A Short Review of the Chronology for Human Evolution

By Leonard, William H. | The American Biology Teacher, March 2012 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

A Short Review of the Chronology for Human Evolution


Leonard, William H., The American Biology Teacher


In my September 2011 ABT Editorial that argued that humans are all one race, there was a reference to human evolution beginning some 100 million years ago. The date is obviously incorrect, and a colleague at St. Clair County Community College in Port Huron, Michigan, David Sheldon, astutely called this to my attention. I therefore offer the following synopsis of the chronology of human evolution. This represents the apparent scientific consensus and may be helpful as a teaching tool when addressing human evolution with students.

Early hominids (great apes) probably came from apes similar to the chimpanzee ca. 5-10 million years ago. Remains of familiar hominids such as Australopithecus afarensis and A. africanus have been dated from 3-4 and 2.5-3 million years ago, respectively. The first humans (genus Homo), including Homo habilis (handy man), evolved in Africa ca. 2 million years ago. The earliest fossils of H. erectus were found in Indonesia and dated to ca. 1.8 mya. Homo erectus and all previous members of genus Homo were extinct by 70,000 years ago. Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthal man) lived from ca. 250 to as recently as 30,000 years ago, at which time they were displaced by Cro Magnon man in Europe. They walked entirely upright but were shorter, stouter, and probably stronger than today's humans. Neanderthal man is probably the source of the mythic "caveman," but Neanderthal man neither lived in caves nor coexisted with dinosaurs as suggested in fictional media. And there is no evidence that Neanderthal man was hairy like a gorilla.

Cro Magnon man (Homo sapiens, or wise man) evolved some 40,000 years ago, so it is possible that Neanderthal man and early H. sapiens actually coexisted for a while. They may even have encountered each other. The H. sapiens sapiens (civilized man) that exists today is genetically similar to H. sapiens, the added "sapiens" simply denoting the human at the beginning of civilization as we know it. But the two are the same species and would have been able to successfully interbreed.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

A Short Review of the Chronology for Human Evolution
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?