Upright man

Trailblazers of human history, extinct 50,000 years ago

These early humans are credited with several groundbreaking achievements that set them apart from their predecessors and laid the foundations for the development of modern humans. Their story is one of innovation, adaptability, and the relentless pursuit of expansion beyond the familiar territories of their African origins.

Around 1.8 million years ago, Homo erectus began an unprecedented journey out of Africa, embarking on a path that would lead them across vast stretches of the Eurasian continent. This migration marked a significant milestone in human evolution, symbolizing the first time early humans ventured to explore and settle in new and diverse environments far from their ancestral homeland.

One of the most remarkable adaptations of Homo erectus was their human-like body proportions, which resembled those of modern humans more closely than any of their predecessors. These proportions facilitated a level of endurance and efficiency in running and hunting that was unparalleled at the time. This adaptation was crucial for their survival, enabling them to become proficient hunters capable of pursuing a variety of prey across different terrains. The mastery of bipedal locomotion provided them with a physical advantage and signified an evolutionary leap that would have profound implications for their lifestyle and survival strategies.

Homo erectus were the first to harness the power of fire, an innovation that fundamentally transformed their way of life. The control of fire allowed them to warm themselves in cold environments, ward off predators, and expand their diet through cooking, which significantly affected their social structures and health. Cooking food made it more digestible and nutritious and fostered communal activities around the hearth, strengthening social bonds.

In addition to mastering fire, Homo erectus is renowned for its sophisticated tool-making techniques. They created advanced stone tools that were more refined and effective than those of their ancestors, which were instrumental in hunting, butchering, and food processing. The development of these tools reflects a leap in cognitive skills, including planning, problem-solving, and the ability to manipulate objects with precision.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Africa
Official estimate
EX
2022
Extinct 50,000 years ago
Asia
Official estimate
EX
2022
Exinct 50,000 years ago

Did you know?

  • Recent genetic studies of ancient DNA suggest that Homo erectus interbred with other early human species in Asia, including Homo sapiens and Denisovans. This means that Homo erectus played a significant role in the evolution of modern humans.
  • Homo erectus was the first human ancestor to have a significantly larger brain than their predecessors, with an average brain volume of around 900 cubic centimeters.
  • Research suggests that Homo erectus was the first human ancestor to have a modern human-like body shape, with long legs and a short pelvis. This adaptation allowed them to become efficient runners and may have contributed to their success as a species.
  • A recent study using CT scans of Homo erectus skulls found evidence that they had a complex communication system and could produce a wide range of vocalizations, possibly including language.
  • A recent analysis of Homo erectus fossils from Georgia, dating to around 1.8 million years ago, suggests that they could adapt to a wide range of environments, from forested areas to open grasslands.
  • Dutch physician Eugene Dubois first discovered Homo erectus in Java, Indonesia, in 1891. Dubois named the species Pithecanthropus erectus, which means “upright ape-man.”
  • The discovery of the “Turkana Boy” fossil in Kenya, a nearly complete skeleton of a Homo erectus juvenile, provided valuable insights into the anatomy and development of this species. The Turkana Boy is estimated to have lived around 1.5 million years ago and is considered one of the most important early human fossils ever found.

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic / Monomorphic (size)

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Group

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No