Clark Larsen Answers Students FAQs

1. Question: Which features characterize the Homo genus?

Response: The genus Homo has a number of physical characteristics that define it, including a larger brain, especially in comparison to the earlier australopithecines. In addition, the face and jaws of Homo are reduced and smaller than the face and jaws of australopithecines. The Homo genus also relies more heavily on cultural adaptations or material culture for survival. Material cultural attributes include stone tools, which are found in association with all Homo species. Some of the Homo species have other forms of material culture, such as use of fire and hunting. Overall, the Homo genus demonstrates behavioral flexibility and the ability to adapt to a variety of circumstances.

See Figure 10.10 Ape and Human Skeletons


2. Question: How did Homo habilis compare with the australopithecines in terms of biological and cultural changes?

Response: Homo habilis, the earliest species of the Homo genus, has a similar overall body plan to the australopithecines. Homo habilis is short in stature, with short legs in comparison to its arms. Like the australopithecines, Homo habilis did not have a modern form of bipedalism. It would have had a shorter stride and a less efficient walking ability. The brain size of Homo habilis, however, is larger than the brain size of any australopithecine. A larger brain size is likely the reason why tool use became more important in Homo habilis than it was in the australopithecines. Additionally, the chewing muscles and teeth of Homo habilis are smaller than the australopithecines, which may in part be explained by using Oldowan stone tools rather than teeth as basic tools. Lastly, Homo habilis had a more generalized diet than the australopithecines, many of which specialized on a narrow range of foods.

See Table 10.1 The earliest Hominids


3. Question: How did Homo erectus compare with Homo habilis in terms of biological and cultural changes?

Response: The transition from Homo habilis to Homo erectus was accompanied by a number of physical and cultural changes. Body size increased substantially, possibly as a result of climate change and increased access to protein from meat. In addition, body proportions changed, as arm length reduced and leg length increased, reflecting a more modern form of bipedalism. The brain size of Homo erectus was larger than that of Homo habilis, which may have been due in part to overall increase in body size, but is also reflective of greater intelligence. Greater intelligence enabled Homo erectus to make and use more sophisticated tools, the Acheulian tools. More skill was required to create them and the tools were used in hunting and scavenging animals. Other physical changes observed with Homo erectus include smaller teeth, reduced face and jaw size, increase in brow ridges, and thicker cranial bones.

See Figure 10.20 Origins of Bipedalism


4. Question: What are the important trends observed in early Homo?

Response: The first important trend is increased brain size and greater intelligence. Second, the face, jaws, and teeth reduced in size, and the overall chewing complex became more gracile. Third, the use of tools and other technology increased. The early Oldowan tools seen with Homo habilis were eventually replaced by the more sophisticated Acheulian tools of Homo erectus. Fourth, the Homo genus became more of a predator, as Homo began to hunt and acquire protein from meat. Lastly, Homo increased in body size and eventually acquired modern human body proportions, including long legs and short arms.

See Table 10.2 Trends from Late Australopithecine to Early Homo


5. Question: What are some of the cultural developments seen in Homo erectus?

Response: Homo erectus exhibited a number of new cultural developments not seen in earlier Homo species or the australopithecines. While Oldowan stone tools were already in existence, Homo erectus developed more sophisticated tools, known as Acheulian tools that had a wide variety of uses. Homo erectus was also the first species to migrate out of Africa. Fossil remains have been found throughout Asia and Europe, indicating that the migration occurred shortly after their initial appearance. Homo erectus was the first species to use fire, which provided warmth and ability to cook food. Fire also enabled Homo erectus to expand to colder regions of the world. Lastly, Homo erectus showed evidence of hunting, using the Acheulian tools. In some cases, Homo erectus may have scavenged meat as well.

See Figure 10.33 Oldest Stone Tools