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Humanities/Arts : NCERT Textbook - From the Beginning of Time Humanities/Arts Notes | EduRev

 Page 1


8 THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
1
FROM THE BEGINNING
OF TIME
THIS chapter traces the beginning of human existence. It was
5.6 million years ago (written as mya) that the first human-
like creatures appeared on the earth's surface. After this,
several forms of humans emerged and then became extinct.
Human beings resembling us (henceforth referred to as
'modern humans') originated about 160,000 years ago. During
this long period of human history, people obtained food by
either scavenging or hunting animals and gathering plant
produce. They also learnt how to make stone tools and to
communicate with each other.
Although other ways of obtaining food were adopted later,
hunting-gathering continued. Even today there are hunter-
gatherer societies in some parts of the world. This makes us
wonder whether the lifestyles of present-day hunter-gatherers
can tell us anything about the past.
Discoveries of human fossils, stone tools and cave paintings
help us to understand early human history. Each of these
discoveries has a history of its own. Very often, when such
finds were first made, most scholars refused to accept that
these fossils were the remains of early humans. They were
also sceptical about the ability of early humans to make stone
tools or paint. It was only over a period of time that the true
significance of these finds was realised.
The evidence for human evolution comes from fossils of
species of humans which have become extinct. Fossils can
be dated either through direct chemical analysis or indirectly
by dating the sediments in which they are buried. Once fossils
are dated, a sequence of human evolution can be worked
out.
When such discoveries were first made, about 200 years
ago, many scholars were often reluctant to accept that fossils
and other finds including stone tools and paintings were
actually connected with early forms of humans. This
reluctance generally stemmed from their belief in the Old
Testament of the Bible, according to which human origin was
regarded as an act of Creation by God.
For instance, in August 1856, workmen who were quarrying
for limestone in the Neander valley (see Map 2, p. 18), a gorge
near the German city of Dusseldorf, found a skull and some
skeletal fragments. These were handed over to Carl Fuhlrott,
a local schoolmaster and natural historian, who realised that
Fossils are the
remains or
impressions of a
very old plant,
animal or human
which have turned
into stone. These
are often embedded
in rock, and are
thus preserved for
millions of years.
Species is a group
of organisms that
can breed to
produce fertile
offspring. Members
of one species
cannot mate with
those of other
species to produce
fertile offspring.
THEME
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 2


8 THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
1
FROM THE BEGINNING
OF TIME
THIS chapter traces the beginning of human existence. It was
5.6 million years ago (written as mya) that the first human-
like creatures appeared on the earth's surface. After this,
several forms of humans emerged and then became extinct.
Human beings resembling us (henceforth referred to as
'modern humans') originated about 160,000 years ago. During
this long period of human history, people obtained food by
either scavenging or hunting animals and gathering plant
produce. They also learnt how to make stone tools and to
communicate with each other.
Although other ways of obtaining food were adopted later,
hunting-gathering continued. Even today there are hunter-
gatherer societies in some parts of the world. This makes us
wonder whether the lifestyles of present-day hunter-gatherers
can tell us anything about the past.
Discoveries of human fossils, stone tools and cave paintings
help us to understand early human history. Each of these
discoveries has a history of its own. Very often, when such
finds were first made, most scholars refused to accept that
these fossils were the remains of early humans. They were
also sceptical about the ability of early humans to make stone
tools or paint. It was only over a period of time that the true
significance of these finds was realised.
The evidence for human evolution comes from fossils of
species of humans which have become extinct. Fossils can
be dated either through direct chemical analysis or indirectly
by dating the sediments in which they are buried. Once fossils
are dated, a sequence of human evolution can be worked
out.
When such discoveries were first made, about 200 years
ago, many scholars were often reluctant to accept that fossils
and other finds including stone tools and paintings were
actually connected with early forms of humans. This
reluctance generally stemmed from their belief in the Old
Testament of the Bible, according to which human origin was
regarded as an act of Creation by God.
For instance, in August 1856, workmen who were quarrying
for limestone in the Neander valley (see Map 2, p. 18), a gorge
near the German city of Dusseldorf, found a skull and some
skeletal fragments. These were handed over to Carl Fuhlrott,
a local schoolmaster and natural historian, who realised that
Fossils are the
remains or
impressions of a
very old plant,
animal or human
which have turned
into stone. These
are often embedded
in rock, and are
thus preserved for
millions of years.
Species is a group
of organisms that
can breed to
produce fertile
offspring. Members
of one species
cannot mate with
those of other
species to produce
fertile offspring.
