|Themes > Science > Life Sciences > Physical Anthropology > Pre-Historic Man > Australopithecus "Southern Ape"|
About 3 million year ago, the earth was populated with deer, giraffes, hyenas, cattle, sheep, goats, antelope, gazelles, horses, elephants, rhinoceroses, camels, ground squirrels, beavers, cave lions, ants, termites, porpoises, whales, dogs with huge teeth, and sabre-toothed tigers! Giant sharks, about 42 feet long, were plentiful. There were all kinds of birds and plants and fish, similar to birds, plants and fish today. (Dinosaurs, in case you missed the introduction, died out about 65 million years ago. They were long gone.)
About this same time in history, around 3 million years ago, the higher primates, including apes and early man, first appeared. There was a difference between the apes and man. Human-like hominids could stand upright. Apes could not. Their hands were different, too. Ape hands were made for climbing and clinging. Early man's hands were jointed differently, which allowed them to not only use tools, but to make tools. No one knows if they actually made tools, but remains of polished bones have been found in South Africa, which suggests they might have made simple digging tools from bone! Their diet was mostly vegetarian, along with some meat, probably obtained by scavenging.
You might wonder how we know anything about hominids who lived over 3 million years ago! How do we know they even existed? Lucy told us!
In 1974, a skeleton was found
in Africa. The bones were those of young female, approximately 20 years
old when she died. Scientists named this "young lady" Lucy.
About 3 million years ago, when Lucy was alive, she was rather short,
about 4 feet tall, and probably weighed about 50 pounds. Her brain was
about the size of an orange. Her bones showed she probably walked erect,
although she still had the ability to climb trees easily. There were no
signs of broken bones or teeth marks, that might show why she died.
Scientists suspect that she probably fell into a lake or river and