Estimated dates (millions of years ago)


Both H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens may have lived in some of the same areas at the same time! Both species had the largest brains of any hominids and made advanced tools and clothing. H. sapiens seems to have been the first to make art. Of all known hominids, only H. sapiens still exists.

These species were similar to the slender australopithecines but had larger and more complex brains, rounder skulls, smaller jaws and teeth, and less protruding brows. They showed advanced tool-making abilities, had shorter arms than australopithecines did, and walked mostly upright. They probably were scavengers that ate a variety of foods

Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis

Neanderthals, a distinctive type of human, lived in Europe and Asia from about 230,000 to 30,000 years ago. They had heavy bones, thick brows, protruding jaws, and brains of about the same size as the brains of modern humans. They lived in caves and made stone scraper tools. The reason for their extinction is an ongoing scientific question. This species had once been classified as a subspecies of Homo sapiens but is now mainly classified as H. neanderthalensis. Neanderthals may have interacted with H. sapiens in some places.

The first humans classified as H. sapiens appeared in Africa about 160,000 years ago. The first discovery of H. sapiens fossils was in Cro-Magnon cave in France, so some members of H. sapiens are referred to as Cro-Magnons (KROH-man-YAWNS). Other fossils are known from several continents. The earliest members of H. sapiens differed only slightly from modern humans. Their average brain and body size were about the same as modern human's.

As hominid fossils are discovered and studied, scientists revise the classification of some hominid species and debate hypotheses about the possible evolutionary relationship between these species. The ancestry of H. sapiens is one such topic of debate.

Modern Humans

How did modern humans come to occupy the entire globe? In one hypothesis, local populations of H. erectus gave rise to local populations of H. sapiens all over the world. According to this multiregional hypothesis, interbreeding among populations was sufficient to keep all of humanity as a single species. In contrast, the recent-African-origin hypothesis suggests that H. sapiens evolved from H. erectus uniquely in Africa about 100,000 to 200,000 years ago, then migrated out of Africa, and populated the globe. An analysis of mitochondrial DNA from people around the world suggests that humans did arise in Africa. It is possible that humans migrated out of Africa more than once. Also, interbreeding among populations around the world would have been possible during and after these migrations.

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