THEME
© NCERT
not to be republished
9
they did not belong to a modern human. He then made a
plaster cast of the skull and sent it to Herman Schaaffhausen,
a professor of anatomy at Bonn University. The following year
they jointly published a paper, claiming that this skull
represented a form of human that was extinct. At that time,
scholars did not accept this view and instead declared that
the skull belonged to a person of more recent times.
24 November 1859, when Charles Darwin’s On the Origin
of Species was published, marked a landmark in the study
of evolution. All 1,250 copies of the first print were sold out
the same day. Darwin argued that humans had evolved from
animals a long time ago.
Shows the equipment used to record the location of finds. The
square frame to the left of the archaeologist is a grid divided
into 10 cm squares. Placing it over the find spot helps to
record the horizontal position of the find. The triangular
apparatus to the right is used to record the vertical position.
Shows how a fossil fragment is
recovered from the surrounding
stone, in this case a variety of
limestone, in which it is
embedded. As you can see, this
requires skill and patience.
RECOVERING FOSSILS
A painstaking process. The precise location of finds is important for dating.
The skull of Neanderthal man. Some
of those who dismissed the antiquity
of the skull regarded it as 'brutish' or
that of a 'pathological idiot'.
FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME
ACTIVITY 1
Most religions
have stories
about the
creation of
human beings
which often do
not correspond
with scientific
discoveries. Find
out about some
of these and
compare them
with the history of
human evolution
as discussed in
this chapter.
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 3


8 THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
1
FROM THE BEGINNING
OF TIME
THIS chapter traces the beginning of human existence. It was
5.6 million years ago (written as mya) that the first human-
like creatures appeared on the earth's surface. After this,
several forms of humans emerged and then became extinct.
Human beings resembling us (henceforth referred to as
'modern humans') originated about 160,000 years ago. During
this long period of human history, people obtained food by
either scavenging or hunting animals and gathering plant
produce. They also learnt how to make stone tools and to
communicate with each other.
Although other ways of obtaining food were adopted later,
hunting-gathering continued. Even today there are hunter-
gatherer societies in some parts of the world. This makes us
wonder whether the lifestyles of present-day hunter-gatherers
can tell us anything about the past.
Discoveries of human fossils, stone tools and cave paintings
help us to understand early human history. Each of these
discoveries has a history of its own. Very often, when such
finds were first made, most scholars refused to accept that
these fossils were the remains of early humans. They were
also sceptical about the ability of early humans to make stone
tools or paint. It was only over a period of time that the true
significance of these finds was realised.
The evidence for human evolution comes from fossils of
species of humans which have become extinct. Fossils can
be dated either through direct chemical analysis or indirectly
by dating the sediments in which they are buried. Once fossils
are dated, a sequence of human evolution can be worked
out.
When such discoveries were first made, about 200 years
ago, many scholars were often reluctant to accept that fossils
and other finds including stone tools and paintings were
actually connected with early forms of humans. This
reluctance generally stemmed from their belief in the Old
Testament of the Bible, according to which human origin was
regarded as an act of Creation by God.
For instance, in August 1856, workmen who were quarrying
for limestone in the Neander valley (see Map 2, p. 18), a gorge
near the German city of Dusseldorf, found a skull and some
skeletal fragments. These were handed over to Carl Fuhlrott,
a local schoolmaster and natural historian, who realised that
Fossils are the
remains or
impressions of a
very old plant,
animal or human
which have turned
into stone. These
are often embedded
in rock, and are
thus preserved for
millions of years.
Species is a group
of organisms that
can breed to
produce fertile
offspring. Members
of one species
cannot mate with
those of other
species to produce
fertile offspring.
THEME
© NCERT
not to be republished
9
they did not belong to a modern human. He then made a
plaster cast of the skull and sent it to Herman Schaaffhausen,
a professor of anatomy at Bonn University. The following year
they jointly published a paper, claiming that this skull
represented a form of human that was extinct. At that time,
scholars did not accept this view and instead declared that
the skull belonged to a person of more recent times.
24 November 1859, when Charles Darwin’s On the Origin
of Species was published, marked a landmark in the study
of evolution. All 1,250 copies of the first print were sold out
the same day. Darwin argued that humans had evolved from
animals a long time ago.
Shows the equipment used to record the location of finds. The
square frame to the left of the archaeologist is a grid divided
into 10 cm squares. Placing it over the find spot helps to
record the horizontal position of the find. The triangular
apparatus to the right is used to record the vertical position.
Shows how a fossil fragment is
recovered from the surrounding
stone, in this case a variety of
limestone, in which it is
embedded. As you can see, this
requires skill and patience.
