There may have been alot of variation in early humans and thus alot of people who are basically just one species of humans may have been classified into many. A brow ridge can have many shapes, i.e. it can be big or large and differ from person to person, so even the human "homo habilis" may have been the human "homo erectus", misclassified because of natural variation in the species. We simply don't have enough information to pin one ancient skull shape to one species of human but - as covered in the video below (8:45) - we did find a bunch of skulls of various sizes in the same area and time period, so it does suggest many skull shape variations was normal in ancient times even more than today. Old theories of human evolution have fallen apart.
The Humans That Lived Before Us
As more and more fossil ancestors have been found, our genus has become more and more inclusive, incorporating more members that look less like us, Homo sapiens. By getting to know these other hominins--the ones who came before us--we can start to answer some big questions about what it essentially means to be human.
We now know that diet, over generations, can change the body and bone structure of humans thus earlier humans may simply have been us with brow ridges before natural changes in our features based on diet and environment over time (see video below). But only the genetic evidence can determine which, if any, of the current races of humans we are directly descended from (Homo Erectus?). We do know that we genetically split off from Neanderthals 800,000 years ago. In other words, our "species" looked like Neanderthals 800,000 years ago and then we lived in separate parts of the world and over time, diet and environment, change how we look compared to Neanderthals.
When We Tamed Fire
The ability to make and use fire has fundamentally changed the arc of our evolution. The bodies we have today were, in many ways, shaped by that time when we first tamed fire.
When We Met Other Human Species PBS Eons - We all belong to the only group of hominins on the planet today. But we weren’t always alone. 100,000 years ago, Eurasia was home to other hominin species, some of which we know our ancestors met, and spent some quality time with.
The following video covers the evolution of evolutionary thinking from a linear progression that most of us are familiar with today to the tree version and then the latest "braided stream" version (that the study of genetics has made possible) which has completely changed how human evolution is seen (something which hasn't seemed to have reached school textbooks or mainstream culture in any way).
The Missing Link That Wasn’t
The myth of the Missing Link--the idea that there must be a specimen that partly resembles an ape but also partly resembles a modern human--is persistent. But the reality is that there is no missing link in our lineage, because that’s not how evolution works.
Notes: Modern anthropologists no longer see evolution as a linear progression:
But a complicated sequence of separations and convergences;
At one time animals and thus animal linked mythology ruled the world. But the predator to human ratio was large. Overtime much of the world has been cleansed of its major predators so hearing of a large animal attack a human while "hunting" for food is rare.
Not too long ago, our early human ancestors were under constant threat of attack from predators. And it turns out that this difficult chapter in our history may be responsible for the adaptations that allowed us to become so successful.
The Risky Paleo Diets of Our Ancestors
We can track our history of eating just about anything back through the fossil record and see the impact it’s had on our evolution. Throughout time, part of the secret to our success as a species has been our early - and sometimes fatal - experimentation with food.
Its discoverers named it Homo floresiensis, but it’s often called “the hobbit” for its short stature and oddly proportioned feet. And it’s been at the center of a major controversy in the field ever since. Was it its own species? Or was it really just one of us? Or, could it even have descended from a whole lineage of hominins that we don’t even know about?
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Neandertals were thought to have been…primitive. Unintelligent, hunched-over cavemen, for lack of a better word. But the discoveries made in that Iraqi cave provided some of the earliest clues that Neanderthals actually behaved -- and likely thought and felt -- a lot like we do.
Homo Erectus: The first globe traveling Human (our genus "Homo") who may have made it to America over a million years ago! (5:40);
How language began | Dan Everett | TEDxSanFrancisco - Dan Everett brings us back in time to the Homo Erectus to share how language began and why it is the ultimate evolutionary tool to share knowledge.
