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Answer the following discussion questions, your answer should be at least 200 words in length. After posting please respond to at least one other students’ post. Submit by 11:59pm on Sunday, July 10th, no late submissions accepted.
1. Describe what kinds of information can be learned from a single fossil, including information about the organism and its environment.
2. Discuss the selective pressures for bipedalism. Then, describe two skeletal adaptations for bipedalism.
3. Name some specific behaviors associated with Homo erectus in the areas of tool use, subsistence practices, migration patterns, and other cultural innovations.

Chapter 10
Early Members of the Genus Homo
Bonnie Yoshida-Levine, Ph.D.

CC BY-NC

Describe early Pleistocene climate change
Identify the characteristics of the genus Homo
Describe the skeletal anatomy of Homo habilis 
Describe the skeletal anatomy of Homo erectus
Identify key sites for early Homo
Describe the adaptive strategies and tool use of early Homo

Learning Objectives

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Large brain size
Smaller, flatter face
Smaller jaws and teeth
Increased use of culture
Larger overall body size
Longer legs/shorter arms
Decline in sexual dimorphism

Defining the Genus Homo

“Nariokotome Boy”

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2.6 mya to 11,000 years ago
“Ice Age”
Cycles between interglacial (warm/wet) and
glacial (cool/dry)

Pleistocene Epoch

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Pleistocene Epoch
Geography and climate affect hominin migration
Paleoclimate of Africa
Grassland: expanded and shrunk
Homo adaptations
New foods
Cultural solutions
Behavioral adaptations

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Homo habilis: Earliest Members of Our Genus
2.5mya – 1.7 mya
East and South Africa
Brain size
~650cc

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Homo habilis: Key Traits
Rounded skull
Less facial prognathism
Dentition
Smaller teeth
Thinner enamel
Parabolic dental arcade
Postcrania similar to Australopithecus

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Homo habilis: Key Sites

Key Sites Dates

Ledi-Gararu, Ethiopia 2.8 mya

Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania 1.7 – 1.8 mya

Koobi Fora, Lake Turkana Basin, Kenya 1.9 mya

Sterkfontein and other possible South African cave sites Approx. 1.7 mya

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Homo habilis: Homo or Australopithecus ?
Brain size?
More arboreal?
Body proportions?
Au. behaviors?

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How Many Species of Homo habilis?
Homo habilis

Homo rudolfensis

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Homo habilis: Culture and Lifeways
Oldowan
Oldest stone tool industry
2.5-1.6 mya
“Flake and chopper” tools
Purpose
Butchering animals
Meat-eating
More protein and calories

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Homo habilis: Summary Features

Dates 2.5 mya to 1.7 mya

Region(s) East and South Africa

Key Discoveries Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania; Koobi Fora, Kenya; Sterkfontein, South Africa

Brain Size 510 cc to 775 cc (650 cc average)

Dentition Smaller teeth, thinner enamel than Australopithecus; parabolic dental arcade

Cranial Features Rounder cranium and less facial prognathism than Australopithecus

Postcranial Features Small stature; similar body plan to Australopithecus

Culture Oldowan tools

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Homo erectus: Biological and Cultural Innovations

1.8 mya to approx. 200,000 ya

Africa, Asia, and Europe

Larger

.

.

EXPLORATIONS: AN OPEN INVITATION TO BIOLOGICAL
ANTHROPOLOGY

Editors: Beth Shook, Katie Nelson, Kelsie Aguilera and Lara Braff

American Anthropological Association
Arlington, VA

2019

CC BY-NC 4.0 International, except where otherwise noted

ISBN – 978-1-931303-63-7

www.explorations.americananthro.org

http:www.explorations.americananthro.org

Chapter 9: Early Hominins

Kerryn Warren, Ph.D., University of Cape Town

Lindsay Hunter, Ph.D., University of Witwatersrand

Navashni Naidoo, M.Sc., University of Cape Town

Silindokuhle Mavuso, M.Sc., University of Witwatersrand

Kimberleigh Tommy, M.Sc., University of Witwatersrand

Rosa Moll, M.Sc., University of Witwatersrand

Nomawethu Hlazo, M.Sc., University of Cape Town

Learning Objectives

• Define what is meant by “hominin”.

