The evolution of man is an area of study that will never fully be understood, however, evidence hasbeen accumulated to allow us to paste together a picture of what happened in the beginning of time.
Itallows us to gather an idea of how man progressed to exist in the state in which we see him now. We cansee that the evolution of man was directly influenced by his environment. Man’s intellectual developmentdirectly effected the physical changes that we see. It is apparent through observation that theenvironmental changes also induced some of the physical changes that man underwent.
Theseenvironmental changes and seemingly intellectual development slowly refined man’s behavior, as well ashis way of life. We also can see how man develops along with the changes in sophistication of the tools heused. We can observe that the progression of the tools coincide directly with the progression of theevolution of man.
As the technology, as simple as it was, slowly became more advanced, we see how theapparent effect that it has on early man’s development and how those advances made, effected the actionsand behavior of man. It is essentially those changes in behavior and lifestyle which lead to man’sevolution. In this paper, I will include some of my observations of the physical development of man fromancient human-like animals to modern day man.At the American Museum of Natural History I observed the exhibit of Lucy.
Lucy was found inHadar Ethiopia and is the name given to a fossil skeleton of a hominid who lived over 3.2 million yearsago. Lucy stands as the most complete skeleton known of an early human predecessor. She is known to bepart of the bipedal primate know as Australopithecus afarensis. Lucy was expected to be twenty-five yearsold and roughly four feet tall. What we know about Australopithecus afarensis is that they walked uprightand were able to climb trees. Australopithecus afarensis, like Lucy, had small skulls, small brain cases,projecting faces, large chewing teeth and looked ape-like.
Looking at Lucy, my tour guide pointed out herprimitive limb proportions. Although she did walk upright on two legs, her legs were very short, adopted toclimbing, indicating that she may have taken shelter in the trees at night. We can also observe that Lucyhad very long hands. The proportion of her hands in comparison to her short legs would implicate that shewalked in a different fashion than the way we do today. She would have had to swing her arms around,making her motions similar to those of an ape.
Five million years after Lucy, Australopithecus africanus appears. This creature also walkedupright but lived in relatively open country and obtained food mainly by gathering and scavenging. Australopithecus africanus’ face did not project as far as his ancestors, had smaller incisor teeth and aslightly larger brain compared to body size. I enjoyed the exhibit of Australopithecus africanus because itshowed what he would have looked like with flesh. It looked like a hairy, short cross between man and ape. In the same exhibit as Lucy was “Turkana boy”. He was found in 1984 at Nariokotome, Kenya.
Turkana boy existed about 1.6 million years ago and looks more like modern man. The Turkana boy wasfive feet three inches and weighed one hundred and six pounds. Although we would view his skeletal heightas that being one of an adult, his bones were those of an adolescent. It was believed that if he had lived tomaturity, he would have grown to about six feet one inch and would have weighed approximately onehundred and fifty pounds.
The proportions of his body maximized the surface area to best shed body heat ina hot dry open environment. He was more advanced than Lucy and had increased brain cell capacity andhad rock tools which was evidence of hand crafted tool kits which were primitive but sophisticated. Turkana boy came about one million years after Lucy and it is interesting to see the difference in theirskeletal structure. He is tall and his neck is very close to the body, his skeleton reveals a more complexbeing , whereas Lucy had a little frame and looks more animal-like.The next exhibit showed the skulls and tools of Paranthropus robustus (“near man”). This earlyman lived in wooded to open environments, had a vegetarian diet, simple vocal communication, and had amassive jaw and teeth build.
Moving these massive jaws also required huge muscles supported by strongbony crests atop the skull. These characteristics were directly related to their diet and means of food. Living in a dry open country, these human relatives relied on the tough abrasive plan foods offered by thesavanna environment.As the environment changes from one that is wooded and forested, to one that is more open, similarto country environment, it lays down the basis for all human evolution.
