Anthropology: human evolution

Table of Content

1.      What are the derived anatomical features that distinguish modern humans from other hominins?

Hominins are anatomically different from modern human beings. This difference however is more evident in their features above the neck, since their features below the neck are relatively similar. Some of the differences that are there between the two are: Firstly, hominins had a smaller brain size than that of the modern human being. It is said that their adult brain size was about 1/3 of that of human beings at present. Due to this fact, the author of Analysis of Early Hominins, Dennis O’Neil says that the widest part of the skull for the early hominins was below the brain case. In the case of modern man, this is usually in the temple region. Secondly, early hominins had large faces that were proportional to the size of their brain cases. When viewed from the side, hominins faces were concave and projecting forward at the bottom.  In contrast, modern human beings have smaller faces, which are nearly vertical. Thirdly, early hominins had big teeth, with thick enamel, large jaws and powerful jaw muscles, while in human beings, their jaws are relatively smaller and less powerful, and they have smaller teeth. This is due, to the fact that tools took over the work was  previously done using the teeth and the jaw muscles.

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Figure 1: Structural difference between early hominins and modern human being

                                                             Australopithecus boisei                                                   Modern Human being

O’Neil, D. (2010, May 4). Analysis of Early Hominins. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from

2.      Describe what the archaeological record tells us about the pattern of human behavior 100 kya and 30 kya. What facts are widely accepted? Which are in dispute?

Archeological records report that one theory postulates that until about 40 kya, humans lived almost the same way as Neanderthals. However, after that, human beings produced sophisticated tools, which became homogenous and proficient. Complex tools at this time were made of several parts and an example of this is the bow and arrow. People started to settle at one place and shelter therefore became highly structured. Clothing also became a highlight in this era, as people would dress in animal skins sewn with needles made from bones. Art and religion also came up during these people’s time. In some instances, when people died, they face was painted before they were buried, and other such rituals.  The construction of water vessels was for long distance crossings in large water bodies, which allowed the colonization of the continent of Sahul.

A more recent theory postulates that the change in behavior in 40 kya did not happen suddenly, but that there was archeological evidence in Africa of modern human behavior at earlier times. The researchers point out that in Africa, refined stone tools are found at several Middle Stone Age sites; blades appear early in this period, refined bone, tools are found at several sites during this era and that there is some evidence of artwork during this period in Africa. Other things, which, found in Africa during the Middle Stone Age, are that there is evidence of hearths and shelters and refined bone tools found at several sites in this era. It is said that sometimes people transported raw materials through very great distances.

3.       Describe the main differences between the tools of Upper Paleolithic people and their predecessors.

The tools of the Upper Paleolithic people were very different from those of their earlier counterparts. Most of their tools were amorphous and used to perform a wide array of functions, while in the case of the Upper Paleolithic people, they had a variety of smaller tools and each of them would have a specialized function. During this time, the use of bones as a material for making tools was done for the first time. This is different because their counterparts used stone. Another observation is also that tools begin to be made in a different manner than was the case before. An example of this as illustrated by Quinlan, is the leaf shaped points. Instead of the ‘clunky’ ones that were, used previously, these ones were made to be wafer thin. Archeologists believe that Upper Paleolithic people started paying more attention to the kind of stones they would use in making their tools. This is unlike their predecessors who simply worked with what was available. This is clearly depicted in the way they travel hundreds of kilometers to obtain slightly better quality flint for stone tools. In the Upper Paleolithic period, there is also evidence of bone sewing needles. This shows the beginning of tailored clothing.

                                                               Tools Made from Bones

Upper Paleolithic 11: Art and Architecture. Retrieved May 5, 2010. [PowerPoint Presentation]

4.      What evidence suggests that Upper Paleolithic peoples were better able to cope with their environments?

The Upper Paleolithic people were able to cope with their environment because by this time, people had settled down and started to live in communities. They started hunting and gathering for food, and this is where we first see the division of labor.  They built tent like shelter to shield them from the elements, and this was not only a source of a shelter, but also a source of security from wild animals. During this time also, there was the use of fire to cook food, the proper tools to hunt for food and thus people suffered from fewer diseases, and the rate of injuries decreased.

Other things that made them able to cope better with their environments were that in some historical sites, many living floors had hearths, which is also the place where the flintknapper worked. The fact that Neanderthals and modern people co-existed in the same environment for tens of thousands of years clearly shows that modern people were thus in a better position to cope than their counterparts.


Guilaine, J. (1991). Prehistory the World of Early Man. Retrieved May 5, 2010. [Powerpoint Presentation]

O’Neil, D. (2010, May 4). Analysis of Early Hominins. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from

Owen, B. (2000). Early Homo Sapiens and Upper Paleolithic Technology, Culture, and Art.  Retrieved May 5, 2010, from

Pyburn, A. (2004, January 20). Middle and Upper Paleolithic Hunter-Gatherers: The Emergence of Modern Humans, the Mesolithic. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from

Quinlan R. Middle to Upper Paleolithic Transition. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from
Upper Paleolithic 11: Art and Architecture. Retrieved May 5, 2010. [Powerpoint Presentation]
Sforza, C.L. ; Fieldman, M. (2003). [Review of The Application of Molecular Genetic Approaches to the Study of Human Evolution].
World History for us All. This Big Era and the Three Essential Questions. Retrieved May  5, 2010, from


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