Usually, a hominin is any member of the taxonomic tribe Hominini, the evolutionary group that includes modern humans and now-extinct bipedal relatives. But, here it refers to genetically close, or likely genetically close relatives of Homo sapiens.
Theoretical hominins[edit | edit source]
Def. any "member of the taxonomic tribe Hominini, the evolutionary group that includes modern humans and now-extinct bipedal relatives" is called a hominin.
Def. any "of several extinct hominids primates, of the genus Australopithecus, from the Pleistocene period" is called an australopithecine.
Def. any "of several extinct hominids, belonging to the genera Australopithecus, Paranthropus when seen as distinct, and sometimes other closely related genera" is called an australopithecine.
Prefer "the third explanation for the advanced-looking features of Neandertals (Chapter 7) and the Ngandong hominins (Chapter 6), but they have had little to say about the post-Erectine archaics from China."
Comparisons "ranging from ancient hominins such as australopithecines through to Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons, assessing the ratios of young adults to old adults [have been carried out]."
"Australopithecines came in several varieties, some slender and gracile, like Raymond Dart's Taung child, others more sturdy and robust, but all were capable of walking upright."
By convention, the adjectival term "hominin" (or nominalized "hominins") refers to the tribe Hominini, while the members of the Hominina subtribe (and thus all archaic human species) are referred to as "homininan" ("homininans").
Genera[edit | edit source]
Hominini by definition includes both Pan and Homo, and is divided into three subtribes, Panina (containing Pan), Hominina (containing Homo), and Australopithecina (containing several extinct "australopithecine" genera).
Genera usually include Ardipithecus, Australopithecus, Graecopithecus, Homo, Kenyanthropus, Orrorin, Pan, Paranthropus, and Sahelanthropus.
All the listed fossil genera are evaluated for: 1) probability of being ancestral to Homo, and 2) whether they are more closely related to Homo than to any other living primate—two traits that could identify them as hominins. Some, including Paranthropus, Ardipithecus, and Australopithecus, are broadly thought to be ancestral and closely related to Homo.
Ardipithecus[edit | edit source]
Australopithecus[edit | edit source]
It is most likely that the australopithecines, dating from 3 to 4.4 Mya, evolved into the earliest members of genus Homo.
"After A. afarensis, the fossil record shows a confusing melange of gracile australopithecine species lasting up to about two million years ago. … [T]he late australopithecines, already bipedal, were beginning to show changes in teeth, skull, and brain that presage modern humans. It is very likely that the lineage that gave rise to modern humans included at least one of these species."
Fossil "hunters have discovered neatly fitting halves of a nearly complete, 3.8-million-year-old hominid skull."
"The East African skull, which turned up at Ethiopia’s Woranso-Mille site, has been classified as Australopithecus anamensis. It is the oldest known species in a hominid genus that includes Australopithecus afarensis, known best for Lucy’s 3.2-million-year-old partial skeleton [...]."
"This specimen provides the first glimpse of the face of Australopithecus anamensis."
"The skull, which is slightly larger than a modern adult human’s fist, also includes the first good example of an A. anamensis braincase."
For early-hominid investigators, "this is the specimen we have been waiting for."
"Until now, A. anamensis fossils consisted only of partial upper and lower jaws, isolated teeth, a braincase fragment and some lower-body bones [...]. Those specimens, previously unearthed in Kenya and Ethiopia, date to between 4.2 million and 3.9 million years ago."
On "February 10, 2016, a member of the Woranso-Mille team noticed the lower part of a hominid skull protruding from eroding sediment. Later that day, Haile-Selassie found the braincase lying on the ground about three meters from the initial find. Soil sieving produced additional skull fragments."
"The braincase displays features, such as a long, narrow shape and a roughly chimpanzee-sized brain, similar to those of even older proposed hominids such as Sahelanthropus tchadensis and Ardipithecus ramidus [...]. In contrast, forward-projecting cheek bones recall those of later hominids, such as 2.5-million-year-old Paranthropus aethiopicus. That species belonged to an African line of big-jawed, small-brained creatures that died out around 1 million years ago. It’s hard to know whether these shared traits evolved independently, or if the traits signal an evolutionary relationship."
