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Biological Anthropology: Hominid Evolution Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Apr 28th, 2022

The methods of analysis paleoanthropologists use to understand hominid evolution

Paleoanthropologists apply various methods to understand the evolutionary processes of hominids as well as construct the ancient cultures. In other words, similar methods used in the study of evolution are also to understand the lifestyle of the hominids.

The regularly applied method is the use of fossil remains. However, other methods such as the use of artifacts, genetics, dating methods, and climactic evidence have also been applied. Essentially, the methods are critical in dating and reconstructing the past life of the hominids.

The archeological study of evolution has broadly applied fossil evidence. Even though fossil remains of the hominids are rare, the knowledge of the evolutionary process gained from fossils evidence is immense. Most importantly, fossils evidence have been used to understand the physical characteristics of the hominids.

Further, the fossils evidence have been applied in the understanding of the gradual changes that occurred in the physiology of hominids, physical capabilities, gender as well as the growth pattern. With the combination of dating techniques, fossils have been applied to understand the point in time the evolutionary process took place.

Artifacts are remains of materials that were made by early man, including tools. Artifacts are used to determine the activities of man during a particular period. Moreover, artifacts are evidence of man’s activities and used to determine the period in which such activities occurred. With the combination of dating procedures, artifacts are used to reconstruct the evolutionary process.

Climatic evidence helps in the understanding of physical changes that took place on the planet. Moreover, various changes in weather conditions over time help in the understanding of the major modifications and the magnitude of such transformations to the living organisms.

Developments in early hominid evolution (6.0-2.0 mya)

The oldest hominid species consist of Sahelanthropus tchadensis and Orrorin tugenensis found in Chad and Kenya respectively. Sahelanthropus tchadensis must have lived around 6.0 mya. Also, Sahelanthropus tchadensis had a brain size of approximately 360cc. I am considering the foramen magnum. Moreover, Sahelanthropus tchadensis was bipedal, just like Orrorin tugenensis.

However, the species’ cranial morphology and the brain size have been in doubt. Both species had larger canines compared to the Homo sapiens. Another hominid found in Ethiopia dated approximately 4.4 mya was Ardipithecus ramidus. The hominid was related to Ardipithecus kadabba dated approximately 5.8 to 5.2 mya.

Also, the species were bipedal. Further, given the long forelimbs and fingers as well as the divergent and acquisitive hallux, the species took long durations of time on trees. Besides, the Australopithecus that was discovered in South Africa made use of trees to get food as well as for fortification against other enemies.

The hominids included Australopithecus afarensis dated approximately 3.6-2.9, and Australopithecus africanus dated approximately 3.2-2.0. The two hominids were discovered in East Africa and South Africa, respectively. Also, the brain size for Australopithecus was averagely 450cc. As such, the species’ cognitive capabilities were analogous to apes.

Moreover, the species weights were estimated to range between 35 to 45 Kilograms. Males were heavier than females. Further, larger molars of the species exemplified that the diet of the hominids included hard plant foods that required a dominant chewing process.

The species were comparable to Australopithecus in terms of brain and body size. For instance, Homo habilis dated approximately 2.3 mya, had different molar teeth suggesting a change in diet. Specifically, the species used animal bones and simple tools.

The importance of the evolution of Homo erectus in understanding subsequent hominid development

The geographical widespread, as well as the long time span of Homo erectus in the fossil records, is of greater importance concerning the explanation as well as interpretation of fossil variations across different hominid species.

For instance, the spread of Homo erectus across large scales in the environment depicts the changing ecological systems from the preceding hominids. Researchers postulated that Homo erectus had strong links with the preceding hominids. The fossils evidence of Homo erectus found in Western Asia and Africa resembled that of classic Homo erectus suggesting similar ancestral attributes to the preceding lineage of the species.

Moreover, the increased body size of Homo erectus revealed the increased growth experienced by species over the years. In fact, the fossil remains of the early hominids found in Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania revealed that the species were shorter compared to Homo erectus. In essence, the evolution of Homo erectus is significant in explaining the variations in the size of species experienced over the past.

