Monday, August 28, 2023

The EVOLUTION of HOMININS : Human Species

 This Triptych describes the Evolution of Humans from approximately 2Million years ago until our last human ancestor, the Neanderthals, which disappeared approximately 45,000 years ago. 

I have described in pictorial form, only 6 of possibly 13 or more hominin species or subspecies.  Anthropological-paleontological research has led to great discovery, however, scientific researchers will have more to teach in future years.

                                       Evolution of Human Species; Oil on Canvas- 3 panels: each 30in X30in
                                       total surface 90 X 30inches.
A description of the individual species, their history, their survival strategies, their hardships and achievements follows:
Before engaging on  descriptions of individual hominin species , I wish to thank and to acknowledge the invaluable contributions and educational programs offered to the public by researchers and university professors via online conferences , lectures and websites such as Youtube. 
I include a partial list of my Online References here: 
North 02 
Musee de l Homme
University of Washington
University of California
University of Arizona
The Smithsonian
Ben G. Thomas
History with Kayleigh

This Triptych is divided into 3 separate canvases, each describing, in pictorial form, 2 separate species.

Canvas #1: From Left to Right:

Beginning over two million years ago, Homo Habilis, the first species to be proclaimed a Hominin (Human) by anthropologists and paleontologists, evolved in South and East Africa and possibly East Asia. This species was small, approximately 4ft 10inches, walked upright but still spent time in trees to escape predators. His brain was approximately 500-800 cubic centimeters; he had a protruding jaw, large frontal lobe and may have been right-handed. (It is truly amazing how researchers worldwide were able to make such far-reaching analysis with the few remaining Habilis fossil bones discovered .  Habilis , the "Handy Man', used rudimentary stone tools, sharpened sticks and dug large holes in the ground while waiting for their prey to fall into them.; at which time they threw rocks at the animal.  They also hunted by scavenging the remains left by other animal predators.
Habilis co-existed with Homo Erectus, the next hominin species I will describe, for about 500,000 years,  and became extinct approximately 1,65 Million years ago.


Homo Erectus evolved in South Africa approximately 1.8 Million years ago and migrated widely to China and Indonesia and Australia.  He was first discovered on Java  and was named Java Man. In China, he was discovered in 1921 and named : Peking Man.  In  1950, he was officially designated as Homo Erectus. This species was very intelligent possessing  a brain size 950-1200 cubic centimeters. He had a large brow and skull and projecting nose. He measured up to 6ft 1inch in height; however, regional differences of climate and diet resulted in variation in height. Women were from 15-20% smaller than men. Erectus had long limbs, very similar to Homo Sapiens, and could run quickly. He pioneered complex tools: bifacial hand axes and hunted large animals. They are also presumed to have hunted the smaller elephant species to extinction.
. Erectus discovered the use of fire for cooking which enriched nutrition and contributed to the development of brain size. Fire was made with friction devices and flint. This species had good seafaring ability and migrated far and wide. Fossils of Erectus, dating back 1 Million years, were found in Indonesia. Erectus was the longest living hominin species(approximately 2 Million years) survived and coexisted with other species. 


Homo Heidelbergensis evolved from Erectus in Africa, Europe and the Middle East approximately 875,000 years ago. Equipped with a large brain size ( 1100-1390 cubic centimeters ) nearing the size of  that of Homo Sapiens. Their physical morphology varied according to regions; their traits considered one of three types: Afro-European, Afro-European-Asian or European. Their physical build being  Medium-Tall. They hunted large game in organized groups, invented bifacial stone axes classified as an Acheulian blade technology, made tools from antlers and bones, thus leading to a biocultural evolution. Scientists conclude that they experienced increased bio-neurological development and  possessed the capacity of language .
 They were seafarers and reached islands such as Crete 700,000 years ago. Their ability of adaptation to changing climates allowed them to thrive on several continents.   They were cognitively advanced and buried their dead, covering the graves with bifacial, colored stones and ornaments. 
Researchers, tracing their evolutionary tracks, conclude that one branch of Heidelbergensis led to Neanderthal in Europe while a second branch led to Homo Sapiens in Africa. 


