human (Homo sapiens), we are all the people who live today and we belong to that species, the Homo sapiens species. We have evolved relatively recently, but with complex culture and technology we have been able to expand across the world and occupy a wide range of different environments.

Species

From about 300.000 years ago to the present:

  • Archaic homo sapiens 300.000 years ago.
  • Modern homo sapiens 160.000 years ago.

What does it mean to be Human?

The name we choose for ourselves means wise human. Homo is the Latin word for human or male and sapiens derives from a Latin word meaning wise or cunning.

Other names

Various names have been used for our species, including:

  • Cro-Magnon man It is commonly used for modern humans who inhabited Europe some 40.000 to 10.000 years ago.
  • The term Archaic Homo Sapiens It has sometimes been used for African fossils between 300.000 and 150.000 years old that are difficult to classify due to a mixture of modern and archaic features. Some scientists prefer to place these fossils in a separate species, Homo helmei.
  • Homo sapiens sapiens sapiens is the name given to our species if we are considered a subspecies of a larger group. This name is used by those who describe the specimen from Herto, Ethiopia as Idalto Homo sapiens or by those who believed that modern humans and Neanderthals were members of the same species. (The Neanderthals were called Homo sapiens neanderthalensis in this scheme).

Main fossil deposits of early Homo sapiens

Fossils of the earliest members of our species, the archaic Homo sapiens, have been found in Africa. Modern Homo sapiens fossils have been found in Africa and in many other places throughout much of the world. Sites over 150 km include Florisbad, Omo-Kibish, Ngaloba, and Herto. Sites dating back about 100 kilometers include the mouth of the Klasies River, Frontier Cave, Skhul, and Qafzeh. Sites under 40k include Dolni Vestonice, Cro-Magnon, Aurignac, and Lake Mungo.

Relations with other species

Homo sapiens evolved in Africa from Homo heidelbergensis. They coexisted for a long time in Europe and the Middle East with Neanderthals, and possibly Homo erectus in Asia and Homo floresiensis in Indonesia, but are now the only surviving human species.

The transition to modern humans

African fossils are the best proof of the evolutionary transition of the Homo heidelbergensis al Homo sapiens archaic and then at Early modern Homo sapiens. There is, however, some difficulty in placing many of the transitional specimens in a particular species because they have a mix of intermediate characteristics that are especially evident in the sizes and shapes of the forehead, brow ridge, and face. Some suggest the name of Homo helmei for these intermediate specimens that represent populations about to modernize. Populations of Homo sapiens y Homo heidelbergensis, who survived belatedly, lived together with the Homo sapiens early modern before disappearing from the fossil record about 100.000 years ago.

Important specimens: The first early modern Homo sapiens:

  • Liujiang: A skull discovered in 1958 in the Guanxi province of southern China. The age is uncertain, but at least 15.000 years. This skull lacks the typical North Asian features found in modern populations in those regions, supporting popular theories that such features only emerged in the last 8000 years.
  • Aurignac: Skull discovered in Aurignac, France. The first Aurignac fossils were found accidentally in 1852. A workman digging a trench in the side of a hill found a cave that had been blocked by rock, but after clearing the rubble he found 17 skeletons. The skeletons were taken to a local cemetery for burial, but further research indicated that the skeletons were actually up to 10.000 years old.
  • Cro-Magnon 1: A 32.000-year-old skull discovered in 1868 at the Cro-Magnon rock shelter, Les Eyzies, France. This adult male represents the oldest known skull of a modern human from Western Europe. Cro-Magnon skeletons have proportions similar to modern Africans rather than modern Europeans. This suggests that the Cro-Magnons had migrated from a warmer climate and had relatively recent African ancestry.