In other words, Homo erectus showed evidence of selection due to encephalization. For example, the earlier hominids had an average cranial capacity of about 700 cubic centimeters. Moreover, the increased brain, body size and longer limbs in Homo erectus exhibited the increased ecological intensification leading to efficiency in locomotion.

The diet of Homo erectus majorly consisted of meat. Homo erectus hunted using a complex set of tools. In fact, the evolution of Homo erectus also exemplified the changing dentition sizes of species. For instance, earlier hominids such as australopiths had relatively large canines and molars in relation to Homo erectus. In reality, Homo erectus conveys the modifications that hominids passed to fit in the changing ecosystem.

The Neanderthals

Neanderthals were the closest relatives to Homo sapiens since the two species are believed to have evolved from a single ancestor. The species majorly developed in Europe and Asia. The attributes of Neanderthal skulls included angled cheekbones and a huge nose. The huge nose was to dampen dry air as well as warm cold air. Also, the Homo neanderthalensis had a stocky and short epitomizing body that enabled the species to live in cold environments.

Further, available evidence shows that Neanderthals utilized refined flake tools in controlling fire, building shelters as well as making clothing. The species hunted animals and consumed food that originated from plants. Making ornamental objects was also a common activity of the species indicating advancement in culture.

Additionally, the lesions on the species’ skeletons indicated that the species suffered from carcinoma. Osteoarthritis was also a common infection faced by the Neanderthals.

Moreover, the survival of the Neanderthals entailed several tactics. For instance, the species consumed plant foods during summer. However, during winter, the species utilized the meat options due to a deficiency in plant foods. In this regard, the consumption of reindeer during winters and red deer in summer was a common undertaking.

Also, data from Gibraltar revealed that the Neanderthals took advantage of aquatic supplies such as seals, dolphins as well as other fish species during the periods they resided in the coastal ecosystems.

From chemical isotopic analyses, data reveal that the large amounts of food intake consisted of meat. Further, Neanderthals made use of innovative techniques in making their tools. For example, innovative technology enabled the Neanderthals to make flakes of set shape that were used for various purposes.

The evolution and migration of Homo sapiens

Homo sapiens lived between 0.2 mya to present day and are found worldwide. The height ranges from 4.2 to 6.2 feet. Further, the cranial capacity ranges from 1,000 to 1980 cubic centimeters. Several scientists link the evolution of Homo sapiens from apes due to various similarities.

Also, the advancement of Homo sapiens from other species of apes is described by genetic evolution that measured the strength of immunological cross-sections of blood serum albumin.

However, researchers approximated the divergence between apes and Homo sapiens to have occurred over five million years ago. Homo sapiens are believed to have evolved from 250,000 years to present day. In other words, the evolution of Homo sapiens is a constant gradual process that is believed to be occurring presently.

The differences between Homo sapiens and other hominids range from higher skull volume to speciation. In other words, Homo sapiens have increased brain capacity about other hominids. Another distinctive feature of Homo sapiens is that individual DNA shows strong resemblance.

Earlier hominids lived in caves and hunted wild animals for food. However, the case of Homo sapiens is different. The brain capacity has enabled the species to modify and improve the living conditions. In essence, Homo sapiens do not only use the brains for survival but also arts.

However, crossbreeding occurred between Homo sapiens and other closely related hominid species. Data available also show proof of hybridization between the Homo sapiens and other hominids. In reality, Homo sapiens interbred with the Neanderthals in Eurasia. In Africa, Homo sapiens engaged in sex with several hominids. Also, comparisons of DNA of Homo sapiens and Neanderthals show strong links.

Physical and behavioral similarities between humans and Bonobos as well as Chimpanzees

The two hominid species share almost ninety-eight percent of the human genome. In terms of physical characteristics, the differences exist due to ecological diversity. However, chimpanzees and Bonobos are closely similar in physical characteristics.