 It is hypothesized that Homo Floresiensis descended from Homo Erectus. Erectus arrived on the Island of Flores, Indonesia, from 1 million-800,00 years ago, and during a very long period of development in isolation , experienced Island Dwarfism: an evolutionary adaptation to a species environment and ensuing threats of predation , thus ensuring reproductive success and longevity of  the species. Not only are the evolutionary forces strong enough to decrease the size of a species: stegadons (dwarf elephants), it can also cause great increase in size. On the Island of Flores , there existed giant carnivorous marabou storks measuring 9ft in height, komodo dragons (lizards) weighing 300-500 lbs. 

It must be pointed out that there now exists a second hypothesis regarding the Dwarf  Floresiensis species (the Hobbit),  which states that Floresiensis did not evolve from Erectus but probably derived from an earlier population of hominins: a population that became extinct with the arrival of Erectus or from a natural disaster on the Island (such as a volcano), leaving a small population of survivors.

Homo Floresiensis was a small person: from 3ft -3.7ft; had short legs but very large feet.  Although the species had a brain size of 380 cubic centimeters, he was able to use tools and weapons for hunting and fishing and used fire efficiently.  Floresiensis coexisted with other hominin species such as Erectus on the Island.  Homo Sapiens arrived on Flores approximately 45,000 years ago and may have caused the gradual extinction of Floresiensis.



Homo Denisovan evolved from Homo Heidelbergensis in  Eastern Europe and Asia approximately 800,000 years ago.  Fossil bones of Denisovans, dating back from 300,000 - 200,000 years ago, were first discovered in the Altai Mountain Caves of Siberia.  Denisovans had stocky bodies, were tall, possibly reaching 7ft in height, powerful jaws and long, protruding noses. They coexisted with Neanderthals and Sapiens  in the Altai regions and possessed brain capacity equal to these cohabitants: approximately 1400 cubic centimeters. 17% of Denisovan DNA is Neanderthal.  Mitochondrial DNA extracted from well-preserved bone marrow discovered in Siberian caves, tracks Denisovans around the world: Europe, China , Japan, the Aboriginals of Australia, New Guinea, Papua, Melanesia. These populations carry much Denisovan DNA.  Homo Sapiens carry both Denisovan and Neanderthal DNA. 

Denisovan were very advanced in tool making; evidence has been found of a chiseling device; they made jewelry out of jade and stones, needles for sewing clothing , bags and blankets. They were skilled hunters, used fire for cooking and heating .
From 45,000- 35,000 years ago, Denisovans and Neanderthals began to experience decreased population density, eventually becoming extinct.

Right Side: Homo Neanderthal

Homo Neanderthal was a highly skilled and adaptive species, surviving three ice ages and migrating widely throughout Europe and Scandinavia, the Middle East, Siberia , East Asia. They coexisted with Homo Sapiens but were more closely related to Denisovans.  They were very robust, stocky with a barrel-shaped thorax and huge lungs (they have been compared to the Inuit) , had long heel bones adapted for sprinting .  In colder , Northern regions, they hunted large game such as Mammoths using long thrusting spears which could be thrown 65 feet. Mammoth hunting provided large quantities of meat, wool and hides for warm clothing, bones and tusks for making weapons and tools. 

They were seafarers and created  reed-based craft.
Near the Equator, Neanderthals had darker skin and their diet consisted of shell fish and seafood;  Gibraltor provided them with birds, beach dolphin and seals. Israel offered figs, fruit and legumes, as evidenced by dental tartar discovered in dental remains. 
They survived their predators for over 200,000 years by establishing niche differentiation  between themselves and their predators: lions, hyenas, wolves , bears were their predators.
They buried their dead in graves 60,000- 70,000 years ago; Homo Sapiens buried their dead in graves 100,000 years ago , providing evidence of socio-cultural development and perhaps initiation of beliefs in supernatural-spiritual thought processes. Neanderthals began to decline from 40,000-35,000 years ago, disappearing approximately 5000 years ago.
Cave Paintings dating back 65,000 years ago have been accredited to Neanderthals; therefore, I conclude that that the Neanderthals were the First True Artists of the world.
Josette Wecsu, 2023.