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Anthropology: Homo Erectus in Evolution Essay

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Updated: Feb 12th, 2021

Turkana Boy’s growth rate comparing to those of chimpanzees and modern humans

We can tell the rate at which Turkana Boy grew up by assessing the enamel in his teeth. Initial estimates put his age at 14, but enamel tests showed that he was only eight years old. If at eight years he was 5ft 3” tall, then he must have been growing very fast. Turkana boy’s growth rate is closer to that of chimpanzees than modern humans. Chimpanzees mature faster and by age seven they are sexually active. By his fast growth, Turkana boy would have reached adulthood much earlier than a modern human.

A prolonged childhood is directly related to an increase in the size of the brain. Because the brains of modern humans are much bigger than those of their predecessors, they partly develop in the womb and partly outside. A long and slow childhood gives the human brain enough time to mature. This growth also happens in defined stage-infancy, childhood, teenage, adulthood, and old-age.

The study of the cognitive abilities of Homo erectus

Endocasts of the Homo erectus reveal the presence of the Broca’s area-a part of the brain that is linked to communication by speech. This evidence shows that the Homo erectus was capable of passing messages across to other group individuals by use of language. By examining the stone tools used by the Homo erectus, we are in a position to tell how versatile the Homo erectus was in terms of cognitive function.

The bits and pieces found in the area where they used to shape the tools indicate that they had enough brain-power to recognize flaws in the material they were using. They shaped their axes in consideration of portability and use, further confirming that this species was able to think further ahead. This kind of intelligence confirms that the brain of the Homo erectus was much more advanced than those of the species that came earlier.

Human adaptation for “persistence hunting”

The big Home Erectus brain consumed a lot of his body energy and in order to function properly, he had to consume high-energy foods like meat and marrow. However, catching animals for food was a challenge because the species neither had the strength nor the speed needed to catch prey. Lucky for them, the hair on their body had fallen off allowing them to sustain long runs without having to stop to ventilate like other animals. The reduced hair allowed the Home Erectus to lose heat by sweating.

Capitalizing on this advantage, the Home Erectus would run after animals without giving them a chance to break and when the prey eventually gave in to heatstroke and stopped, spears and other crude tools would be used to kill them. The same technique is still being used by the bush-men of South Africa, with the only difference being that the bush-men have steel-headed spears to use in finishing off their hunt.

“Hobbit” as a species of the Homo erectus

The hobbit was a species of the homo-Erectus, which lived between 95000 and 12000 years ago. The hobbit was much smaller in stature compared to the Turkana boy. The reason given for this reduction in size is that the species was stranded on an island for many years without a proper food supply. This led to a condition referred to Island dwarfism, a condition that led elephants to shrink to the size of cats. Researchers think it is interesting that the hominins made and used tools because prior to their discovery, it was thought that only a species with as big a brain as the Turkana boy had the intelligence needed to make and use tools. The brain of the hobbit was almost the size of an orange and this proved the assumption wrong.

Evidence of assistance in the Homo erectus groups

The skull of the old man found in Dmanisi, Georgia indicates that he lived for almost two years without food. The reason given for his ability to live that long was that other members of the group helped him by possibly chewing his food before giving it to him to ingest. This kind of assistance made the food easier to digest for the man, allowing him to live as long as he did without teeth. Judging by the quality of food and cooking of the time (50,000 years ago), it is highly unlikely that the old man could have lived longer than a few days without this kind of support.

An analysis of Turkana boy’s skull confirms that he had an infection by the time of his death, which made him unable to hunt. It is suggested that prior to his death, he may have returned to his group, where he received caring support from the females before he finally succumbed to the illness.

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