lec 2 - 1 Lecture 2 Early Humans and the Prehistoric...

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1 Lecture 2 Early Humans and the Prehistoric Record: Human-Plant Interaction The Prehistory of Humans The development of humans from primates is an area of intense study based upon hominid remains, tools, and other artifacts. The earliest evidence is found in Africa and there is fi rm evidence that this con- tinent is the source of human evolution (Fig. 2-1). There are remnants (bones and tools) of hominid wanderings to Asia at least 1.7 million years ago, to the Middle East about 1.5 million years ago, and recent evidence shows that Europe was entered about 1.2 million years ago (Fig. 2-2). Thus, tool making dates back to at least 1.7 million years ago and was fi rst associated with a species known as Homo erectus , with a brain capacity of about 1000 cc. Fig. 2-1. Africa is the source of human evolution. The dates given in this fi gure are the generally accepted dates for main migrations but recent evidence indicates initiation considerably earlier as shown in Fig. 2. Source: Time Magazine, Feb. 13, 1995. Fig. 2-2. Hominid fossils and tools date to 1.8 million years ago and there is some evidence of tools in Europe as early as 1.2 million years ago. An explosion of hominid remains appears in Europe about 500,000 years ago. Source: A. Gibbons, Science 291:1722 (March 2, 2001).
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2 Lecture 2 Paleolithic Humans The Paleolithic period , which means “ Old Stone Age ,” has been considered to extend from 750,000 to 15,000 years ago. Paleolithic humans were hunters and gatherers. Their culture survives chiefl y though the remains of stone tools, which along with carbon dating can be used to determine chronology. Evi- dence is accumulating that there were waves of migrations. About 500,000 years ago, a surge of hominid expansion occurred from populations that had a brain capacity of 1100-1300 cc, a species now known as either archaic Homo sapiens or Homo heidelbergensis , after its discovery in Germany (Fig. 2-3). This new immigrant population fi rmly established itself in Europe with superb hunting skills as evidenced by weapons such as spears. This group gave rise to Neandertals, brawny and large-brained humans with short arms and a broad trunk, who appeared in Europe about 250,000 years ago. However, about this time a new African group, Homo sapiens or Cro-Magnon , spread to Asia and eventually reached Europe (Fig 2-4). Cro-Magnon man, up to six feet in height, with a cranial capacity greater (by 200 cc) than modern humans (1500-1700 cc) had a huge frontal lobe that some have suggested was “wired” for cognative thinking. By 200,000 years ago, Neandertals and Cro-Magnons came in contact and co-existed for several thousands of years. This encounter had a pivotal role in human evolution. The H. sapiens group, our direct ancestors overwhelmed the Neandertals who essentially disappeared about 25,000 – 30,000 years ago, although there is a possibility of some interbreeding. The evidence suggests that the Neandertals could not compete with Cro-Magnons, especially as the climate changed in the Ice Age. Note that the Ice Age came to an end about 15,000 years ago.
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lec 2 - 1 Lecture 2 Early Humans and the Prehistoric...

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