RECOVERING FOSSILS
A painstaking process. The precise location of finds is important for dating.
The skull of Neanderthal man. Some
of those who dismissed the antiquity
of the skull regarded it as 'brutish' or
that of a 'pathological idiot'.
FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME
ACTIVITY 1
Most religions
have stories
about the
creation of
human beings
which often do
not correspond
with scientific
discoveries. Find
out about some
of these and
compare them
with the history of
human evolution
as discussed in
this chapter.
© NCERT
not to be republished
10 THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
The Story of Human Evolution
(a) The Precursors of Modern Human Beings
Look at these four skulls.
A belongs to an ape.
B belongs to a species known as Australopithecus (see below).
C belongs to a species known as Homo erectus (literally ‘upright man’).
D belongs to a species known as Homo sapiens (literally ‘thinking/wise
man’} to which all present-day human beings belong.
List as many similarities and differences that you notice, looking
carefully at the brain case, jaws and teeth.
The differences that you notice in the skulls shown in the illustration
are some of the changes that came about as a result of human
evolution. The story of human evolution is enormously long, and
somewhat complicated. There are also many unanswered questions,
and new data often lead to a revision and modification of earlier
understandings. Let us look at some of the developments and their
implications more closely.
It is possible to trace these developments back to between 36 and
24 mya. We sometimes find it difficult to conceptualise such long
spans of time. If you consider a page of your book to represent
10,000 years, in itself a vast span of time, 10 pages would represent
100,000 years, and a 100 pages would equal 1 million years.
To think of 36 million years, you would have to imagine a book
3,600 pages long! That was when primates, a category of mammals,
emerged in Asia and Africa. Subsequently, by about 24 mya, there
emerged a subgroup amongst primates, called hominoids. This
included apes. And, much later, about 5.6 mya, we find evidence of
the first hominids.
While hominids have evolved from hominoids and share certain
common features, there are major differences as well. Hominoids have
a smaller brain than hominids. They are quadrupeds, walking on all
fours, but with flexible forelimbs. Hominids, by contrast, have an
upright posture and bipedal locomotion (walking on two feet). There
are also marked differences in the hand, which enables the making
and use of tools. We will examine the kinds of tools made and their
significance more closely later.
Two lines of evidence suggest an African origin for hominids. First,
it is the group of African apes that are most closely related to hominids.
Second, the earliest hominid fossils, which belong to the genus
Australopithecus, have been found in East Africa and date back to
about 5.6 mya. In contrast, fossils found outside Africa are no older
than 1.8 million years.
Primates
are a subgroup of a
larger group of
mammals. They
include monkeys,
apes and humans.
They have body
hair, a relatively
long gestation
period following
birth, mammary
glands, different
types of teeth, and
the ability to
maintain a constant
body temperature.
A
B
C
D
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 4


8 THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
1
FROM THE BEGINNING
OF TIME
THIS chapter traces the beginning of human existence. It was
5.6 million years ago (written as mya) that the first human-
like creatures appeared on the earth's surface. After this,
several forms of humans emerged and then became extinct.
Human beings resembling us (henceforth referred to as
'modern humans') originated about 160,000 years ago. During
this long period of human history, people obtained food by
either scavenging or hunting animals and gathering plant
produce. They also learnt how to make stone tools and to
communicate with each other.
Although other ways of obtaining food were adopted later,
hunting-gathering continued. Even today there are hunter-
gatherer societies in some parts of the world. This makes us
wonder whether the lifestyles of present-day hunter-gatherers
can tell us anything about the past.
Discoveries of human fossils, stone tools and cave paintings
help us to understand early human history. Each of these
discoveries has a history of its own. Very often, when such
finds were first made, most scholars refused to accept that
these fossils were the remains of early humans. They were
also sceptical about the ability of early humans to make stone
tools or paint. It was only over a period of time that the true
significance of these finds was realised.
The evidence for human evolution comes from fossils of
species of humans which have become extinct. Fossils can
be dated either through direct chemical analysis or indirectly
by dating the sediments in which they are buried. Once fossils
are dated, a sequence of human evolution can be worked
out.
When such discoveries were first made, about 200 years
ago, many scholars were often reluctant to accept that fossils
and other finds including stone tools and paintings were
actually connected with early forms of humans. This
reluctance generally stemmed from their belief in the Old
Testament of the Bible, according to which human origin was
regarded as an act of Creation by God.
