Paranthropus robustus
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Paranthropus robustus. Australopithecus africanus. Set IV. Early Homo (2.4-1.8 m.y.a.). The earliest appearance of our genus, Homo may be as ancient as the robust Australopithecines . Leakey named these specimens Homo habilis ("handy man") for Olduwan tools.

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Paranthropus robustus

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Paranthropus robustus


Australopithecus africanus


Set IV. Early Homo (2.4-1.8 m.y.a.)

  • The earliest appearance of our genus, Homo may be as ancient as the robust Australopithecines.

  • Leakey named these specimens Homo habilis ("handy man") for Olduwan tools

  • Differs from Australopithecus in cranial cavity and dental proportions.


Homo habilis


Homo habilis


Pleistocene Homo

  • Terminology

  • The Pleistocene (1.8 m.y.a. - 10,000 y.a.)

  • Overview of Homo erectus Discoveries

  • Morphology of Homo erectus

  • Technological Trends

  • Population Trends


I. Homo erectus: Terminology

  • The discoveries of fossils now referred to as Homo erectus go back to the 1890s. These early fossils had different names:

    • Javanese remains were called Pithecanthropus (first found).

    • The fossils found in China were called Sinanthropus.

  • After World War II the previous taxonomic splitting was combined under the classification of Homo erectus.

  • Today they are referred to by some as Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, and Homo ergaster


II. The Pleistocene (1.8 m.y.a.. - 10,000 y.a.)

  • Northern hemisphere largely covered with ice to about 40 degrees N latitude

  • Known as the “age of glaciers” or “ice age”


II. The Pleistocene

  • Glacial advances and retreats influenced hominids

  • Pleistocene levels

    went down as much

    as 125 m.


III A. Discoveries in Java

  • Six sites in eastern Java have yielded all the H. erectus fossils that have been found on this island.

  • Dates range from 1.8 m.y.a. to 1.6 m.y.a.

  • These were among the first found in the 1890s by Eugene DuBois


III B. Discoveries in Peking

  • Near Zhoukoudian, more than 40 male and female adults and children have been found along with 100,000 artifacts since the 1920s.

    • The site was occupied for almost 250,000 years.

    • 40 % of the bones found were of individuals less than 14 years old and 2.6 % of the bones found were of individuals in the 50-60 year range.

    • Some evidence of fire use and cannibalism


III C. Discoveries in East Africa

  • Louis Leakey unearthed a fossil skull at Olduvai.

  • An almost complete skull was discovered in east Turkana.

  • The most complete H. erectus skeleton ever found was uncovered at western Lake Turkana (Turkana or Nariokotome Boy).

  • In Ethiopia, an abundance of Acheulian tools have been found as well as a mandible dating to 1.3 m.y.a.


IV. Morphology of Homo erectus

  • Brain size has a mean of 900 cm3

  • Range of 800-1200 cm3

  • Body sizedramatically increased compared to earlier hominids. Some close to 2 m tall

  • Cranium had a distinctive pentagonal shape with thick cranial bone and large brow ridges. Low, long skull

  • African specimens have thinner cranial bones than those found in Asia and are taller and thinner overall.

  • Shovel-shaped incisors (early African and later Asians)


IV. Homo erectus morphology


IV. Homo erectus morphology


Technological Trends in the Pleistocene

  • Expansion of the brain enabled H. erectus to develop sophisticated tools:

    • The biface, a stone that was worked on both sides, was used to cut, scrape, pound, and dig.

    • There is widespread evidence for butchering, thousands of Acheulian hand axes have been found with remains of large animals.

  • Homo erectus is seen as a potential hunter and scavenger.


V. Homo erectus and Acheulian Tools


Trends in the Pleistocene

  • Homo erectus liked to travel.

  • Stone tools found on the island of Flores, 375 miles east of Java, suggest that H. erectus may have constructed ocean-going vessels.

  • Homo erectus embraced culture as a strategy of adaptation.


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