The genus Homo and the origins of ‘humanness’

Alan Mann

in The Oxford Handbook of Language Evolution

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199541119
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

The genus Homo and the origins of ‘humanness’

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This article focuses on the evolution of Homo and presents the origins of humanness. The earliest fossils assigned to the genus Homo come from Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and South Africa and are currently classified as Homo erectus. African Homo erectus fossils, the earliest dated to about 1.8 mya, include cranial, dental, and postcranial specimens, and the almost complete skeleton of an adolescent. Homo ergaster, a species distinct from the later-in-time Homo erectus fossil samples from Asia, has been proposed to accommodate early African fossils such as KNM-ER 3733. The increased brain size dramatically influenced cranial architecture during the course of human evolution. Skulls of later members of the genus Homo have an increasingly high and globular shape, with the maximum width of the skull, low and approximately at the level of the external ear canals as earlier described for Homo erectus, gradually moving higher on the vault, producing the strongly marked eminences on the parietal bones of modern humans. The development of stone tools allowed early Homo to exploit a greater range of habitats, eventually resulting in an expansion into Eurasia. The Dmanisi evidence includes at least four skulls, one with an associated mandible as well as other cranial and dental specimens, and stone tools similar to the Oldowan tools from East Africa. These fossils have some features similar to those of African Homo erectus and some similar to the transitional species Homo habilis.

Keywords: Eurasia; homo erectus; African fossils; human evolution; homo habilis; Dmanisi evidence

Article.  3363 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Language Evolution ; Cognitive Linguistics

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