For instance, in August 1856, workmen who were quarrying
for limestone in the Neander valley (see Map 2, p. 18), a gorge
near the German city of Dusseldorf, found a skull and some
skeletal fragments. These were handed over to Carl Fuhlrott,
a local schoolmaster and natural historian, who realised that
Fossils are the
remains or
impressions of a
very old plant,
animal or human
which have turned
into stone. These
are often embedded
in rock, and are
thus preserved for
millions of years.
Species is a group
of organisms that
can breed to
produce fertile
offspring. Members
of one species
cannot mate with
those of other
species to produce
fertile offspring.
THEME
© NCERT
not to be republished
9
they did not belong to a modern human. He then made a
plaster cast of the skull and sent it to Herman Schaaffhausen,
a professor of anatomy at Bonn University. The following year
they jointly published a paper, claiming that this skull
represented a form of human that was extinct. At that time,
scholars did not accept this view and instead declared that
the skull belonged to a person of more recent times.
24 November 1859, when Charles Darwin’s On the Origin
of Species was published, marked a landmark in the study
of evolution. All 1,250 copies of the first print were sold out
the same day. Darwin argued that humans had evolved from
animals a long time ago.
Shows the equipment used to record the location of finds. The
square frame to the left of the archaeologist is a grid divided
into 10 cm squares. Placing it over the find spot helps to
record the horizontal position of the find. The triangular
apparatus to the right is used to record the vertical position.
Shows how a fossil fragment is
recovered from the surrounding
stone, in this case a variety of
limestone, in which it is
embedded. As you can see, this
requires skill and patience.
RECOVERING FOSSILS
A painstaking process. The precise location of finds is important for dating.
The skull of Neanderthal man. Some
of those who dismissed the antiquity
of the skull regarded it as 'brutish' or
that of a 'pathological idiot'.
FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME
ACTIVITY 1
Most religions
have stories
about the
creation of
human beings
which often do
not correspond
with scientific
discoveries. Find
out about some
of these and
compare them
with the history of
human evolution
as discussed in
this chapter.
© NCERT
not to be republished
10 THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
The Story of Human Evolution
(a) The Precursors of Modern Human Beings
Look at these four skulls.
A belongs to an ape.
B belongs to a species known as Australopithecus (see below).
C belongs to a species known as Homo erectus (literally ‘upright man’).
D belongs to a species known as Homo sapiens (literally ‘thinking/wise
man’} to which all present-day human beings belong.
List as many similarities and differences that you notice, looking
carefully at the brain case, jaws and teeth.
The differences that you notice in the skulls shown in the illustration
are some of the changes that came about as a result of human
evolution. The story of human evolution is enormously long, and
somewhat complicated. There are also many unanswered questions,
and new data often lead to a revision and modification of earlier
understandings. Let us look at some of the developments and their
implications more closely.
It is possible to trace these developments back to between 36 and
24 mya. We sometimes find it difficult to conceptualise such long
spans of time. If you consider a page of your book to represent
10,000 years, in itself a vast span of time, 10 pages would represent
100,000 years, and a 100 pages would equal 1 million years.
To think of 36 million years, you would have to imagine a book
3,600 pages long! That was when primates, a category of mammals,
emerged in Asia and Africa. Subsequently, by about 24 mya, there
emerged a subgroup amongst primates, called hominoids. This
included apes. And, much later, about 5.6 mya, we find evidence of
the first hominids.
While hominids have evolved from hominoids and share certain
common features, there are major differences as well. Hominoids have
a smaller brain than hominids. They are quadrupeds, walking on all
fours, but with flexible forelimbs. Hominids, by contrast, have an
upright posture and bipedal locomotion (walking on two feet). There
are also marked differences in the hand, which enables the making
and use of tools. We will examine the kinds of tools made and their
significance more closely later.
Two lines of evidence suggest an African origin for hominids. First,
it is the group of African apes that are most closely related to hominids.
Second, the earliest hominid fossils, which belong to the genus
Australopithecus, have been found in East Africa and date back to
about 5.6 mya. In contrast, fossils found outside Africa are no older
than 1.8 million years.
Primates
are a subgroup of a
larger group of
mammals. They
include monkeys,
apes and humans.
They have body
hair, a relatively
long gestation
period following
birth, mammary
glands, different
types of teeth, and
the ability to
maintain a constant
body temperature.
A
B
C
D
© NCERT
not to be republished
11
THE EVOLUTION OF THE HAND
A shows the precision grip of the chimpanzee.
B shows the power grip of the human hand.
C shows the precision grip of the hominid.
The development of the power grip probably
preceded the precision grip.
Compare the precision grip of the chimpanzee with that of the
human hand.
Make a list of the things you do using a precision grip.
What are the things you do using a power grip?
