Scientific classification of the Homo genus descends from the Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Synapsida, Sub-class Mammalia, Order Primates, Family Hominidae, Tribe Hominini, and Sub tribe Hominina. The Homo genus consists of modern humans and other species that are closely related to the humans and are considered to be the significant apes. The word “human” is commonly referred to all the members of this genus. In this genus, all species with an exception of Homo sapiens are extinct (Campbell, 1998, p.14).
Homo sapiens existed approximately 2.4 million years ago. The first members of this genus are deliberated to be Homo habilis and originate from Africa. Homo sapiens are believed to have risen to Homo ergaster. Some members of this species drifted to Asia and were named Homo erectus, while others moved to Europe (Homo georgicus). Homo ergaster and Homo erectuswere developing for approximately two million years and apparently separated into two different species. Homo rhodesiensis were descended from Homo ergaster and migrated to Europe from Africa. Further, they developed into Homo heidelbergensisand later became Homo neanderthalensis (Thompson, 2003, p. 25).
Homo habilis is the first species in this genus. The name comes from the Latin words meaning “handy man”. Homo habilis lived during the Gelasian Pleistocene period in Africa. The fossil records are attributed to Mary and Louis Leakey, who found the fossils in Tanzania. The fossils were discovered and described between 1962 and 1964 (Campbell, 1998, p.65).
In comparison to the modern man, Homo habilis were short and their arms were long. Although this made them uneven, they are considered to be similar in appearance and morphology. The face of Homo habilis was less protruding when compared to the Australopithecines, which are believed to be their ancestors; the jaw was moved under the brain, and the molars were smaller. The cranial capacity was of 510-660cm3, which is less than half of the cranial capacity of the modern man (Campbell, 1998, p.86). Some studies dated May 2010 revealed a theory that Homo gautengesis is older than Homo habilis. However, this has not yet been factually confirmed.
Homo gautengesis are confirmed to have used stone tools. They are linked with the Oldowan tool industry, which was characterized by the rounded hammer stones, crude stone flakes, and bones that were used for digging. Due to the finding of the tools next to the dismembered animal remains, it is believed that they fed on meat and used stones in order to get marrow from bones that were too large to be broken. They are also believed to have moved in larger groups for security reasons (Thompson, 2003, p. 79).
Homo erectus was a descendant of Homo habilis and lived in Africa and Eurasia, which consisted of Caucasus, China, India and Java. The early species had a cranial capacity of 850cm3, and the late ones had a cranial capacity of 1100cm3. The name “Homo erectus” literally translates to the “upright human”. The form and relative sizes of their limb bones were similar to the modern man’s bones. Their heads had distinct strong muscles in the back of their necks, and the foreheads were shallow (Thompson, 2003, p. 112).
Homo erectus adapted to the new ecological breaks by generating cultural technologies. They successfully expanded their territories approximately 1.8 million years ago, migrating from Africa in order to inhabit tropical and subtropical zones of the Old World. Thus, this migration made them pioneers in the human culture development. By the way, the global temperatures were becoming cooler gradually. Further, Homo erectus moved into zones of Asia and Europe, where the temperatures were seasonally cold. Intelligence of Homo erectus was more developed, and there appeared new cultural technologies like hunting skills and fire (Campbell, 1998, p.93). In 1960, Louis and Mary Leakey found a partial Homo erectus cranium at Olduvai Gorge. In 1984, a nearly complete skeleton of this species was found on the Western side of Lake Turkana. It was estimated to be an 8-12 year old boy’s skeleton and was referred to as the “Turkana Boy.”
Homoneanderthalensis were named after the Neander Valley in Germany, where the fossils were first discovered. They are believed to have lived in the Pleistocene period in Europe and Western Asia. Homoneanderthalensis are closely related to humans with a cranial capacity of about 1200 to 1900cm3. Brain capacity of their newborns was similar to the brain capacity of the modern new born children, but it was bigger in the adults. They had stronger limbs and were generally shorter in height. Homoneanderthalensis adapted well to the changing weather conditions from the extreme cold to mildly cold due to their stocky limbs and barrel chests (Campbell, 1998, p.127). In 2010, it was found that their genetic contribution to the modern humans’ anatomy was engendered by interbreeding with the earliest humans that were isolated from Africa.
Homoneanderthalensis have been associated with a few cultural collections like the Mousterian stool culture, Chatelperronian, Gravettian, and Aurignacian. They created and utilized the advanced tools. Moreover, they are believed to have had a language and multifaceted social groups. Homoneanderthalensis built dwellings from the mammoth skulls, tusks, and leg bones and placed 25 hearths inside it. This is proved by the Ukrainian archaeological sites (Campbell, 1998, p.133). According to the research finding dated 2010, a cooked vegetable matter was found in a Neanderthal man’s skull indicating that they were vegetarians.
In conclusion, these evolutionary trends show a clear relation to the modern man and can be associated with cultural and social practices of the modern man. The genus development is also characterized by the physical features in different species, and there is a systematic gene flow.