With the open environment, thesecreatures no longer climbed trees, but began walking, much in the fashion that we do today, over vast areasof land. They moved from one placee to the other in search of whatever they could dig up from theground. However, it was supplemented by scavenged meat from carcasses, as well as small animals.We can notice that the physical appearance of these early human relatives is somewhat distinctfrom our own appearance. Their bodies were significantly darker and almost fully covered with hair. These characteristics are ones which were a simple result of the environment of the time. These humanancestors had no means by which they could cloth themselves, therefore, they appear to have dark skinbecause of the extreme exposure to the sun that they faced.
The fact that they spent all of their livesexposed to the sun and other environmental factors also serves as the reasoning for their heavy body hair. Their body hair served the same purpose as our clothes do for us. It was a way of insulating their bodiesagainst such things as wind.The next exhibit was on Homo habilis, which was the earliest member of human lineage to havemade stone tools. Fossils found date Homo habilis to have lived about 2 to 1.5 million years ago.
They areincluded in our genus Homo because of the evidence found that links them to stone making. Their toolswere small and quite crude but with a few blows from a hammer-stone, the toolmaker would knock sharpflakes from a cobble. The flakes were then used for cutting and scraping and the shaped core may havebeen used for chopping. The stone making allowed for a more varied diet.
While they killed the animals bythrowing rocks at them, they could now carve them with the sharp flakes of stone. The body proportions ofHomo habilis was for the most part similar to that of Australopithecus. However, we see an enlargementof the brain case but the head and teeth become smaller. They no longer relied on the tough vegetarian dietso the muscles in the head did not need to be as strong as before.
Homo ergaster appears between 2 to 1million years ago and used stone tools much like those of Homo habilis.Next appears Homo erectus, who dated about 2 million years ago and thought to be the earliestforms which we might recognize as actual human life. Their Brain was smaller than ours, however, largerthan the early human fossils. Erectus had a human like skull, and the brain was one thousand milliliters involume which was not far from the average, which is fourteen hundred milliliters. The brain of Homoerectus was housed in a long , low braincase, sharply angled at the back and the eyes were overhung bybony ridges. Although their chewing teeth and jaw structure were large in respect to our own, compared toHomo habilis, these features were small.
Some of the members are as tall as us and they were advancedenough to use fire. They were followed by a group of intermediate humans and some of their fossils dateback to half a million years ago. The fossils found at site of Terra Amata were accompanied by stone toolsused for hammering and light duty anvils that were sharper but still crude. Traces of hut structure werefound with sampling frames, and inside were hearths and debris from stone working and ocher used forbodily adornment.Lastly, we have the Neanderthals in Europe and Western Asia that lived one hundred and fiftythousand years ago.
The Neanderthal brain was of modern size but it was housed in a long, low braincasewith a projecting bun at the back. A well defined bony ridge overhung each eye. The large projecting facehad sharply receding cheekbones and prominent nasal bones.
They typical Neanderthals features wereadopted to a bitterly cold climate. They built shelter and cooking hearths. They also made clothing fromhides of animal skins. Stone tools were used to scrape hide, and the hide was held in their front teeth. Because the teeth were used in such a manner, we see that they are heavily worn.
The stone tools wereused in scraping and sharpening spears, as well as butchering meant and carrying out other domestic tasks. The Neanderthals were our size and the hair on their bodies had decreased a great deal form their earlierhuman relatives. The reason for this is that they now had the ability to use animal skins to keep themwarm. Also, with the skins covering their bodies, their skin became lighter because of less exposure to thesun. The progression and evolution of man seems quite evident. We have seen that it is most heavilyinfluenced by both environmental and technological factors.
The environmental factors and changespushed the early human relatives towards a different way of living by changing their things like their diet. However, the technological factors are essentially what allowed the early humans to develop further andgive him the ability to make clothes and shelter, as well as move past his vegetarian diet. All of these werefactors which induced a change in mans physical appearance and increased his cognitive ability.
They areall changes which were mandatory for man to have become what he is now. The fascinating fossils andskeletons that we have now are able to tell us so much of mans evolutionary history but leaves manyquestions unanswered. I found the exhibits at the museum not only interesting, but allowed me to have amore concrete idea of what early man looked like and the way in which he lived.Anthropology