Tuesday , 23 July 2024

Evolution of Man

Who is not interested to know about evolution of man?Being humans, we all need to know the history behind our evolution and how man has evolved into such dominant creature on planet earth.Everyone knows that we have evolved from the last common ancestor of all life – the ape like ancestors (primates).What do you think is the time taken for this evolutionary process which involved the emergence of Homo Sapiens(modern man) as a distinct species of Hominids(Hominids – family of primates also called as great apes)? The primates have diverged from other mammals as part of this evolutionary process about 85 million years ago.The family of Hominids diverged from primates or Gibbons 15 to 20 million years ago and finally our last ancestors whom we all know -the gorilla and chimpanzees have diverged from their ancestors 4 to 6 million years ago.

Diversion of Gorillas and Chimpanzees

Bipedal-ism which is a form of terrestrial locomotion where an organism moves by means of two legs is the basic adaption of the Hominid line. The earliest bipedal is Sahelanthropus and a full bipedal which evolved later was Ardipithecus from which the gorillas, chimpanzees and monkeys have evolved.

evolution of man described using fossil hominids
Fossil Hominid Skull Display at The Museum of Osteology – United States Of America

The most important of human characteristics which include large and complex brain and also well built body structure which gave the ability to think and use stone tools and communicate non verbally using signs have developed more recently that is about 100000 years.So I could say that evolution of man has started 100000 years ago approximately.

Continent where the evolution of man or humans started

The fossils found in Africa have proved that human beings and great apes have evolved in Africa replacing the local populations of Homo erectus and Homo denisova which have the size of brain similar to that of present day human beings.Homo erectus was the first species to migrate from Africa to Asia and Europe about 1.8 million years ago.The recent African origin of modern humans, frequently dubbed the “Out of Africa” theory which studied and describes the fossil evidences of evolution of man prove that archaic Homo sapiens evolved to anatomically modern humans solely in Africa 200000 years ago.This theory on evolution of man is most widely accepted across the globe by all the scientists.

First person to link humans with apes

Charles Darwin in his publication On the Origin of Species argued on the idea of evolution of new species from earlier ones in the year 1859.However his publication did not address the question of evolution of man. Linnaeus and other scientists of Darwin’s time also considered the great apes to be the closest relatives of humans.

evolution of man
Charles Darwin

Fossil beds of Africa and the most complete fossil

Eugene Dubois was Dutch anthropologist and geologist, famous worldwide for his discovery of  Homo erectus(human that stands upright) or Java man in the year 1891.All the intermediate species were discovered after many fossil beds were found in Africa in 1920.The first specimen found was of a “Taung Baby” fossilized skull of a young Australopithecus(earliest hominid) individual discovered in 1924 by quarry men working for the Northern Lime Company in South Africa. Taung Babies brain was similar to that of modern human beings and it has short canine teeth and was bipedal.The most complete fossil found till date proving the evolution of man from apes was named “Lucy” and it was found in East Africa.

The majority of the early humans do not leave any descendants. Even now scientists have not clearly found from which particular species the human evolution has started and what factors effected the extinction of few species.The first civilization which cultivated land and practiced agriculture was 12000 years old. Paleoanthropology which is the study of ancient humans found in fossil hominids which include foot prints and bones helped a lot in defining traits of our species and to know much about evolution of man.By analyzing the fossilized bones,foot prints,butchery marks on animal bones and other remains the scientists discover the gradual changes that took place from species to species from time to time.The changes being noticed are growth in the size of brain,bone size etc..,

Thus the evolution of man involved a series of natural changes that caused humans to grow,arise,develop and adapt to environmental changes.  

Now let us have a look at the Ancient World and how a cave animal gradually changed into a social animal.We will also discuss about all the inventions that changed the world since 2,600,000 BCE and paved the way for evolution of man into a powerful organism on planet earth   .The invention of the first stone tools more than 2 million years ago was the moment when humankind started to distinguish itself from all other species on the planet.It took our forebears another 1.2 million years before they found other ingenious ways to use their natural resources – by learning to control fire, build shelter and make items of clothing.But having gained momentum, the ideas kept coming and the inventions that followed resulted in full-blown civilizations.

