.

Australopithecus afarensis - 3.9/3.0 Myr

A. afarensis existed between 3.9 and 3.0 Myr. Afarensis had an apelike face with a low forehead, a bony ridge over the eyes, a flat nose, and no chin. They had protruding jaws with large back teeth. Cranial capacity varied from about 375 to 550 cc. The skull is similar to that of a chimpanzee, except for the more humanlike teeth. The canine teeth are much smaller than those of modern apes, but larger and more pointed than those of humans, and shape of the jaw is between the rectangular shape of apes and the parabolic shape of humans.

However their pelvis and leg bones far more closely resemble those of modern man, and leave no doubt that they were bipedal. Their bones show that they were physically very strong. Females were substantially smaller than males, a condition known as sexual dimorphism. Height varied between about 107 cm and 152 cm. The finger and toe bones are curved and proportionally longer than in humans, but the hands are similar to humans in most other details.

Kenyanthropus platyops - 3.5 Myr

This species was named in 2001 from a partial skull found in Kenya with an unusual mixture of features. It is aged about 3.5 Myr.
The size of the skull is similar to A. afarensis and A. africanus, and has a large, flat face and small teeth.

Australopithecus africanus - 3.0/2.0 Myr

A. africanus existed between 3 and 2 Myr. It is similar to afarensis, and was also bipedal, but body size was slightly greater. Brain size may also have been slightly larger, ranging between 420 and 500 cc.
This is a little larger than chimp brains, but still not advanced in the areas necessary for speech. The back teeth were a little bigger than in afarensis.

Although the teeth and jaws of africanus are much larger than those of humans, they are far more similar to human teeth than to those of apes. The shape of the jaw is now fully parabolic, like that of humans, and the size of the canine teeth is further reduced compared to afarensis.

Australopithecus garhi - 2.5 Myr

This species was named in April 1999. It is known from a partial skull. The skull differs from previous australopithecine species in the combination of its features, notably the extremely large size of its teeth, especially the rear ones, and a primitive skull morphology. Some nearby skeletal remains may belong to the same species. They show a humanlike ratio of the humerus and femur, but an apelike ratio of the lower and upper arm.

Australopithecus (Paranthropus) aethiopicus - 2.6/2.3 Myr

A. (P.) aethiopicus existed between 2.6 and 2.3 Myr. This species is known from one major specimen, the Black Skull discovered by Alan Walker, and a few other minor specimens which may belong to the same species. It may be an ancestor of robustus and boisei, but it has a baffling mixture of primitive and advanced traits. The brain size is very small, at 410 cc, and parts of the skull, particularly the hind portions, are very primitive, most resembling afarensis.

Other characteristics, like the massiveness of the face, jaws and single tooth found, and the largest sagittal crest in any known hominid, are more reminiscent of A. boisei. A sagittal crest is a bony ridge on top of the skull to which chewing muscles attach.

Australopithecus (Paranthropus) robustus - 2.0/1.5 Myr

A.(P.) robustus had a body similar to that of africanus, but a larger and more robust skull and teeth. It existed between 2 and 1.5 Myr. The massive face is flat or dished, with no forehead and large brow ridges. It has relatively small front teeth, but massive grinding teeth in a large lower jaw. Most specimens have sagittal crests. Its diet would have been mostly coarse, tough food that needed a lot of chewing.

The average brain size is about 530 cc. Bones excavated with robustus skeletons indicate that they may have been used as digging tools.

Australopithecus (Paranthropus) boisei - 2.1/1.1 Myr

A. (P.) boisei existed between 2.1 and 1.1 Myr. It was similar to robustus, but the face and cheek teeth were even more massive, some molars being up to 2 cm across. The brain size is very similar to robustus, about 530 cc. A few experts consider boisei and robustus to be variants of the same species.

Homo habilis - 2.4/1.5 Myr

H. habilis, "handy man", was so called because of evidence of tools found with its remains. Habilis existed between 2.4 and 1.5 Myr. It is very similar to Australopithecines in many ways. The face is still primitive, but it projects less than in A. africanus. The back teeth are smaller, but still considerably larger than in modern humans. The average brain size, at 650 cc, is considerably larger than in Australopithecines.

Brain size varies between 500 and 800 cc, overlapping the Australopithecines at the low end and H. erectus at the high end. The brain shape is also more humanlike. Habilis is thought to have been about 127 cm tall, and about 45 kg in weight, although females may have been smaller.

