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Chapter 8 Early Homo and the Origins of Culture
Chapter Preview ¢ When, Where, and How Did the Genus Homo Develop? ¢ What were the cultural capacities of our ancestors? ¢ What Is the Relationship Between Biological Change and Cultural Change in the Genus Homo?
When, Where, and How Did the Genus Homo Develop?
Homo habilis ¢ “Handy man. ” ¢ The first fossil members of the genus Homo appearing 2. 5 million years ago, with larger brains and smaller faces than australopithecines.
Homo habilis ¢ Found in East Africa and in South Africa. ¢ From the neck down, the skeleton of Homo habilis differs little from Australopithecus. ¢ Earliest representative of the genus Homo – the human line.
The Lower Paleolithic ¢ ¢ The first part of the Old Stone Age. Its beginning is marked by the appearance 2. 6 million years ago of Oldowan tools, the earliest identifiable stone tool tradition.
Timeline of the Lower Paleolithic Note the co-existence of Homo habilis and the later Australopithecines.
Oldowan Tools ¢ The earliest stone tools have been found in: the Lake Turkana area of Kenya, southern Ethiopia, Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, and the Hadar region of Ethiopia ¢ Most often found in the same geological strata as Homo habilis fossils.
Oldowan Tools ¢ Microscopic wear patterns show that these flakes were used for cutting meat, reeds, sedges, and grasses and for cutting and scraping wood. ¢ Small indentations on their surfaces suggest the leftover cores were transformed into choppers, for breaking open bones, and they may have been used to defend the user.
Oldowan Tools ¢ Example of a bone processed using Oldowan flakes and choppers.
The Percussion Method ¢ ¢ By 2. 5 million years ago, early Homo in Africa had invented the percussion method of stone tool manufacture. This technological breakthrough, which is associated with a significant increase in brain size, made possible the butchering of meat from scavenged carcasses.
Discovery of the Oldest Oldowan Tools ¢ The oldest stone tools, dated to between 2. 5 and 2. 6 million years ago, were discovered in Gona, Ethiopia, in 1996, by Ethiopian paleoanthropologist Silesi Semaw.
Sex, Gender and the Behavior of Early Homo ¢ ¢ ¢ Until the 1960 s, most anthropologists doing fieldwork among foragers stressed the role of male hunters and underreported female gatherers = Man, the Hunter hypothesis Division of labor by food-foraging societies is not defined through biologically based sex differences, it is influenced by cultural and environmental factors. Evidence from chimpanzees and bonobos cast doubt on the notion of a sex-based division of labor in human evolutionary history.
Sex, Gender and the Behavior of Early Homo: For Class Discussion In this reconstruction of the activities of early Homo, the artist posits a gendered division of labor. Do you thin this is due to biology or cultural and environmental factors?
Hunters or Scavengers? ¢ ¢ The earliest members of the genus Homo were tertiary scavengers. l They were third in line to get something from a carcass after a lion or leopard managed to kill. l By the time H. habilis could get near the carcass of a dead animal, only bones remained. l They used tools to break open the long bones to get at the rich marrow inside. The storing of stone tools, and raw materials for making tools, attests to their ability to plan ahead.
Brain Size and Diet ¢ The archaeological record provides a record of our ancestors’ cultural abilities that corresponds with the simultaneous biological expansion of the brain. ¢ Meat eating most easily fulfills the energy requirements of brain expansion. ¢ Meat-eating also confers more leisure time to explore and manipulate their environment. ¢ By 200, 000 years ago, hominid brain size had almost tripled and reached the levels of modern peoples.
When, Where, and How Did the Genus Homo Develop?
The Discovery of Homo erectus ¢ ¢ ¢ In 1887, before the discovery of Australopithecus and early Homo in Africa, the Dutch physician Eugene Dubois set out to find the “missing link” between humans and apes. Dubois found fossilized remains consisting of a skull cap, a few teeth, and a thighbone at Trinil, on the island of Java. The flat skull, with its low forehead and enormous brow ridges, appeared to be like that of an ape; but it possessed a cranial capacity much larger than an ape’s, though small by modern human standards.
