The History of Human Evolution
By definition, human evolution is the development, both biological and cultural, of humans. Human ideologies of how the evolution of man came to be is determined by cultural beliefs that have been adopted by societies going back as far as the Upper Paleolithic era, some 40,000 years ago. Through the study of paleoanthropology, we have come to determine that a human is any member belonging to the species of Homo Sapiens. Paleoanthropologists, while studying the evolution of humans, identify and explain evolutionary changes that occur throughout time that aid in the development of the human species. It will be through the examination of human physical traits, human origins from pre-humans to modern humans, and major discoveries that we will be able to understand the history of human evolution.
The Hominidae, or hominids are a group of upright walking primates with relatively large brains. The only existing representative of this family is the Homo sapiens. We can declare that all humans are part of the hominid family, yet not all hominids can be considered humans. However all humans are primates; although humans have developed very distinct traits from its genetically similar primate, the chimpanzees, such as bipedalism, meaning walking on two legs. “Bipedalism seems to be one of the earliest of the major hominine characteristics to have evolved.”(Microsoft Encarta) Bipedalism enabled humans to develop specific physical traits to accommodate their upright posture, such as a specialized pelvis, hip and leg muscles, and an S-shaped vertebral column. These traits, specific to humans, can be detected in fossil records therefore making bipedalism the defining factor in the physical traits of the sub family Homininae.
Another physical characteristic associated with the evolution of humans is that of the brain size. Modern humans have a “braincase volume of between 79.3 and 91.5 cubic inches”.(Gallagher) Throughout the development of humans, one can notice that the brain has more than tripled in size. This augmentation may be related to behavioral patterns of the hominids with an increase in number and sophistication of stone tools and other artifacts. The art of tool making along with other learnt skills made it possible for hominids to heighten their ability to live in a range of different environments.
“The earliest hominine fossils show evidence of marked differences in body size, which may reflect a pattern of the different sexes in our early ancestors”.(Gallagher) Females tended to be smaller, weighing in at about 70 lbs and measuring 3 to 4 feet tall, while men were on average 5ft tall and weighing 150lbs. This drastic size difference between genders decreased through time, sometime after a million years ago. “The third major trend in hominine development is the gradual decrease in the size of the face and teeth.”(Microsoft Encarta) Unlike the apes (from whom...