Important specimens: Archaic homo sapiens:

  • LH 18: Skull discovered in 1976 in Ngaloba, Laetoli, Tanzania. The age is about 120.000 years (but is the subject of debate). This skull is transitional between the Homo heidelbergensis and Early modern Homo sapiens. It has a number of primitive features, but it also has some modern features, such as a reduced forehead ridge and smaller facial features. The late date of this specimen indicates that archaic humans lived alongside modern populations for some time.
  • Florisbad: A 260.000-year-old partial skull discovered in 1932 in Florisbad, South Africa. This skull shows intermediate features between the Homo heidelbergensis and Early modern Homo sapiens. The face is wide and massive, but still relatively flat and the forehead is close to the modern shape.
  • Omo 2: A 195.000-year-old brain case discovered in 1967 in Omo-Kibish, Ethiopia. Like LH 18, this brain box displays a mixture of primitive and modern characteristics that place it as a member of a population in transition between the Homo heidelbergensis and Early modern Homo sapiens. Its primitive characteristics include a heavier and more robust construction; an angled instead of rounded rear section; and a lower and sloping forehead.

Features

It seems that the human being is cutting ties with nature, but there are people who try to reconnect to it.

The skulls of the human being Homo sapiens have a distinctive shape that differentiates them from previous human species. Their body shape tends to vary, however, due to adaptation to a wide range of environments.

Body size and shape

early Homo sapiens had bodies with short, thin trunks and long limbs. These body proportions are an adaptation to survive in tropical regions due to the greater proportion of skin surface available to cool the body. The stockier builds gradually evolved as populations spread to colder regions, as an adaptation that helped the body retain heat.

Modern humans now have an average height of about 160 centimeters in females and 175 centimeters in males.

Brain

Homo sapiens living today have an average brain size of about 1350 cubic centimeters, which represents 2,2% of our body weight. However, early Homo sapiens had slightly larger brains, nearly 1500 cubic centimeters.

Skull

Modern Homo sapiens skulls have a short base and a tall brain box. Unlike other Homo species, the skull is wider at the top. The most complete brain case also results in almost no post-orbital constriction or narrowing behind the eye sockets.

The back of the skull is rounded and indicates a reduction in the neck muscles.

The face is reasonably small with a protruding nose bone, the brow ridge is limited and the forehead is high, the orbits (eye sockets) are square rather than round

Jaws and teeth

The jaws are short, resulting in an almost vertical face, there is usually no gap (space retromolar) between the last molar teeth and the jaw bone. The jaws are lightweight in construction and have a bony chin that protrudes for added strength. The human being Homo sapiens is the only species that has a prominent chin.

The shortened jaw has affected the arrangement of the teeth within the jaw. They are now arranged in a parabolic shape in which the rows of lateral teeth spread outward instead of remaining parallel as in our early long-jawed ancestors.

They are relatively small compared to the previous species. This is especially noticeable in the front incisor and canine teeth. The front premolar teeth of the lower jaw have two cusps of the same size (bumps on the chewing surface)

Limbs and pelvis

The bones of the limbs are thinner and less robust than those of the previous human species and indicate a reduction in the size of the muscles compared to those of the previous humans, the legs are relatively long compared to the arms.

The bones of the fingers and toes are straight and without the typical curvature of our first ancestors. australopitecos. The pelvis is narrower from side to side and has a deeper bowl shape from front to back than the previous human species.

Human lifestyle

Culture and technology

The first human Homo sapiens had a relatively simple culture, although it was more advanced than any previous species. About 100.000 years ago, rare evidence of symbolic behavior was found in various places in Africa, but these artistic expressions seem more like a flicker of creativity than a sustained expression. It is not until about 40.000 years ago that complex and highly innovative cultures appeared and were incorporated that we would recognize as typical of modern human beings today.

Many researchers believe that this explosion of artistic material in the archaeological record of about 40.000 years ago is due to a change in human cognition, perhaps humans developed a greater ability to think and communicate symbolically or to memorize better. However, as there are obvious attempts at art prior to this, maybe there are other reasons. One theory is that population size and structure play a key role, as social learning is seen as more beneficial to the development of a complex culture than individual innovations. Larger populations often accumulate more cultural attributes than isolated groups.