Homo rudolfensis - 2.4/1.8 Myr

Habilis has been a controversial species. Originally, some scientists did not accept its validity, believing that all habilis specimens should be assigned to either the australopithecines or Homo erectus. H. habilis is now fully accepted as a species, but it is widely thought that the habilis specimens have too wide a range of variation for a single species, and that some of the specimens should be placed in one or more other species.

One suggested species which is accepted by many scientists is Homo rudolfensis, which would contain fossils such as ER 1470.

Homo georgicus - 1.8 Myr

This species was named in 2002 to contain several fossils found at Dmanisi, Georgia, which seem intermediate between H. ergaster and H. erectus, and dated to about 1.8 Myr. The brain sizes of the skulls vary from 600 to 680 cc. The height, as estimated from a foot bone, would have been about 1.5 m.

Homo ergaster -1.9/1.6 Myr

Some scientists classify some African erectus specimens as belonging to a separate species, Homo ergaster, which differs from the Asian H. erectus fossils in some details of the skull (e.g. the brow ridges differ in shape, and erectus would have a larger brain size). Under this scheme, would include fossils such as the Turkana boy and ER 3733. The Turkana Boy is tall and H. ergaster slender, like modern humans from the same area.

Homo erectus - 1.8/0.3 Myr

H. erectus existed between 1.8 Myr and 300,000 years ago. Like habilis, the face has protruding jaws with large molars, no chin, thick brow ridges, and a long low skull, with a brain size varying between 750 and 1225 cc. Early erectus specimens average about 900 cc, while late ones have an average of about 1100 cc. The skeleton is more robust than those of modern humans, implying greater strength.

Homo habilis and all the australopithecines are found only in Africa, but erectus was wide-ranging, and has been found in Africa, Asia, and Europe. There is evidence that erectus probably used fire, and their stone tools are more sophisticated than those of habilis.

Homo antecessor - 0.8 Myr

Homo antecessor was named in 1977 from fossils found at the Spanish cave site of Atapuerca, dated to at least 780,000 years ago, making them the oldest confirmed European hominids. The mid-facial area of antecessor seems very modern, but other parts of the skull such as the teeth, forehead and browridges are much more primitive.

Homo heidelbergensis - 0.5/0.2 Myr

Archaic forms of Homo sapiens first appear about 500,000 years ago. The term covers a diverse group of skulls which have features of both Homo erectus and modern humans. The brain size is larger than erectus and smaller than most modern humans, averaging about 1200 cc, and the skull is more rounded than in erectus. The skeleton and teeth are usually less robust than erectus, but more robust than modern humans.

Many still have large brow ridges and receding foreheads and chins. There is no clear dividing line between late erectus and archaic sapiens, and many fossils between 500,000 and 200,000 years ago are difficult to classify as one or the other.

Homo neanderthalensis - 0.25/0.03 Myr

H. neanderthalensis existed between 250,000 and 30,000 years ago. The average brain size is slightly larger than that of modern humans, about 1450 cc, but this is probably correlated with their greater bulk. The brain case however is longer and lower than that of modern humans, with a marked bulge at the back of the skull. Like erectus, they had a protruding jaw and receding forehead. The chin was usually weak.

The midfacial area also protrudes, a feature that is not found in erectus or sapiens and may be an adaptation to cold. Neanderthals mostly lived in cold climates, and their body proportions are similar to those of modern cold-adapted peoples: short and solid, with short limbs. Men averaged about 168 cm in height. Their bones are thick and heavy, and show signs of powerful muscle attachments. They are found throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Homo floresiensis - 0.018 Myr

Homo floresiensis was discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003. Fossils have been discovered from a number of individuals. The most complete fossil is of an adult female about 1 meter tall with a brain size of 417 cc. Other fossils indicate that this was a normal size for floresiensis. It is thought that floresiensis is a dwarf form of Homo erectus - it is not uncommon for dwarf forms of large mammals to evolve on islands.

H. floresiensis was fully bipedal, used stone tools and fire, and hunted dwarf elephants also found on the island.

Homo sapiens sapiens - 0.2 Myr/modern times

Modern forms of Homo sapiens first appear about 195,000 years ago. Modern humans have an average brain size of about 1350 cc.
The forehead rises sharply, eyebrow ridges are very small or more usually absent, the chin is prominent, and the skeleton is very gracile.  

Fine artwork, in the form of decorated tools and fragments of ochre, beads, ivory carvings of humans and animals, clay figurines, musical instruments, and spectacular cave paintings appeared since 70,000 years.

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