"Many of the skull’s features differ from those of Lucy’s kind. For instance, A. anamensis possessed a sloping face, unlike the flat faces of A. afarensis."
The "Woranso-Mille skull differs enough from an approximately 3.9 million-year-old hominid forehead bone discovered in East Africa in 1981 to assign that older find, known as the Belohdelie frontal, to A. afarensis."
"If so, A. anamensis — now placed at between 4.2 million and 3.8 years ago — and Lucy’s kind — dating to between 3.9 million and 3 million years ago — overlapped for at least 100,000 years. That scenario contradicts an earlier hypothesis that A. anamensis evolved directly into Lucy’s kind, with the earlier species disappearing as it morphed into its descendant species [...]."
While the newly discovered skull "fills a critical gap in Australopithecus evolution," the evolutionary status of the Belohdelie frontal remains unknown.
Graecopithecus[edit | edit source]
Homo[edit | edit source]
"Artifacts including stone tools [shown in the image on the left] and animal bone fragments found in Idaho dating back about 16,600 years represent what may be the oldest evidence of humans in the Americas and offer insight into the routes people took as they spread into the New World."
"The Cooper's Ferry site contains the earliest radiocarbon-dated archaeological evidence in the Americas."
"Based on this evidence, people first lived at the site, which was situated south of the continental ice sheets present at the time, between about 16,600 and 15,300 years ago and returned to live there multiple times until about 13,300 years ago."
"The oldest artifacts included four sharp stone flake tools used for cutting and scraping and 43 flakes of stone left over from making stone tools, as well as animal bone fragments and horse tooth fragments. Also found at the site were charcoal, fire-cracked rock, a hearth and food-processing evidence."
"Cooper's Ferry is located in the upper Columbia River basin. The Columbia River would provide the first Americans their first route to interior lands south of the continental ice sheets."
"With headwaters in British Columbia, it is the biggest river flowing into the Pacific Ocean from North America, opening into the ocean near Astoria, Oregon."
"The people who occupied the Cooper's Ferry site pursued a hunting and gathering lifeway most likely as small groups of people, likely fewer than 25 people in a group, who made multiple movements each year to access key resources as they were available."
"Certain stone projectile points, which would have been attached to the ends of spears or dart shafts, closely resembled examples found in northern Japan dating a bit earlier than at the Cooper's Ferry site."
These stone projectile points "may signal a cultural connection between early peoples who lived around the northern Pacific Rim, and that traditional technological ideas spread from northeastern Asia into North America at the end of the last glacial period."
Genome-wide "DNA data [is] from four children—two of whom were buried approximately 8,000 years ago and two 3,000 years ago—from Shum Laka (Cameroon), one of the earliest known archaeological sites within the probable homeland of the Bantu language group1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11. One individual carried the deeply divergent Y chromosome haplogroup A00, which today is found almost exclusively in the same region12,13. However, the genome-wide ancestry profiles of all four individuals are most similar to those of present-day hunter-gatherers from western Central Africa, which implies that populations in western Cameroon today—as well as speakers of Bantu languages from across the continent—are not descended substantially from the population represented by these four people."
Kenyanthropus[edit | edit source]
Orrorin[edit | edit source]
In the year 2000, the discovery of Orrorin tugenensis, dated as early as 6.2 Mya, briefly challenged critical elements of that hypothesis, as it suggested that Homo did not in fact derive from australopithecine ancestors.
"The discovery of Orrorin has ... radically modified interpretations of human origins and the environmental context in which the African apes/hominoid transition occurred, although ... the less likely hypothesis of derivation of Homo from the australopithecines still holds primacy in the minds of most palaeoanthropologists."
Pan[edit | edit source]
"Conventionally, taxonomists now refer to the great ape family (including humans) as 'hominids', while all members of the lineage leading to modern humans that arose after the split with the [Homo-Pan] LCA are referred to as 'hominins'. The older literature used the terms hominoids and hominids respectively."
Minority dissenting nomenclatures include Gorilla in Hominini and Pan in Homo (Goodman et al. 1998), or both Pan and Gorilla in Homo (Watson et al. 2001).