The Discovery of Homo erectus ¢ ¢ ¢ The femur, or thighbone, was human in shape, and its proportions indicated the creature was a biped. Ultimately, the discovery of more fossils provided evidence to support Dubois’ claim fully. In the 1950 s, the Trinil skull cap and similar specimens from Indonesia and China (Sinanthropus) were assigned to the specie Homo erectus because they were more human than apelike.
Homo erectus • Dated between 2 million years ago and 300, 000 years ago • Larger cranial capacity than that of Homo habilis; the forehead is less sloping and the teeth are smaller • Homo erectus would bear a striking resemblance to modern humans, but had a brain about 75 percent (950 to 1100 cc) of the size of modern human.
Homo erectus • These hominids were tall, on average standing about 1. 79 m (5 feet, 10 inches) • The sexual dimorphism between males and females was almost the same as seen in modern Homo sapiens with males being slightly larger than females.
Homo erectus Fossils ¢ These casts of the skull cap and thighbone of Homo erectus were made from the original bones found by Eugene Dubois at Trinil, Java.
Physical Traits of Homo erectus • Occipital or Nuchal torus (projection at the back of the skull) • Supraorbital torus (browridge) • Postorbital constriction • Lower facial prognathism • Thick cranial bones
Cranial Capacity in Homo erectus Cranial capacity in Homo erectus changed over time.
Homo erectus and the Giant Hyena ¢ ¢ ¢ Many of the Homo erectus fossils consist of isolated skull caps. This reconstruction suggests that the faces may be missing because they are the remains of individuals who were consumed by the now-extinct giant hyena. This composite shows how the giant hyena could have attacked the face.
Homo erectus Sites ¢ Sites, with dates, at which Homo erectus remains have been found. Arrows indicate the proposed routes by which Homo spread from Africa to Eurasia.
Why did Homo erectus migrate out of Africa? Some possible reasons include: 1. Curioisty 2. Lack of natural resources 3. Following migrating herds 4. Technologically-capable of surviving the trek to the colder climates outside of Africa Ended up as far west as China, as far South as Southeast Asia, and into western Europe.
Homo erectus Fossils from Zhoukoudian ¢ ¢ The original Homo erectus fossils from Zhoukoudian had been packed for shipment to the United States for safekeeping during World War II, but they disappeared. Excellent casts of the specimens and detailed anatomical descriptions were made before the fossils were lost during the war.
Alternate Designations For Homo erectus Fossils Name Explanation Homo antecessor This name was coined by splitters for the earliest Homo fossils from western Europe discovered in Spain; antecessor is Latin for “explorer” or “pioneer. ” Named for the Mauer jaw, this name is now used as a designation for all European fossils from about 500, 000 years ago until the appearance of the Neandertals. Homo heidelbergensis
Alternate Designations For Homo erectus Fossils Name Homo ergaster Explanation Some paleoanthropologists feel the largebrained successors to H. habilis from Africa and Asia are too different to be placed in the same species. They use H. ergaster for the African specimens, saving H. erectus for the Asian fossils.
Homo floresiensis (The Hobbits)
Physical Traits of Homo floresiensis • Almost identical to Homo erectus (possibly a pygmy population? ) • Found on Flores Island, Indonesia • Possible use of watercraft (even with reduced sea levels, the island is 25 km away from the nearest land) • Dated to between 800, 000 and 18, 000 years ago
Homo floresiensis vs. Homo erectus
Homo floresiensis (The Hobbits)
Acheulean Tool Tradition ¢ The tool-making tradition of Homo erectus in Africa, Europe, and Southwest Asia in which hand-axes (or bi-faces) were developed from the earlier Oldowan chopper. ¢ The earliest hand-axes, from East Africa are about 1. 6 million years old. ¢ Those found in Europe are no older than about 500, 000 years.
Acheulean Hand-Axe (Bi. Face) ¢ To fabricate this Acheulean handaxe from flint, the toolmaker imposed a standardized arbitrary form on the naturally occurring raw material.
Acheulean Hand-Axe (Bi-Face) Were hand-axes hurled at prey? Recent experiments suggest that using hand-axes in this way provided unreliable results.