• Understand what is meant by “derived” and “primitive” traits and why this is relevant for understanding

early hominin evolution.

• Understand changing paleoclimates and paleoenvironments during early human evolution, and

contextualize them as potential factors influencing adaptations during this time.

• Describe the anatomical changes associated with bipedalism in early hominins and the implications for

changes in locomotion.

• Describe the anatomical changes associated with dentition in early hominins and their implication for

diet in the Plio-Pleistocene.

• Describe early hominin genera and species, including their currently understood dates and geographic

expanses and what we know about them.

• Describe the earliest stone tool techno-complex and what it implies about the transition from early

hominins to our genus.

DEFINING HOMININS

It is through our study of our hominin ancestors and relatives that we are exposed to a world of “might have beens”:

of other paths not taken by our species, other ways of being human. But in order to better understand these different

evolutionary trajectories, we must first define the terms we are using. If an imaginary line were drawn between

ourselves and our closest relatives, the great apes, bipedalism or habitually walking upright on two feet) is where that
line would be. Hominin, then, means everyone on “our” side of the line: humans and all of our extinct bipedal ancestors
and relatives since our divergence from the last common ancestor (LCA) with chimpanzees.

Early Hominins | 319

Historic interpretations of our evolution, prior to our finding of early hominin fossils, varied. Debates in the mid-1800s
regarding hominin origins focused on two key issues:

1. Where did we evolve?

2. Which traits evolved first?

Charles Darwin hypothesized that we evolved in Africa, as he was convinced that we shared greater commonality with

chimpanzees and gorillas on the continent Darwin 1871). Others, such as Ernst Haekel and Eugene Dubois, insisted that

we were closer in affinity to orangutans and that we evolved in Eurasia where, until the discovery of the Taung

Chapter 7
Understanding the
Fossil Context
Sarah S. King, Ph.D.
CC BY-NC

Describe the Age of Wonder and its impact on anthropology
Identity types of fossils
Understand fossil formation
Discuss relative and chronometric dating methods
Describe methods to reconstruct past environments

Learning Objectives

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Mary Anning (1799-1847)
Excavations of fossilized dinosaurs

Science vs Religion
Darwin
Genesis story
Mary Anning and the Age of Wonder

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Scientific Revolution

James Hutton
Deep Time

Charles Lyell
Uniformitarianism

Charles Darwin
Evolution by natural selection
Developing Modern Methods

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Earth: It’s Older than Dirt

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Pangea
Breakup began 200 mya

Continental drift

Tectonic Plate Theory (Wegener)
Breakup of Pangea and earthquakes

Geologic Processes

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Taphonomy
Processes affecting organism after death
Example: P78 (pit burial in England)
Insight into culture and evolution

Preservation of biological remains
Bog bodies
Ice mummies
Fossils: Preserving Prehistoric Life

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Soft tissue decays

Bones and teeth preserve

Sediment accumulation
Lithification
Permineralization
Fossilization

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Plants (fern, petrified wood)
Human/animal remains
Amber
Asphalt
Igneous rock
Trace fossils
Types of Fossils

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Tanzania

Early hominin footprints
Three hominins walked across
wet volcanic ash

Analysis
Bipedal, modern gait, short stride
Family organization
Types of Fossils: Laetoli Footprints

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Stratigraphy
Law of Superposition

Biostratigraphy

Cultural dating

Chemical dating
Fluorine dating
Piltdown Man

Dating Methods: Relative Dating

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Atoms

Stable isotopes

Unstable isotopes

Radioactive decay
Dating Methods: Chronometric Dating

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Radiocarbon dating

N14 → C14

Half-life: 5,730 years
Dating Methods: Chronometric Dating

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Potassium-argon (K-Ar)
K40 half-life=1.3 billion

Argon-argon (Ar-Ar)

Fission track dating
U238 half-life=4,500 million years
Dating Methods: Chronometric Dating

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Luminescence dating
Thermoluminescence
Optically stimulated luminescence

Electron spin resonance dating

Dendrochronology
Dating Methods: Chronometric Dating

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Amino acid racemization (AAR)
D-form
L-form

Paleomagnetic/
geomagnetic reversals

Dating Methods: Chronometric Dating

CC BY-NC www.explorations.americanan

.