The divergence of a "proto-human" or "pre-human" lineage separate from Pan appears to have been a process of complex speciation or hybridization rather than a clean split, taking place over the period of anywhere between 13 million years ago (close to the age of the Hominini tribe itself) and some 4 million years ago. Different chromosomes appear to have split at different times, with broad-scale hybridization activity occurring between the two emerging lineages as late as the period 6.3 to 5.4 Mya, according to Patterson et al. (2006),
Selection pressure on the X chromosome in the ancestral populations prior to the chimpanzee–human last common ancestor (CHLCA) may have occurred.
"Patterson et al. suggest that the apparently short divergence time between humans and chimpanzees on the X chromosome is explained by a massive interspecific hybridization event in the ancestry of these two species. However, Patterson et al. do not statistically test their own null model of simple speciation before concluding that speciation was complex, and—even if the null model could be rejected—they do not consider other explanations of a short divergence time on the X chromosome. These include natural selection on the X chromosome in the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees, changes in the ratio of male-to-female mutation rates over time, and less extreme versions of divergence with gene flow. I therefore believe that their claim of hybridization is unwarranted."
Paranthropus[edit | edit source]
Rudapithecus[edit | edit source]
"Near an old mining town in Central Europe, known for its picturesque turquoise-blue quarry water, lay Rudapithecus. For 10 million years, the fossilized ape waited in Rudabánya, Hungary, to add its story to the origins of how humans evolved."
"Rudapithecus was pretty ape-like and probably moved among branches like apes do now — holding its body upright and climbing with its arms. However, it would have differed from modern great apes by having a more flexible lower back, which would mean when Rudapithecus came down to the ground, it might have had the ability to stand upright more like humans do. This evidence supports the idea that rather than asking why human ancestors stood up from all fours, perhaps we should be asking why our ancestors never dropped down on all fours in the first place."
"Modern African apes have a long pelvis and short lower back because they are such large animals, which is one reason why they typically walk on all fours when on the ground. Humans have longer, more flexible lower backs, which allow them to stand upright and walk efficiently on two legs, a hallmark characteristic of human evolution. If humans evolved from an African ape-like body build, substantial changes to lengthen the lower back and shorten the pelvis would have been required. If humans evolved from an ancestor more like Rudapithecus, this transition would have been much more straightforward."
"We were able to determine that Rudapithecus would have had a more flexible torso than today’s African apes because it was much smaller — only about the size of a medium dog. This is significant because our finding supports the idea suggested by other evidence that human ancestors might not have been built quite like modern African apes."
Sahelanthropus[edit | edit source]
Others, especially earlier genera, including Sahelanthropus (and perhaps Orrorin), are supported by one community of scientists but doubted by another.
"Sahelanthropus is the oldest and most primitive known member of the hominid clade, close to the divergence of hominids and chimpanzees."
"Sahelanthropus tchadensis is an enigmatic new Miocene species, whose characteristics are a mix of those of apes and Homo erectus and which has been proclaimed by Brunet et al. to be the earliest hominid. However, we believe that features of the dentition, face and cranial base that are said to define unique links between this Toumaï specimen and the hominid clade are either not diagnostic or are consequences of biomechanical adaptations. To represent a valid clade, hominids must share unique defining features, and Sahelanthropus does not appear to have been an obligate biped."
Recent history[edit | edit source]
The recent history period dates from around 1,000 b2k to present.
"Genetic testing of villagers in a remote part of China has shown that nearly two thirds of their DNA is of Caucasian origin, lending support to the theory that they may be descended from a 'lost legion' of Roman soldiers."
"Tests found that the DNA of some villagers in Liqian, on the fringes of the Gobi Desert in north-western China, was 56 per cent Caucasian in origin."
"Many of the villagers have blue or green eyes, long noses and even fair hair, prompting speculation that they have European blood."
"A local man, Cai Junnian, is nicknamed by his friends and relatives Cai Luoma, or Cai the Roman, and is one of many villagers convinced that he is descended from the lost legion."
"We hope to prove the legend by digging and discovering more evidence of China's early contacts with the Roman Empire."
"The genetic tests have leant weight to the theory that Roman legionaries settled in the area in the first century BC after fleeing a disastrous battle."
"The clash took place in 53BC between an army led by Marcus Crassus, a Roman general, and a larger force of Parthians, from what is now Iran, bringing to an abrupt halt the Roman Empire's eastwards expansion."