Use of Fire ¢ ¢ ¢ The use of fire is another sign of H. erectus’ developing culture and technology. The 700, 000 -year-old Kao Poh Nam rock shelter in Thailand provides compelling evidence for deliberate controlled use of fire. Homo erectus may have been using fire even earlier, based on evidence from Swartkrans in South Africa. l In deposits estimated to date between 1 and 1. 3 million years ago, bones have been found that had been heated to temperatures far in excess of what one would expect as the result of natural fires.
Kao Poh Nam Rock Shelter ¢ Archaeologists excavate a hearth at a rock shelter in Kao Poh Nam, Thailand. ¢ This hearth testifies to human use of controlled fire 700, 000 years ago.
Hunting ¢ ¢ Evidence that H. erectus developed the ability to organize in order to hunt large animals is suggested by remains such as those from the 400, 000 -year-old sites of Ambrona and Torralba, in Spain. Additional evidence for hunting 400, 000 years ago was discovered accidentally in 1995 in the course of strip mining at Schöningen in northern Germany. l Five well-constructed and finely balanced spears made entirely of wood, the longest one measuring more than 7 feet long, were found.
Language Origins ¢ Regions of the human brain that control language lie adjacent to regions involved in precise hand control. ¢ Oldowan toolmakers, like modern humans, were overwhelmingly right-handed. ¢ In making tools, they gripped the core in the left hand, striking flakes off with the right.
Language Origins ¢ Handedness is associated with lateralization of brain functions and lateralization is associated with language. ¢ Tool making appears to have been associated with changes in the brain necessary for language development.
The Hypoglossal Canal ¢ ¢ The nerve that passes through the hypoglossal canal controls tongue movement, and complex tongue movements are involved in spoken language. Members of the genus Homo after about 500, 000 years ago have an enlarged hypoglossal canal.
Language Areas in the Left Side of the Brain
The Middle Paleolithic: Archaic Homo sapiens and Neanderthals
Archaic Homo sapiens ¢ Found in Northern Africa and Western Europe ¢ Also known as Homo antecessor and Homo hiedelbergensis (but possibly simply a transitional form of Homo erectus) ¢ Possible ancestors of both modern Homo sapiens and Neandertals ¢ Associated with sites such as Terra Amata and Atapuerca
Terra Amata, France Seasonal camp near Nice, France reconstructed from post holes and the spatial patterns of rocks; possibly the site of shellfish cooking
“Pit of the Bones” ¢ ¢ ¢ In the Sierra de Atapuerca in northern Spain, between 205, 000 and 325, 000 years ago, the remains of at 28 individuals of both sexes, were dumped into a deep cave shaft known today as Sima de los Huesos (“Pit of the Bones”). The other animal bones in the pit with humans raises the possibility that early humans used the site as a dump. Alternatively, the treatment of the dead may have involved ritual activity that presaged burial, a practice that became common after 100, 000 years ago.
“Pit of the Bones” ¢ This population displays a significant degree of variation. l l Cranial capacity ranges from 1, 125 to 1, 390 cubic centimeters, overlapping the upper end of the range for H. erectus and the average size of H. sapiens’ range (1, 300 cc). The bones display a mix of features, some typical of H. erectus, others of H. sapiens, including some Neandertal characteristics.
“Pit of the Bones” ¢ ¢ The fossils from Sima de los Huesos, Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain, represent the best collection of Homo fossils from this period. With the well-preserved remains of at least twenty -eight individuals, paleoanthropologists can interpret these fossils in the context of the range of variation seen within this population.
Levalloisian Technique ¢ Tool-making technique by which three or four long triangular flakes were detached from a specially prepared core. ¢ Developed by humans transitional from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens.
Levalloisian Technique ¢ Drawing A shows the preparatory flaking of the stone core; B, the same on the top surface; C, the final step of detaching a flake; and D, the final step of detaching a flake of a size and shape predetermined by the preceding steps.
