Humans began when?

  1. How many years ago did human beings come to exist on Earth? I was skimming The Lost World/Jurassic Park and Ian Malcolm said theyd only started to exist on Earth 35,000 years ago. But that doesn't seem right

    Note: In the quote he might have been referring to the "Culture Explosion" somebody mentioned. I can't find the quote so I may have remembered it wrong or misread it/misunderstood or something
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. saltydog

    saltydog 1,593
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    When does a child become an adult? Kinda' blury right? Same dif for your question. The consensus, I think, is 2 million years ago. One-hundred thousand generations I say. You know, Homo erectus, Lucy (was she erectus? not sure), Richard Leakey, "Origins", gotta' read it: The African forest retreating, forcing some primates down to a world of savanna, upright walking, tools, language, you know. Old school. Maybe new school is different now though. Where's the smiley face for "I'm getting old and I haven't kept up with the most recent literature"?
     
  4. selfAdjoint

    selfAdjoint 8,147
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    The hominid line split off from the chimp line about 6 million years ago. Homo Erectus began to chip flint about a million years ago. Modern human bodies and brains appeared around 250,000 years ago, but initially weren't any more culturally advanced than erectus. The "culture explosion" (cave paintings, fancy stone and bone tool kits, etc) is what happened 35,000 years ago.
     
  5. saltydog

    saltydog 1,593
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    a correction

    I wish to correct/qualify my statement about Lucy: She's 3.2 million years old and not H.erectus but rather more likely Australopithecus. And you know what, it used to be a very interesting subject for me and from what SelfAdjoint said above, I need to do some reviewing cus' I think my ducks aren't in a row . . .
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2005
  6. wolram

    wolram 3,773
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    But why did cave men start painting?
     
  7. Nereid

    Nereid 4,014
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    maybe they didn't (it was, just maybe, the women?) :wink:

    Fascinating topic - for example, does cave painting suggest some transition? Development of language? of abstract thought?

    Apparently the more we look into this, the further back we can go.

    For example, it seems pretty clear now that Homo sap. and possibly erectus too were always anatomically capable of spoken language (hyoid bone and all, and maybe even the 'speech region' of the brain). Linguistic studies also hint at language being at least as old as the first trans-continental migrations (e.g. Australian aborigines), which happened at least 40kya (predating European cave art).

    Abstract thinking is now thought to have been alive and well in our ancestors too, as far back as 200kya - shell necklaces, decorative spear throwers, etc.
     
  8. selfAdjoint

    selfAdjoint 8,147
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    Yes it could be that what was thought of as a transition in humanity was actually just due to the better preservation of more recent paintings and fragile artifacts like bone needles and flutes. There could have been a lot of kit that just couldn't survive for 100,000 years.
     
  9. Thats interesting, here the question are homo sapiens the only species that is capable of language? are there any animals out there capable of it? anatomically, I mean?
     
  10. selfAdjoint

    selfAdjoint 8,147
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    Some birds can mimic human speech, so I guess you could say they are anatomically capable of language.
     
  11. Moonbear

    Moonbear 12,265
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    You might be interested in this thread in social sciences: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=81015
     
  12. If ancient H sapiens ~200 Kya, was anatomically similar to the modern version, how come that he apparantly never seem to bother develloping complicated civilisations, whilst the modern men needed only some 4-6 Kya to accomplish that.

    I have always wondered why pondering about ancient civiliations is considered to be the ultimate Hancockian crackpottery.
     
  13. Nereid

    Nereid 4,014
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    This is an excellent question Andre!

    I'm not sure Biology is the best place to discuss it however - would you like to start a new thread in Social Science on this, with a link back to this one? I would like to join such a discussion.
     
  14. selfAdjoint

    selfAdjoint 8,147
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    That's the 64 megabuck question! The conjecture was, they had to develop language first, but you see from the other posts on this thread that language may have come in a lot earlier. So why? My post about delicate kit being lost still stands, but their stone implements were univentive over thousands of years too.
     
  15. Moonbear

    Moonbear 12,265
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    I agree with Nereid that this is a good question. (If you start a new thread over in Social Sciences, please feel free to have this response moved there.) I will first say that I've never studied anthropology in any depth, so don't really know what the major theories are on this or what their basis is.

    But my understanding, which may be wrong, is that formation of stable civilizations accompanied the transition from nomadic hunter/gatherer societies to stable agrarian societies. The key to forming the agrarian societies would be the ability to domesticate animals. Not just any animal can be domesticated easily, as we know from the difficulty of raising and breeding zoo animals or other wild-captured animals in captivity.

    So, assuming my premise is correct that the accepted consensus is that animal domestication occurred along with the formation of stable civilizations (as opposed to nomadic tribes, which may leave little evidence of their presence due to the short time spent in any one location) I would be tempted to argue that formation of civilizations had less to do with a dramatic change in the communication/language/skills/intelligence/social organization of early humans and more to do with the discovery of/increased association with a species of ungulate that could be domesticated, or at least tamed, sufficient to begin living around the captive herds rather than following herds as they migrate.
     
  16. Isnt our brains bigger than theirs?, maybe they were just the "warm-up" version lol
     
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