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In 2013, about 1,500 fossil specimens of this extinct human species were found in the Rising Star cave complex, about 31 miles northwest of Johannesburg, in South Africa. The fossils were dated to about 250,000 years ago, placing them in the same time frame as the emergence of anatomically modern humans. Naledi shared some features with other members of the genus, including cheek teeth and similar jaws and feet. Other physical features such as the femur, pelvis or the size of the brain were more similar to those of Australopithecus, a hominin species.
The hominin species was found on an Indonesian island called Flores. The hominin order includes creatures that are closer to humans than chimpanzees or earlier creatures, such as Australopithecus. However, the origins of floriensis remain a mystery and the subject of an ongoing debate. Genetics, certain physical attributes as well as the timeframe of their existence seemingly support the latter.
It reflects the link between archaic humans, such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, and their more primitive ancestors. Rudolfensis is only known from a handful of fossils found in Africa so it’s hard to classify them as a species. There have been proponents in the scientific community that it should be considered as part of habilis.
This human species is believed to have been the first to emerge in the genus. In 1964 the name Habilis was proposed, which means “handy man”. This archaic human was the first to use flaked stone tools. They were more advanced than any of the tools previously used. habilis was short, on average 4’3”, and its arms were disproportionately longer when compared to modern humans. Its brain size was between 34 and 42 cubic inches, about 50% larger than that of its more ape-like predecessors.
Erectus is regarded as a possible direct ancestor of sapiens. Its earliest fossils, which were discovered at a site in Dmanisi Georgia, date to about 1.8 million years ago. Sapiens have been around for roughly 250,000 years. Erectus, or the “the upright man” marked an important transition in posture to bipedalism. From an evolutionary perspective, it separated from its ancestors, in east Africa, about 3 million years ago. Erectus had a greater brain capacity than habilis and it stood at an average of 5’10”. They were very slender, with long arms and legs. There’s archaeological evidence that indicates they cooked their food.
Heidelbergensis is an archaic human named after Heidelberg, Germany, the town where the first fossils where discovered. A mandible was found in 1907. Based on the archaeological evidence from Africa and Europe, Heidelbergensis was responsible for a number of firsts with humans. They were right-handed, which is typically associated with the development of language in hominins. The fact that they didn’t have air sacs is believed to have been an important trait for the evolution of vocal language. Heidelbergensis had a larger build, which enabled it to adapt to cooler temperatures. It’s sometimes referred to as the last common ancestor of modern humans and Neanderthals.
A DNA analysis of Denisovans indicates that they were genetically different from both Neanderthals and modern humans. It’s believed that they were extremely robust, perhaps similar to Neanderthals in build and that, like them, they interbred with sapiens. This was discovered through a DNA analysis of the toe. It’s possible that Denisovans, Neanderthals and related hybrids dwelt in the Denisova Cave, in Siberia for thousands of years. However, it isn’t clear if they ever cohabitated.
Neanderthalensis, commonly known as the Neanderthal, inhabited Eurasia from 400,000 to 40,000 years ago. They were eventually assimilated or replaced by sapiens. This most likely happened after the former migrated out of Africa, about 70,000 years ago. This is reflected in the genome of certain populations. The earliest known modern human in Europe was found in a cave in Romania and it had craniofacial features similar both to Neanderthals and modern humans. They had shorter legs, bigger bodies and were typically stockier than modern humans. They were comparable in height but much stronger than modern humans. Evidence suggests they owned a similar speech range to that of modern humans, although the patterns for communication are unknown. They decorated caves and objects with designs, natural pigments as well as feathers or shells. The discovery of a flute-like instrument at a site in Slovenia may suggest that they also made music, although this has been contested.