Invention of Hafting Affixing small stone bifaces and flakes in handles of wood to make spears and knives. ¢ Involved three components: handle, stone insert, and binding materials. ¢ Regional stylistic and technological variants are clearly evident, suggesting emergence of distinct cultural traditions. ¢
Neandertals ¢ ¢ An extremely muscular people living from approximately 125, 000 to 30, 000 years ago in Europe and southwestern Asia. With brains of modern size, Neandertals possessed faces distinctively different from modern humans. l l l Their large noses and teeth projected forward. They had bony brow ridges over their eyes. On the back of their skull, there was a bunlike bony mass for attachment of powerful neck muscles.
Neandertals ¢ ¢ One of the first Neandertals was found in a cave in the Neander Valley near Düsseldorf, Germany, in 1856— before scientific theories to account for human evolution had gained acceptance. Examination of the fossil skull, a few ribs, and limb bones revealed that the individual was a human being, but it did not look “normal. ” Evidence indicates Neandertals were nowhere near as brutish and apelike as originally portrayed. Some scholars now see them as the archaic H. sapiens of Europe and Southwest Asia, ancestral to the more derived, anatomically modern populations of Europe and Southwest Asia of the last 30, 000 years.
Physical Features of Neandertals • Occipital bun (large projection at the back of the skull) • Supraorbital torus (browridge) • Low forehead • Mid-facial prognathism • Barrel-shaped rib cage and robust limbs suggest cold climate adaptation
Neandertals ¢ As this face-off between paleoanthropologist Milford Wolpoff and his reconstruction of a Neandertal shows, the latter did not differ all that much from modern humans of European descent.
Middle Paleolithic Culture ¢ ¢ ¢ Adaptations to the environment by Homo from the Middle Paleolithic were both biological and cultural, but the capacity for cultural adaptation was superior to earlier members of the genus Homo. Had greater cultural capabilities than their ancestors. In addition to the Levalloisian traditions, the Middle Paleolithic also included the development of the Mousterian tradition.
Mousterian Tradition ¢ Tool-making tradition of the Neandertals and their contemporaries of Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. ¢ Named after the Neandertal site of Le Moustier, France. ¢ Tools were lighter and smaller than the Levalloisian and included hand axes, flakes, scrapers, borers, wood shavers, and spears.
Culture of Neandertals ¢ Made a variety of tools for special purposes. ¢ Made objects for symbolic purposes. ¢ Engaged in ceremonial activities. ¢ Cared for the old and disabled.
Culture of Neandertals Neanderthal Art from Font Maure, France – 35 -27, 000 ya
Culture of Neandertals From Grotte du Renne, France – c. 35, 000 ya
Neandertal Burials ¢ The position of the body and the careful removal of the skull indicate that the fossil from Kebara Cave in Israel was deliberately buried there about 60, 000 years ago.
Neandertal Burials A Neanderthal Burial from Shanidar, Iraq
Features of Neandertal Burials (1) the body placed in a fetal position (with the optional removal of the skull – Kebara Cave) (2) an east-west alignment for the body (3) the use of grave goods (including small mammal bones) (4) possibly the use of flowers (indicated by pollen)
The First Musical Instrument? ¢ There is a strong possibility that this object, found in trash left by Neandertals, is the remains of a flute made of bone.
What Is the Relationship Between Biological Change and Cultural Change in the Genus Homo?
Speech and Language in the Middle Paleolithic ¢ Paleoneurologists, working from endocranial casts, are agreed that Neandertals had the neural development necessary for spoken language. The size of the hypoglossal canal in Neandertals is like that of modern humans and unlike that of apes. l An expanded thoracic vertebral canal suggests the increased breath control required for speech. l
Culture, Skulls, and Modern Human Origins For Middle Paleolithic Homo, cultural adaptive abilities relate to the fact that brain size was comparable to that of people living today. ¢ Archaeological evidence indicates sophisticated technology, as well as conceptual thought of considerable complexity, matching increased cranial capacity. ¢
Archaic Homo sapiens And Modern Human Origins Multiregional Hypothesis - all populations of archaic H. sapiens are easily derivable from earlier populations of H. erectus from the same regions. ¢ “Eve” Hypothesis - transition from archaic to anatomically modern H. sapiens took place in one population, probably in Africa. ¢