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Human evolution: stages, characteristics, timeline

Evolution of man or human evolution is the name of a series of biological changes that our species has gone through to become what we now call a human being, scientifically known as homo sapiens.

This evolutionary process originated between 4 and 7 million years ago in Africa and began with the appearance of the first hominids, which were primates that moved on two legs, such as Australopithecus.

From there, the emergence of new species was determined by the development of the ability to create tools, move to new territories or learn to use fire. In the same way, each new species brought physical and biological changes until it evolved into the current human being.

species period Location Characteristics
Australopithecus 4-2 million years ago Africa
Homo habilis 2.3-1.6 million years Africa
  • Stone tool makers.
  • short stature
  • carnivores
Homo ergaster 1.9-1.5 million years Africa
  • nomads
  • Tool Makers.
  • Rudimentary communication.
Homo erectus 1.8 million years – 100 thousand years asia
  • They walked upright.
  • They used fire.
  • They lived in groups.
Predecessor man 900 thousand years – 75 thousand years europe
  • Taller and stronger than previous species.
  • They didn’t use fire.
Homo heidelbergensis 600 thousand years -200 thousand years europe
  • Capacity for symbolic thinking.
  • Development of stone and wood tools.
Homo neanderthalensis 230 thousand years – 30 thousand years Europe and Asia
  • physical strength
  • Development of thumb grip.
  • Development of articulated language.
homo sapiens 200 thousand years – present everyone
  • Development of complex language.
  • Logical and abstract thinking.
  • Creative ability.
  • Complex social organization.

Stages of man’s evolution

For the human being to have developed its current characteristics, it has had to go through millions of years of evolutionary changes that include everything from stopping on the two lower limbs to developing language. Of this whole process, there are representative species of the different evolutionary stages.

Australopithecus: the first hominids

The Australopithecus they were a group of hominid primates that lived in Africa about four million years ago.

Hominids are primates that move on two legs, such as orangutans, bonobos, gorillas or chimpanzees. It is believed that the Australopithecus they were the first to develop this characteristic, which is why they are considered a key factor in human evolution.

The primates of this group fed on plants and fruits, lived in the African savanna, were thin and short (up to 1.40 m, approximately). A climate crisis that occurred 2.5 million years ago led to the extinction of the Australopithecus and originated two new genres that derive from it: the Paranthropus and the man. The latter are the origin of the current human being.

Homo habilis: tool makers

The Homo habilis is a type of primitive human that lived on the African continent about 2.3 million years ago. His name (skilled man, in Latin) refers to his ability to create rudimentary stone tools.

The development of this ability marks an important milestone in the human evolutionary process because it indicates, among other things, the ability to have access to more and better food. In this sense, it is known that the Homo habilis it was a carnivore but not a hunter, as it is believed that at this stage it fed on animal remains.

The Homo habilis he was of short stature and weight like his predecessors Australopithecus, as they were only 1.35 m and weighed about 32 kilos. However, their brain, molars and incisor teeth were larger.

Homo ergaster: the first nomads

The Homo ergaster it was a kind of primitive human that lived 2 million years ago. Its main characteristic is that it was not established in Africa, but moved to Asian and European territories, becoming the first species of the genus man to leave the African continent.

The Homo ergaster he made sophisticated tools such as double-edged stone axes. Their size and weight were relatively similar to those of the current human being (1.85 m and 68 kilos, approximately), the brain was larger than that of previous species and they could be the first species to establish some type of communication

Homo erectus: the Asian ancestors

Is called Homo erectus to primitive human species that lived about 1.8 million years ago in East Asia. It is believed that they are descendants of the Homo ergaster that settled in Asia, as they share common characteristics.

The distinctive feature of the Homo erectus it is his ability to walk completely upright, hence his name (straight man, in Latin). They lived in groups and probably exchanged goods to strengthen social bonds. By moving towards colder territories, the Homo erectus he learned to use fire to warm himself and cook his food. His height and maximum weight are estimated at 1.80 m and 68 kilos, respectively.

The Homo erectus disappeared about 500 thousand years ago in the Asian continent, except on the island of Java, in Indonesia. It lived there until about 100,000 years ago and it is presumed that the conditions of geographical isolation favored its survival.

Predecessor man: the first Europeans

It is known as Predecessor man to the species of the genus man oldest found in Europe. In this sense, it would be an equivalent of what was the Homo erectus in the Asian continent in terms of archaeological relevance.

The first fossils of Predecessor man they were found in the Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain and suggest that they lived about 900 thousand years ago. They were characterized by being tall and strong: they were about 1.90 m and weighed about 90 kilograms, although their brains were smaller than those of other related species. Also, they were not able to master fire.

Homo heidelbergensis: pioneers of symbolic language

The Homo heidelbergensis it was a species that lived 600 thousand years ago in Eurasia. Its name derives from the German city of Heilderberg, where the first fossils were found.

The Homo heidelbergensis they were humans with large skulls, pronounced nasal openings, protruding jaws, an average height of 1.75 m and a weight of 62 kilos.

His greatest contribution to human evolution was his ability to mentally represent the world based on his experiences. This is called symbolic thinking and allows individuals to think about the past and imagine future events, making decisions based on the conclusions.

The Homo heidelbergensis they used fire and made more sophisticated stone and wood tools than other species, such as bifaces, which were cutting objects with a symmetrical shape.

Homo neanderthalensis: use of thumbs and articulate language

Better known as Neanderthal man, he is an extinct species of the genus man that lived in Asia and Europe about 230 thousand years ago.

The Homo neanderthalensis they were stronger than modern humans, but their limbs were shorter. In fact, they measured 1.68 m, approximately. The evolutionary contribution of this species was the adaptation of the thumbs for power grips, which are the type of grips we use to hold tools with handles, such as hammers. This implies the development of more efficient and larger tools.

In addition, Neanderthals are thought to have been the first species to use an articulate language, probably based on some basic phonemes (sounds).

The evidence found indicates that the Neanderthals and the homo sapiens they lived together for a while. However, the Neanderthals became extinct 30 thousand years ago and only the homo sapiens they prevailed

homo sapiens: the current human being

the species homo sapiens refers to the modern human being that emerged 200 thousand years ago on the African continent.

The man sapiens it is characterized by being the first species to develop logical and abstract thinking, a complex oral and written language, the creative capacity and to organize itself in society.

His average height and weight is 1.80 m and around 80 kilos. This, however, depends on various genetic and cultural factors.

These skills have allowed the adaptation and survival of the species to changes in its environment. The construction of more resistant dwellings, artistic expressions, the creation of rites and the design of sophisticated tools are the expression of these capacities and mark a great difference from other species man already extinct

Time line of human evolution

Timeline on human evolution

See also:

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