"Thousands of Romans were slaughtered and Crassus himself was beheaded, but some legionaries were said to have escaped the fighting and marched east to elude the enemy."
"They supposedly fought as mercenaries in a war between the Huns and the Chinese in 36BC – Chinese chroniclers refer to the capture of a "fish-scale formation" of troops, a possible reference to the "tortoise" phalanx formation perfected by legionnaries. The wandering Roman soldiers are thought to have been released and to have settled on the steppes of western China."
"But some experts believe they could instead be descended from the armies of Huns that marauded through central Asia, which included soldiers of Caucasian origin."
"For it to be indisputable, one would need to find items such as Roman money or weapons that were typical of Roman legionaries. Without proof of this kind, the story of the lost legions is just a legend."
Middle Bronze Ages[edit | edit source]
The Middle Bronze Ages begin about 4100 b2k and end about 3550 b2k.
"Great Lakes and southeastern hunter-gatherers may have had direct contact 4,000 years ago."
"A ceremonial copper object and related burial practices at a roughly 4,000-year-old human grave site encircled by a massive ring of seashells in what’s now the southeastern United States closely correspond to those previously found at hunter-gatherer sites near the Great Lakes."
"Because the object and practices appear together, emissaries, traders or perhaps even religious pilgrims must have traveled most or all of the more than 1,500 kilometers from the Upper Midwest to St. Catherines Island, off Georgia’s coast."
Until now, "there was no clear evidence for direct, long-distance exchange among ancient hunter-gatherers in eastern North America. says anthropologist of Binghamton University in New York. Finds at the McQueen shell ring on St. Catherines Island suggest that such exchanges involved objects and ideas that had spiritual significance, such as how to bury the dead."
"Only a massive, enigmatic earthworks in northern Louisiana called Poverty Point, inhabited from around 3,700 to 3,200 years ago, has yielded copper and other artifacts apparently obtained directly from groups based hundreds of kilometers or more away. But the findings at the McQueen shell ring show for the first time that such exchanges weren’t limited to great gatherings but also occurred between smaller groups going about their daily lives."
"Close social ties between ancient hunter-gatherers across eastern North America “would have been a hard sell in [archaeology] even a decade ago."
"The McQueen shell ring consists of a massive circle of seashells, about 70 meters across, surrounding an earthen plaza. More than 50 circular or arcing shell rings, dating to between about 5,800 and 3,200 years ago, have been found at hunter-gatherer campsites along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Some shell rings measure more than 200 meters across and were piled more than 5 meters high; others are fewer than 50 meters across and relatively flat."
"Excavations in the center of the shell ring uncovered a burial pit filled with more than 80,000 ash-encrusted bone and tooth fragments, a copper band and remnants of stone tools. An analysis of the copper band’s chemical structure [...] indicates that the metal came from any of several ancient copper mines bordering Lake Superior and located on islands in that lake. Copper mining there dates to around 5,900 years ago. Radiocarbon dating of burned material in the McQueen shell ring burial places the copper band between 4,300 and 3,800 years old."
"Crucially, the hunter-gatherers at McQueen also appear to have adopted ways of using the copper band into new customs for treating the dead. The shell ring grave contained the remains of at least seven people, all of whom were cremated. Burials of cremated individuals along with copper objects and other items characterized ancient hunter-gatherers in the Great Lakes area, and occasionally occurred in the Ohio River Valley and the Little Tennessee River Valley. Clear examples of ancient cremations in the coastal southeastern United States are rare."
"The McQueen shell ring and a nearby shell ring on the island may have hosted gatherings of people in the late winter or early spring. Both circular structures contain remains of fish that were caught year-round, numerous clams and oysters harvested toward the end of winter and in early spring and nuts such as hickory and acorns that were harvested in the fall and could be stored for later use."
Hypotheses[edit | edit source]
- People in the initial migration into the Americas followed a route down the Pacific coast from the North.
- People in the initial migration into the Americas followed a route through an inland ice-free corridor.
- People in the initial migration into the Americas followed a route along the North West North American continental shelves.
- People in the initial migration into the Americas followed a route across the Pacific Ocean consisting of island hopping and sailing.
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
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