Stone Tools (2,600,000 B.C.E)

The very first invention of man consisted of sharp flints found and used in their natural state by primitive peoples, who then went on to purposely sharpen stones. The practice reaches back to the very dawn of humankind; stone tools found in 1969 in Kenya are estimated to be 2,600,000 years old. The most primitive tools were made by working on a fist-sized piece of rock or stone with a similar rock and knocking large flakes off one side to produce a sharp crest. During the last 10,000 years of the Stone Age, other techniques of producing stone artifacts – including pecking, grinding, sawing and boring came into play. Stone Age humans became adept at chipping flakes of hard, volcanic rocks to make tools and weapons.

Controlled Fire (1,420,000 B.C.E)

Homo erectus harnesses lightning. Initially Peking Man, who lived around 500,000 B.C.E was believed to be the earliest user of fire, but evidence uncovered in Kenya in 1981, and in South Africa in 1988, suggests that the earliest controlled use of fire by hominids dates from about 1,420,000 years ago. Fires were kept alive permanently because of the difficulty of reigniting them, being allowed to burn by day and damped down at night. Flint struck against pyrites or friction methods were the most widespread methods of producing fire among primitive people.The first human beings to control fire used it to keep warm, cook their food and ward off predators.Human evolution has been  from the time man started

Man Built Shelter (400,000 B.C.E) and devised solution to protect naked human body (400,000 B.C.E)

The earliest evidence of built shelter appears to have been constructed by Homo heidelbergensis, who lived in Europe between around 800,000 B.C.E and 200,000 B.C.E. Anthropologists are uncertain whether these were ancestors of Homo Sapiens or Homo Neanderthals or both.At the French site of Terra Amata, which dates back around 400,000 years, archaeologists have found that they believe to be the foundations of large oval huts.

Around 400,000 years ago, Homo Sapiens devised a solution to protect the vulnerable naked human body from the environment.Anthropologists believe that the earliest clothing was made from the fur of hunted animals or leaves creatively wrapped around the body to keep out of cold, wind and rain.

Spear (400,000 B.C.E)

The earliest example of a sharpened wooden pole or spear comes from Schoningen in Germany. There eight spears were dated to 400,000 B.C.E.The ancient cave man who sharpened each pole used a flint shaver to cut away the tip to form a point and then signed the tip in the fire to harden the wood, amking it a more effective weapon.

Tally Stick (35,000 B.C.E)

Tally sticks or tallies are batons of bone, ivory, wood or stone into which notches are made as a means of recording numbers or even messages. Found in a cave in the Lebombo Mountains in Swaziland and made from a baboon’s fibula, it dates back to 35,000 B.C.E. Its markings suggest that it is a lunar phase counter, indicating an appreciation of math beyond simple counting.

Sewing (25,000 B.C.E)

The history of sewing is closely allied to the history of tools. The earliest needles ever discovered date from the Paleolithic era (the early Stone Age) around 25,000 B.C.E. These were made of ivory or bone, with an eyelet gouged out. Early scraps of cloth found in France and Switzerland have included decorative seeds or animal teeth sewn on by thread, applied perhaps with the aid of fish bones or thorns. Native Americans sewed with the tips of agave leaves.

Bow and Arrow (20,000 B.C.E)

The bow consisted of a thin flexible shaft of wood; this was bent, and a length of sinew, deer gut, plant fibre or raw hide was strung tightly between its ends. The bow was the first machine that stored energy. Energy from the archer’s muscles gradually transferred to the bow as it was drawn back; when the bow was released, it gave the projected arrow a far greater velocity than that produced by a spear-thrower. Its development probably arose around 20,000 B.C.E, when man realized that the weapon would enable hunters to kill outside their throwing range.

Alcoholic Drink, Pottery and Oil Lamp date back to 10,000 B.C.E

The accidental fermentation of a mixture of water and fruit in sunlight is thought to have led to the first discovery of an alcoholic drink by prehistoric people. Evidence of intentionally fermented beverages exists in the form of Stone Age beer jugs dated as early as the Neolithic period.