The human being is a fairly social animal.

Tools

Initially, the human being Homo sapiens made stone tools such as scales, scrapers and points that had a design similar to that of the neandertals (Homo neanderthalensis). This technology appeared about 250.000 years ago, coinciding with the probable first appearance of the Early homo sapiens. A skill was required for abstract thinking to mentally plan a series of steps that could then be executed. Only a small number of tools were made from each core (the original stone selected for modeling), but tools produced by this prepared core method maximized the available cutting edge. Historically, archaeologists used different terminologies for Lower Paleolithic cultures in different parts of the world. Many of these terms are now consolidated within the Mode 3 technology to emphasize the similarities between these technologies.

As more sophisticated techniques developed in some parts of the world, this early Mode 3 technology was replaced by Mode 4 or Mode 5 technology and the use of a wider range of materials, including bone, ivory, and horn. Mode 4 technology first appeared in Africa around 100.000 years ago. It is characterized by the production of long, thin stone flakes that are transformed into long-bladed knives, spearheads, and other tools. Mode 5 technology specialized in the production of very small blades (microliths) that were often used in multi-part composite tools. These tools included small pointed arrows, barbed spears, and sickles. Regional variation in these tool cultures developed with an influx of new styles and techniques, especially in the last 40.000 years, including the Magdaleniense and Auriñacense.

Fuego

The sophisticated control of fire, which included complex fireplaces, pits and ovens, allowed human Homo sapiens to survive in regions where even cold-adapted Neanderthals had not been able to live.

Plant Cro-Magnon at Dolni Vestonice in the Czech Republic, it was the first to demonstrate the existence of high-temperature furnaces and ceramic technology. The ovens, dating back 26.000 years, were capable of firing clay figures at temperatures above 400 degrees Celsius. Around 2.000 pieces of fired clay were found scattered around the kiln.

Clothing and personal ornaments

Animal leather clothing may have been worn in colder areas, although direct evidence of the clothing only exists in the last 30,000 years. This evidence includes specialized tools like needles; ornaments such as buttons and beads sewn to clothing; and the remains of animals, such as arctic foxes and wolves, which indicate that they were trapped by their fur. Sewn clothing provided better protection against the cold than simply tied clothing.

Fibers from flax plants were discovered in a cave in Georgia in 2009, dating to about 36.000 years ago. It is very likely that the linen was used to make woven clothes and baskets, and a small number appear to be dyed. They are the oldest example of their kind ever found. Textile prints have been discovered at other European sites, but there are no actual remains.

Items of human personal adornment that are not sewn onto clothing include ivory, shell, amber, bone and tooth beads and pendants. Ostrich eggshell beads dating back about 45.000 years have been found in Africa, as well as pierced shell beads in Morocco dating back 80.000 years and marine shell beads from Israel dating back 90.000 years, but the Body adornment only becomes prolific from about 35.000 years ago.

One of the earliest known pendants is a horse carved from mammoth ivory from Vogelherd, Germany. It is 32.000 years old. Body adornments like this are evidence that humans had progressed from simply trying to survive and were now concerned about their appearance.

Art

Rock art began to occur about 40.000 years ago in Europe and Australia. Most of the art depicts animals or likely spirit beings, but smaller markings are now being analyzed in many caves in France, and possibly others in Europe, as they may be a written "code" familiar to many prehistoric tribes. In particular, 26 symbols appear over and over again over thousands of years, some of them in pairs and groups in what could be rudimentary 'language'. This suggests that early Europeans tried to represent ideas symbolically rather than realistically and share information for generations. The oldest of these symbols is about 30.000 years old.

Evidence for musical instruments first appeared about 32.000 years ago in Europe. Paleolithic bone flutes and whistles from various parts of France are between 30.000 and 10.000 years old.