The variations in physical characteristics are observed in body weight, size, and cranium. About humans, the two hominids are similar in physical makeup including the cranium, canines as well as limbs formation. However, differences exist in brain capacity and various born formations. Also, the species are different in bipedalism. Homo sapiens exhibit habitual bipedalism while the chimpanzees and the Bonobos have facultative bipedalism.

In terms of behavior, the two hominids share numerous similarities with humans. Chimpanzees and Bonobos live in communities just like humans. Also, the two species can express philanthropy, compassion, and understanding.

Also, Chimpanzees and Bonobos are capable of expressing kindness, sensitivity, and patients to other individuals within their societies. Such behavioral characteristics are similar to those of humans. However, the differences exist due to advanced brain capacity humans possess.

Seven steps of bipedality

The seven steps in bipedality presented adaptations of various independent morphological characteristics that provided solutions to numerous challenges experienced by the habitual bipedalism. The various physical adaptations evolved over millions of years causing the differences in early and modern hominids.

The major morphological adaptations leading to bipedalism include the development of the bicondylar angle (valgus knee), the expansion of inferior foramen magnum, the reduction of the big toe, increased arch of the foot, large femoral head diameter, increased length in femoral neck bone and elongated condyles of the femur. The sequential development of the bones structures leads to bipedalism.

The beginning of the agricultural revolution

The agricultural revolution began in approximately ten thousand years ago within the Middle East in a place commonly known as Mesopotamia. In fact, the agricultural revolution refers to the period when man transformed its diet from Paleolithic to cultivated foods. Some archeologists and historians refer the term to the period of transformation from subsistence farming to commercial or more productive form of agriculture.

Most historians estimate that the agrarian revolution began around 10,000 BC. In addition, the period also referred to the time when man transformed from hunting and gathering to settled agriculture.

Moreover, the historians believe that the agricultural revolution began in Mesopotamia then spread to other areas, particularly regions that surround the rivers Euphrates and Tigris. The agricultural practice then spread too far regions such as in Egypt and the Far East, including ancient China and India.

The way developments in agriculture transformed human life

The agricultural revolution hugely changed the lives of people. Cultural development was attained due to the settled life as well as stable agricultural activities. Because of the availability of food, the man started to concentrate on other economic and social activities resulting in the development of diverse cultures and social activities considered critical in the progress of human life.

Also, the man started to live in settled communities that later developed into kingdoms as well as other societies considered advanced. Another important development during the agrarian revolution is the domestication of animals. The practice of hugely transformed social systems.

Besides, the archeological evidence indicates that man’s physiology changed drastically during the agrarian revolution. Physical characteristics including decreased born quality and height as well as an increase in disease infections, were noticed.

The contribution of biological/physical anthropology to the understanding of Homo sapiens

The study of physical anthropology is critical in the understanding of how the current human species came into existence. Moreover, the concept provides primary tools that are helpful in the understanding of the history of Homo sapience, another plant, and animal species as well as that of the planet. Also, the knowledge gained in the study of Homo sapience is used in the understanding of the physical processes that shape the current global landscape.

In other words, the knowledge of biological processes that were responsible for the development of new species is critical in the understanding of similar forces that currently operate and responsible for the changes being experienced. The understanding of the processes provides insights concerning past events as well as the magnitude of the presented period.

Moreover, the understanding of the history and origin of Homo sapience provides an insight into the biological continuity. In other words, the knowledge of biological continuity also provides an insight into the genetic characteristics that connects life. The genetic characteristics are passed along to the new generations and are gradually shaped by the environment.

Besides, the knowledge gained from the study of Homo sapience is also useful in the understanding of the evolutionary processes of other species. The connection between the Homo sapience and other species are critical in the understanding of the evolutionary processes as well as the physical changes that took place in the planet.

Therefore, the biological study of the Homo sapience is not only important in the understanding of evolutionary processes that occurred in other species but also physical changes that took place in the world including transformations in weather conditions.

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