Ancient tools from Homo Erectus, a 2 million year old human race
Possible Venus figurine, which emerges in later mythology as well (indicating an ancient religious continuum? An example is here), painted with red ocher, an ancient color use for decoration?(Another indication of a religious continuum? Here is a recently discovered 12,000 year old ochre mine in Mexico);
A shell with engravings on it from homo erectus indicating the use of symbols
3:35: Homo Erectus wern't just tool makers, they were boat makers. 2 million years ago they were travelling the oceans
Homo Erectus had traveled all over the world by at least 1. 7 million years ago
At 5 mins 40 secs Dan Evert says "I won't be surprised when the newspaper finally announces that we have evidence of homo erectus in California." As their abilities show they were capable of it.
Homo Erectus had the vocal apparatus of a gorilla, but there is a language that works just fine with 11 sounds and we know that all you really need is 2 sounds minimum.
They were capable of hierarchical thought and planning based on their villages.
At 11:30 we hear of a discovery of a stone/pebble that had been carried around by Australopithecus possibly indicating it had important emotional value. He also says it might be a coincidence. I don't think its a coincidence or proof of being particularly human as apes have been found to exhibit this behavior:
There seem to be two amusing reports of the behavior of chimpanzees that seem to be worth noting at this point. They appear in Dr. Wolfgang Kohler's volume on the Mentality of Apes. Kohler found that his chimpanzees would conceive inexplicable attachments for objects of no use to them whatsoever and carry these for days in a kind of natural pocket between the lower abdomen and upper thigh. An adult female named Tschengo became attached in this way to a round stone that had been polished by the seas. “On no pretext could you get the stone away,” says Kohler, “and in the evening the animal took it with it to its room and its nest.” (Page 358-358 of Primitive Mythology by Joseph Campbell) Read more.
At 12:26 We hear of a Homo Erectus buried with a colored quartz hand ax, which has amazing cultural significance, on many levels.
Homo Erectus clearly have symbols and ordered thought [Me: and based on the burial, a full blown ancient mythology dealing with the afterlife in some way]
Homo Erectus clearly showed they had language
When We First Made Tools
The tools made by our human ancestors may not seem like much when you compare them to the screen you’re looking at right now but their creation represents a pivotal moment in the origin of technology and in the evolution of our lineage.
In the news:
"Ancient protein analysis provides evidence for a close relationship between Homo antecessor, us (Homo sapiens), Neanderthals and Denisovans. Our results support the idea that Homo antecessor was a sister group to the group containing Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, and Denisovans," said Frido Welker, study author and postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Copenhagen's Globe Institute.
In all that time, no one's been able to figure from whence this early human actually came. The original site has since been destroyed, and while the remains are often said to be as much as 500,000 years old, their exact age has been somewhat contentious.
Using radiometric dating methods directly on the skull, researchers have now come up with the most precise estimate yet, putting the remains at 300,000 years old, give or take approximately 25,000 years.
It would mean that this particular human ancestor - called either Homo rhodesiensis or H. heidelbergensis - lived among a diverse company of other hominins. At one point, they may have even been our neighbours.
"Therefore," the authors write, "just as Eurasia in the later Middle Pleistocene contained the multiple evolving lineages of H. neanderthalensis, Denisovans, H. floresiensis, H. luzonensis and perhaps also H. heidelbergensis and H. erectus, different human lineages and/or species also co-existed across Africa."
Along with H. heidelbergensis/H. rhodesiensis, this also includes the recently identified H. naledi and early H. sapiens. Read more.
Emiliano Bruner, a paleoneurologist at the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH), in collaboration with Marlize Lombard, of the University of Johannesburg, has just published a study in the which describes the braincase traits of Florisbad, a fossil found in South Africa in 1932, and its similarities with other species like Homo sapiens, H. neanderthalensis and H. heidelbergensis.
Proteins dating back more than one million years have been extracted from some fossils, and could help to answer some difficult questions about archaic humans.
Extract from Science Alert: Nine Species of Human Once Walked Earth. Now There's Just One. Did We Kill The Rest?