.

EXPLORATIONS: AN OPEN INVITATION TO BIOLOGICAL
ANTHROPOLOGY

Editors: Beth Shook, Katie Nelson, Kelsie Aguilera and Lara Braff

American Anthropological Association
Arlington, VA

2019

CC BY-NC 4.0 International, except where otherwise noted

ISBN – 978-1-931303-63-7

www.explorations.americananthro.org

http:www.explorations.americananthro.org

http:www.explorations.americananthro.org

Chapter 10: Early Members of the Genus Homo

Bonnie Yoshida-Levine Ph.D., Grossmont College

Learning Objectives

• Describe how early Pleistocene climate change influenced the evolution of the genus Homo.

• Identify the characteristics that define the genus Homo.

• Describe the skeletal anatomy of Homo habilis and Homo erectus based on the fossil evidence.

• Assess opposing points of view about how early Homo should be classified.

• Describe what is known about the adaptive strategies of early members of the Homo genus, including tool

technologies, diet, migration patterns, and other behavioral trends.

The boy was no older than 9 when he perished by the swampy shores of the lake. After death, his slender, long-limbed

body sank into the mud of the lake shallows. His bones fossilized and lay undisturbed for 1.5 million years. In the 1980s,

fossil hunter Kimoya Kimeu, working on the western shore of Lake Turkana, Kenya, glimpsed a dark colored piece of

bone eroding in a hillside. This small skull fragment led to the discovery of what is arguably the world’s most complete

early hominin fossil—a youth identified as a member of the species Homo erectus. Now known as Nariokotome Boy, after

the nearby lake village, the skeleton has provided a wealth of information about the early evolution of our own genus,

Homo see Figure 10.1). Today, a stone monument with an inscription in three languages—English, Swahili, and the local

Turkana language—marks the site of this momentous fossil discovery.

Figure 10.1 Skeleton of a young male Homo erectus known as “Nariokotome Boy,” along with an artist’s depiction of how he

may have looked during his life. This is the most complete hominin fossil from this time period ever found.

The previous chapter described our oldest human ancestors, primarily members of the genus Australopithecus who lived

between 2 million and 4 million years ago. This chapter introduces the earliest members of the genus Homo, focusing on

the species Homo habilis and Homo erectus.

374 | Early Members of the Genus Homo

DEFINING THE GENUS HOMO

Since our discipline is fundamentally concerned with what makes us human, defining our own genus takes on special

significance for anthropologists. The genus is the next level up from species in the classification system originally

devised by Carolus Linnaeus. In the 1758 publication Systema Naturae, Linnaeus assigned humans the genus name Homo,

meaning “person.” Under this classification scheme, Linnaeus included several ape species, as well as wil

.

.

EXPLORATIONS: AN OPEN INVITATION TO BIOLOGICAL
ANTHROPOLOGY

Editors: Beth Shook, Katie Nelson, Kelsie Aguilera and Lara Braff

American Anthropological Association
Arlington, VA

2019

CC BY-NC 4.0 International, except where otherwise noted

ISBN – 978-1-931303-63-7

www.explorations.americananthro.org

http:www.explorations.americananthro.org

http:www.explorations.americananthro.org

Chapter 10: Early Members of the Genus Homo

Bonnie Yoshida-Levine Ph.D., Grossmont College

Learning Objectives

• Describe how early Pleistocene climate change influenced the evolution of the genus Homo.

• Identify the characteristics that define the genus Homo.

• Describe the skeletal anatomy of Homo habilis and Homo erectus based on the fossil evidence.

• Assess opposing points of view about how early Homo should be classified.

• Describe what is known about the adaptive strategies of early members of the Homo genus, including tool

technologies, diet, migration patterns, and other behavioral trends.

