A catalogue of hominid
What is a hominid?
The scientist Carl von Linné, commonly known as Carolus Linnaeus,
established the taxonomic classification for animals and plants in the
18th century. Under this classification modern man is Homo sapiens
sapiens (the wise wise man), the only surviving species of the genus Homo
(true humans). Humankind's ancestors form the family of Hominidae
(Hominids) - they are known only through fossil remains which include
extinct forms of the genus Homo (dating back to 1.6 million years
ago, m.y.a.) and the more ancient genus Australopithecus (dating
from 5 to 1.6 m.y.a.). Humans are related to apes through the superfamily Hominoidea
(Hominoids), to monkeys through the infraorder Anthropoidea, and to
all primates through the order Primata.
It is believed that Hominids diverged from
other Hominoids around 6 m.y.a. - it was recently announced that
paleoanthropologists in Kenya had discovered fossil fragments which could
date back this far. However, until a formal description of Orrorin
tugenensis is presented, the oldest recognized Hominid fossil remains Ardipithecus
Teeth, skull fragments, and upper-limb bones discovered in 1994 by Tim
White, University of California in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Ardipithecus
ramidus is dated to between 4.5 and 4.3 m.y.a. There is some evidence
of bipedalism, but it is believed that ramidus lived an arboreal
lifestyle in a forest habitat.
(southern apes) and Paranthropus
This is a genus of Hominids that lived in Africa from the late Miocene
(around 5.3 m.y.a.) to the beginning of the Pleistocene (about 1.6 m.y.a.).
Believed by most paleoanthropologists to by an ancestor of modern humans,
but there is disagreement as to whether the various forms of
Australopithecus represent a single lineage or a number of parallel
species. The australopithecines were bipedal and had a brain capacity
roughly the same as that of modern apes. There are two distinct
categories: gracile and robust. Gracile skulls have finer facial features,
the robusts have large jaws and strong teeth. The robust form is
considered to be a separate genus by many and given the name Paranthropus
(southern ape of the lake)
Discovered by Meave Leakey and the Kenya National Museum hominid team in
1994 at Kanapoi on the shore of Lake Turkana, northern Kenya. Australopithecus
anamensis lived between 4.2 and 3.9 m.y.a. in riverine woodland or
bushland. A single tibia (knee bone) is the earliest proof of bipedalism.
(southern ape of Afar)
The famous example, Lucy, was discovered in 1976 at Hadar, Ethiopia, by
Don Johanson and was named after a Beetles song. Fossil footprints
attributed to afarensis were discovered at Laetoli, Tanzania, in
1978 by geochemist Paul I. Abell. Australopithecus afarensis lived
between 3.8 and 2.8 m.y.a. in broken woodland (a mixture of terrestrial
and arboreal habitat). Post-cranial bones show it was adept at walking
upright and capable of running.
The discovery, from the western shore of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya,
was announced by Meave Leakey in March 2001. Kenyanthropus platyops
is dated to between 3.5 and 3.2 m.y.a. It is claimed to represent a
completely new branch of the hominid family tree.
In 1995 French paleontologist Michel Brunet discovered part of a
fossilized jaw at Koro Toro, Chad (2,400 km west of the Eastern rift
Valley), which closely resembled that of afarensis. This species is
dated to 3.3 to 3 m.y.a.
Discovered by Tim White in 1997 near the village of Bouri, in the Afar
region of Ethiopia -- garhi means surprise in the Afar dialect. Australopithecus
garhi is dated to between 2.5 and 2.3 m.y.a., exhibits a mixture of
gracile and robust features, and was found in association with stone
(southern ape of Africa)
The Taung skull, described by Raymond Dart in 1925, is the most famous
example. The skull is more developed than that of afarensis whilst
the body is more primitive. Australopithecus africanus is dated to
between 3 and 2.3 m.y.a. and lived in broken woodland -- although the
light bone structure suggests it was primarily a tree dweller.
The earliest of the robust hominids, aethiopicus has been found at
Lake Turkana and in Ethiopia. The most famous specimen is The Black
Skull which was stained black during the fossilization process. Paranthropus
aethiopicus is dated to between 2.5 to 2.3 m.y.a. and used its massive
teeth and jaws used to process low-nutritional plant material found on the
Specimens recovered from Lake Turkana, Kenya and the Olduvai George,
Tanzania, were originally classified as Zinjanthropus by Louis
Leakey in 1959 -- it was also the first hominid found outside of South
Africa. Paranthropus boisei is dated to between 2 and 1.2 m.y.a.
and probably evolved from aethiopicus. Massive jaws and molars,
largest of any hominid, led to the common name of Nutcracker Man.
The South African form of robust hominid first discovered by Robert Broom
in the 1940s at Kromdraai near Sterkfontein. Paranthropus robustus
is dated to between 1.9 and 1.3 m.y.a. There is a controversy over the
origins of robustus which is a contemporary of the East African boisei
-- if it evolved from africanus rather than aethiopicus, as
is claimed by many South African paleoanthropologists, it should have a
separate genus to the East African robusts, i.e. it is not a Paranthropus.
Originally classified as the male form of Homo habilis, it was
later re-classified as a separate species Homo rudolfensis.
Specimen KNM-ER-1470 was discovered at Koobi Fora near lake Turkana in
1972 (when it still retained its colonial name of Lake Rudolf) by Richard
Leakey. Homo rudolfensis is dated to between 2.4 and 1.9 m.y.a. It
has recently been suggested by Meave Leakey et al. that it belongs to the
newly identified genus of Kenyanthropus.
Discovered by Louis Leakey, Phillip Tobias and John Napier at Olduvai
George in Kenya in 1961. It has since been found in a wide variety of
locations along the Rift Valley, as well as the Omo River valley in
Ethiopia, and potential finds at Swartkrans, South Africa. Homo habilis
is dated to between 2.3 and 1.6 m.y.a. It is considered by many to be an
advanced form of gracile australopithecine rather than Homo.
Turkana Boy, the best example of ergaster, was discovered by
Richard Leakey and Alan Walker at Nariokatome on the banks of L. Turkana
in 1984. (This specimen is also known as Narikotome Boy.) Homo ergaster
is dated to between 1.75 and 1.4 m.y.a.
Although specimens of erectus were found in Morocco as early as
1933, a positive identification was not made until Louis Leakey found
fossil 'OH 9' at Olduvai George, Tanzania in 1960. Homo erectus is
dated to between 1.6 and 0.3 m.y.a. and is believed to have evolved from Homo
habilis or Homo ergaster.
There is a lack of fossil remains in Africa
for the period 1.5 to 0.5 m.y.a., though there are many signs of erectus
in terms of tools and camp sites. The diamond digging areas of N. Cape,
for example, have a large number of rich Achuelian tool sites. In
addition, the study of the Swartkrans deposits, South Africa, suggest that
erectus had mastered fire by 1.1 m.y.a.
was first hominid to migrate out of Africa -- starting around 1.5 m.y.a.
and reaching Java and China by 1.2 m.y.a. -- bringing to an end the period
for which Africa was the lone home for humankind's ancestors.