Prehistoric Humans

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Prehistoric Humans

Scientific record and evidence places the beginning of the genus Homo at two million years ago with the emergence of Homo habilis from East and Southern Africa. This species is the earliest known record of man that is categorized in the same group as living humans. It was at this point in time that stone tools first appeared and they are classified as the Oldowan / Developed Oldowan Tradition. Homo habilis represents a remarkable change in the comparison of other earlier species believed to be more primitive forms of humans. Up to this point in time, Africa is the only location in the world for human existence.

At 1.75 million years ago, Homo erectus (a.k.a. Homo ergaster) appears and spreads throughout North Africa eventually traveling to Eurasia. Homo erectus (other H. erectus variants include Homo ergaster, Homo heidelbergensis) survived for 1.5 million years in Africa and Asia. They were active hunters that lived in small huts and caves, mastered the use of fire and fashioned a variety of stone tools. These bifacial stone tools were different from the Oldowan tools as they were fashioned out of large flakes and occur in greater abundance and variety. This change in tool development first occurs 1.4 million years ago and is classified as the Acheulian Tradition. From 500,000 years ago to 250,000 years ago, Homo erectus was transitioning into an archaic form of Homo sapiens in Africa and Europe. True Homo erectus simultaneously existed at this time only in Northern Africa and China but eventually disappears from the fossil record 250,000 years ago leaving Homo sapiens as the only human species left on the planet.

The most famous variety of archaic Homo sapiens is undoubtedly the Neanderthal people. Perhaps no other type of primitive man has been so maligned as that of the Neanderthals and recent discoveries are sending many scientists back to their proverbial drawing boards to rewrite an accurate account of these amazing peoples. Scientists now classify them as a sub-species of Homo sapiens, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. With the emergence of Neanderthals comes a new, more advanced and specialized tool technology called the Mousterian Tradition.

While signs of developing Neanderthals arose 300,000 years ago, true Neanderthals can first be attributed back to 150,000 years ago. They populated regions in Europe and the Near East, and existed right up to just 30,000 years ago in western France. Between 125,000 and 100,000 years ago, the Neanderthals spread east and south, and they are known in northern Africa and from France through southern Europe, the former southern Soviet states and Iraq. Current evidence shows that despite Neanderthals' stockier build, they share several key features with modern man. There is also clear evidence that they had control of fire, lived in caves or open-air structures of stone and vegetation.

One of the most important artifacts of primitive man is the existence of stone tools. The Paleolithic Period is defined as the time from the first use of stone tools around two million years ago to the end of the Pleistocene epoch, 12,000 years ago. The Paleolithic Period is divided into three categories, Lower, Middle and Upper Paleolithic Period.

by John McNamara

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Prehistoric Humans