As applies to all early inventions, we do not know the name of the man or woman who invented pottery. No first potter carved his or her name or initials in the base of a pot to claim first prize. The pots found in caves were made by nomadic hunter – gatherers, rather than settled farmers or urban dwellers on the island of Kyusu in Japan around 10,000 B.C.E.

Night is banished forever by man using a burning lump of fat. Estimates suggest that crude lamps were first used around 80,000 B.C.E. Early man made lamps from stone or seashell crucibles filled with animal fat with a piece of vegetation as the wick. The first real oil lamp appeared alongside settled agriculture around 10,000 B.C.E. With the planting of the first crops came the potential for plant oils, such as olive oil, to be used in these lamps.

Metalworking (8700 B.C.E.)

Iron  weapons revolutionized warfare and iron implements did the same for farming. The use of metals to make tools, weapons or jewellery has been one of  humanity’s pivotal achievements.  As near as archaeologists can tell, the love affair between humans and metals probably began around 8700 B.C.E., evidenced by a copper pendant found in northern Iraq.

Hollowed-out logs become the first boats around 7500 B.C.E and even humans have evolved to use chisel and dried bricks around the same time

The people of 7500 B.C.E needed a way to travel on water and they came up with a simple answer using the technology that was accessible to them.The dugout canoe is,in its most basic terms, a hollowed-out log,nothing more than a tree trunk laid down its side and its interior removed.The only requirement was that the hollowed log had to be big enough for at least one person to sit inside, and the wood had to be sound, not rotten.If a log fulfilled these two criteria, it was a potential canoe.

The standard building tool in ancient times was undoubtedly chisel.Humans were making and refining stone tools which became gradually more specialized over time.Even bone chisels were also used by them.Although very difficult to date exactly, it is thought that by about 7500 B.C.E, what we would recognize today as a chisel was in fairly common use.The truth is ancient masons could carve marble at more than double the speed of today’s craftsmen though they dis not have access to chisels with curved blades, tangled chisels, gouges etc.,

When do you think man has started using portable mud blocks or dried bricks? Buildings erected using performed,shaped bricks of dried mud date back to this period and samples were found in modern day Turkey.These early bricks were made of mud molded by hand and then left out to dry and harden in the sun.Mud is an exceptionally good material for building in dry climates and it is readily available wherever agriculture is practiced, riverbeds.Mud also has good structural and thermal qualities.Few years later,mud bricks were shaped in wooden molds enabling a form of organized mass production to take place.

Forts and earliest shoes date back to 7000 B.C.E

The debut of strong communal defenses date back to this period.The word fort is derived from the Latin fortis meaning “strong” and many military installations are known as forts.The term fortification also refers to improving other defenses such as city walls.Permanent fortifications were built of enduring materials,but field fortifications needed little preparation, using earth,timber or sandbags.Later constructions included ditches and earth ramparts to absorb the energy of cannon fire.Explosive shells in the nineteenth century led to a further human evolution in this area.The profile of the fort became lower,surrounded by an open sloping area that eliminated cover for the enemy.The fort’s entry point was a gatehouse in the inner face of the ditch,with access via a bridge that could be withdrawn.Most of the fort was built underground with passages connecting blockhouses and firing points.Today all these beautiful forts,mostly survive as popular tourist destinations.

Native Americans were the first to insulate human feet from the ground.Shoes have been essential for humans from their earliest use simply as a protective covering for the feet, to the vast fashion industry producing them today.It is uncertain when shoes were first worn and archaeological evidence has continued to complicate the issue.The oldest shoes in existence are from around 7000 B.C.E and were discovered in America.These earliest shoes appear to have been constructed from rope,leaves and animal skins.As these are highly perishable materials,archaeological examples are rare but some still argue that there is other evidence pointing to shoe use from up to 40000 years ago.Their invention was a major development in the ability of humans to travel,work and endure harsh conditions.

We will further discuss the evolution of man in the articles which we would update soon. Please stay tuned to this space for more information.

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About Sai Prashanth

IT professional. Love to write.