The boy was no older than 9 when he perished by the swampy shores of the lake. After death, his slender, long-limbed

body sank into the mud of the lake shallows. His bones fossilized and lay undisturbed for 1.5 million years. In the 1980s,

fossil hunter Kimoya Kimeu, working on the western shore of Lake Turkana, Kenya, glimpsed a dark colored piece of

bone eroding in a hillside. This small skull fragment led to the discovery of what is arguably the world’s most complete

early hominin fossil—a youth identified as a member of the species Homo erectus. Now known as Nariokotome Boy, after

the nearby lake village, the skeleton has provided a wealth of information about the early evolution of our own genus,

Homo see Figure 10.1). Today, a stone monument with an inscription in three languages—English, Swahili, and the local

Turkana language—marks the site of this momentous fossil discovery.

Figure 10.1 Skeleton of a young male Homo erectus known as “Nariokotome Boy,” along with an artist’s depiction of how he

may have looked during his life. This is the most complete hominin fossil from this time period ever found.

The previous chapter described our oldest human ancestors, primarily members of the genus Australopithecus who lived

between 2 million and 4 million years ago. This chapter introduces the earliest members of the genus Homo, focusing on

the species Homo habilis and Homo erectus.

374 | Early Members of the Genus Homo

DEFINING THE GENUS HOMO

Since our discipline is fundamentally concerned with what makes us human, defining our own genus takes on special

significance for anthropologists. The genus is the next level up from species in the classification system originally

devised by Carolus Linnaeus. In the 1758 publication Systema Naturae, Linnaeus assigned humans the genus name Homo,

meaning “person.” Under this classification scheme, Linnaeus included several ape species, as well as wil

.

.

EXPLORATIONS: AN OPEN INVITATION TO BIOLOGICAL
ANTHROPOLOGY

Editors: Beth Shook, Katie Nelson, Kelsie Aguilera and Lara Braff

American Anthropological Association
Arlington, VA

2019

CC BY-NC 4.0 International, except where otherwise noted

ISBN – 978-1-931303-63-7

www.explorations.americananthro.org

http:www.explorations.americananthro.org

Chapter 9: Early Hominins

Kerryn Warren, Ph.D., University of Cape Town

Lindsay Hunter, Ph.D., University of Witwatersrand

Navashni Naidoo, M.Sc., University of Cape Town

Silindokuhle Mavuso, M.Sc., University of Witwatersrand

Kimberleigh Tommy, M.Sc., University of Witwatersrand

Rosa Moll, M.Sc., University of Witwatersrand

Nomawethu Hlazo, M.Sc., University of Cape Town

Learning Objectives

• Define what is meant by “hominin”.

• Understand what is meant by “derived” and “primitive” traits and why this is relevant for understanding

early hominin evolution.

• Understand changing paleoclimates and paleoenvironments during early human evolution, and

contextualize them as potential factors influencing adaptations during this time.

• Describe the anatomical changes associated with bipedalism in early hominins and the implications for

changes in locomotion.

• Describe the anatomical changes associated with dentition in early hominins and their implication for

diet in the Plio-Pleistocene.

• Describe early hominin genera and species, including their currently understood dates and geographic

expanses and what we know about them.

• Describe the earliest stone tool techno-complex and what it implies about the transition from early

hominins to our genus.

DEFINING HOMININS

It is through our study of our hominin ancestors and relatives that we are exposed to a world of “might have beens”:

of other paths not taken by our species, other ways of being human. But in order to better understand these different

evolutionary trajectories, we must first define the terms we are using. If an imaginary line were drawn between

ourselves and our closest relatives, the great apes, bipedalism or habitually walking upright on two feet) is where that
line would be. Hominin, then, means everyone on “our” side of the line: humans and all of our extinct bipedal ancestors
and relatives since our divergence from the last common ancestor (LCA) with chimpanzees.

Early Hominins | 319

Historic interpretations of our evolution, prior to our finding of early hominin fossils, varied. Debates in the mid-1800s
regarding hominin origins focused on two key issues:

1. Where did we evolve?

2. Which traits evolved first?

Charles Darwin hypothesized that we evolved in Africa, as he was convinced that we shared greater commonality with

chimpanzees and gorillas on the continent Darwin 1871). Others, such as Ernst Haekel and Eugene Dubois, insisted that

we were closer in affinity to orangutans and that we evolved in Eurasia where, until the discovery of the Taung

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