Portable works of art, such as carved statuettes, first appeared about 35-40.000 years ago in Europe. Venus figurines were widespread in Europe 28.000 years ago. Fragments of Germany found in 2009 suggest that its origins began at least 35.000 years ago. An ivory female head from Dolni Vestonice, Czech Republic, is one of only two human head carvings from this period to show eye sockets, eyelids, and eyeballs. It is 26.000 years old.

The red ocher pieces from the Blombos Cave in South Africa, dating from around 100-80.000 years ago, show evidence of engravings that may be an expression of art or simply incidental marks made during other activities. However, other signs of possible symbolic behavior, including shell beads and sophisticated tools also come from this site, reinforcing the case for early artistic expression.

Settling down

Early Homo sapiens often inhabited caves or rock shelters if there were any. More recently, especially in the last 20.000 years, natural refuges were enhanced with walls or other simple modifications. In open areas, human shelters were built using a number of framework materials, including wooden posts and bones from large animals, such as mammoths. These structures were probably covered with animal skins and the living areas included fireplaces.

The sites where they lived were much larger than those occupied by the first humans and a comparison with modern traditional peoples suggests that the clans were made up of between 25 and 100 members.

Burial

Burials were rare and very simple before 40.000 years ago and then began to become more elaborate with the inclusion of valuable objects such as tools and body adornments. Red ocher was sprayed on many of the bodies before burial.

One of the first deliberate burials of a modern human being comes from Jebel Qafzeh In Israel. Dating back 90.000 years, the tomb contains the bones of a young woman buried with a small child at her feet. Another 21 skeletons were found in the same cave.

Habitat

The first modern humans adapted to life in the tropics, but 40.000 years ago they occupied a number of environments on the continents of Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia. In the last 20.000 years, humans have also spread to the Americas. Today, our culture and technology allow us to live in most environments on our planet, as well as outside of it.

Distribution

We can find the human being practically anywhere in the world thanks to the high level of adaptation to the environment that we have developed.

Food

All Homo sapiens were hunter-gatherers who lived on wild plants and animals. It was only about 11.000 years ago that humans began to domesticate plants and animals, although wild foods were still important in the diet. The human being has a wide diet and essentially omnivore. This has allowed us to use the food resources found in the wide variety of environments we inhabit.

Predators

Humans have few natural predators and often sit at or near the top of the food chain in regional ecosystems. Humans are sometimes timely hunted by wild big cats, such as Tigers (Panthera tigris) and the leones (Panthera leo).

Other cases of carnivorous animals Large that eat humans are often cases of mistaken identity or opportunistic events. This includes cases of large sharks, bears, lizards, and crocodiles.

Reproduction

Human cultures are marked by a wide range of mating approaches. In most cultures, raising children is accomplished with a degree of help and cooperation from other group members, including related and unrelated members.

Humans are capable of reproducing throughout the year. The gestation duration averages 40 weeks, a fairly long gestation duration for a primate species with altricial calves.

Typically a calf is born, although twins occur occasionally and multiple births rarely. Interpartum intervals, birth weight, time to weaning, independence, and sexual maturity vary substantially with the nutritional status of mothers and young and are influenced by cultural practices.

Human babies are born in an altricial state and require intensive, long-term care to ensure their survival. Parental care is variable in all human cultures, but generally the mother plays an important role in caring for children during weaning. Family members and unrelated community members also often play an important role in caring for young people. Young humans experience a long period of adolescence in which many essential skills and cultural knowledge are learned and practiced. Human social structures are complex, and young people often remain part of the same broader social groups as their parents and paternal and maternal families. The social stature of the parents often also plays an important role in the social stature of the young.

State of conservation

Human populations are not monitored by conservation agencies. Although human populations around the world are large and growing, some regional or isolated populations may be in decline as a result of economic disadvantage, disease, habitat degradation, migration, and cultural erosion.

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