Hominids belong to a family known as Hominidae, which includes
all forms of human beings. The distinctive characteristics of hominids
include a large brain size, upright posture, bipedal locomotion and
specialisation of the hand.
Hominids are further subdivided into branches, known as genus, of
which Australopithecus and Homo are important. Each of these in
turn includes several species. The major differences between
Australopithecus and Homo relate to brain size, jaws and teeth.
The former has a smaller brain size, heavier jaws and larger teeth than
the latter.
Virtually all the names given by scientists to species are derived
from Latin and Greek words. For instance, the name Australopithecus
comes from a Latin word, ‘austral’, meaning ‘southern’ and a Greek
word, ‘pithekos’, meaning ‘ape.’ The name was given because this earliest
form of humans still retained many features of an ape, such as a
relatively small brain size in comparison to Homo, large back teeth and
limited dexterity of the hands. Upright walking was also restricted, as
they still spent a lot of time on trees. They retained characteristics
Hominoids are
different from
monkeys in a
number of ways.
They have a larger
body and do not
have a tail.
Besides, there is a
longer period of
infant development
and dependency
amongst
hominoids.
This is a view of the
Olduvai Gorge in the
Rift Valley, East Africa
(see Map 1b, p.14),
one of the areas from
which traces of early
human history have
been recovered. Notice
the different levels of
earth at the centre of
the photograph. Each
of these represents a
distinct geological
phase.
A
C
B
FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME
© NCERT
not to be republished
Page 5


8 THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
1
FROM THE BEGINNING
OF TIME
THIS chapter traces the beginning of human existence. It was
5.6 million years ago (written as mya) that the first human-
like creatures appeared on the earth's surface. After this,
several forms of humans emerged and then became extinct.
Human beings resembling us (henceforth referred to as
'modern humans') originated about 160,000 years ago. During
this long period of human history, people obtained food by
either scavenging or hunting animals and gathering plant
produce. They also learnt how to make stone tools and to
communicate with each other.
Although other ways of obtaining food were adopted later,
hunting-gathering continued. Even today there are hunter-
gatherer societies in some parts of the world. This makes us
wonder whether the lifestyles of present-day hunter-gatherers
can tell us anything about the past.
Discoveries of human fossils, stone tools and cave paintings
help us to understand early human history. Each of these
discoveries has a history of its own. Very often, when such
finds were first made, most scholars refused to accept that
these fossils were the remains of early humans. They were
also sceptical about the ability of early humans to make stone
tools or paint. It was only over a period of time that the true
significance of these finds was realised.
The evidence for human evolution comes from fossils of
species of humans which have become extinct. Fossils can
be dated either through direct chemical analysis or indirectly
by dating the sediments in which they are buried. Once fossils
are dated, a sequence of human evolution can be worked
out.
When such discoveries were first made, about 200 years
ago, many scholars were often reluctant to accept that fossils
and other finds including stone tools and paintings were
actually connected with early forms of humans. This
reluctance generally stemmed from their belief in the Old
Testament of the Bible, according to which human origin was
regarded as an act of Creation by God.
For instance, in August 1856, workmen who were quarrying
for limestone in the Neander valley (see Map 2, p. 18), a gorge
near the German city of Dusseldorf, found a skull and some
skeletal fragments. These were handed over to Carl Fuhlrott,
a local schoolmaster and natural historian, who realised that
Fossils are the
remains or
impressions of a
very old plant,
animal or human
which have turned
into stone. These
are often embedded
in rock, and are
thus preserved for
millions of years.
Species is a group
of organisms that
can breed to
produce fertile
offspring. Members
of one species
cannot mate with
those of other
species to produce
fertile offspring.
THEME
© NCERT
not to be republished
9
they did not belong to a modern human. He then made a
plaster cast of the skull and sent it to Herman Schaaffhausen,
a professor of anatomy at Bonn University. The following year
they jointly published a paper, claiming that this skull
represented a form of human that was extinct. At that time,
scholars did not accept this view and instead declared that
the skull belonged to a person of more recent times.
24 November 1859, when Charles Darwin’s On the Origin
of Species was published, marked a landmark in the study
of evolution. All 1,250 copies of the first print were sold out
the same day. Darwin argued that humans had evolved from
animals a long time ago.
Shows the equipment used to record the location of finds. The
square frame to the left of the archaeologist is a grid divided
into 10 cm squares. Placing it over the find spot helps to
record the horizontal position of the find. The triangular
apparatus to the right is used to record the vertical position.
Shows how a fossil fragment is
recovered from the surrounding
stone, in this case a variety of
limestone, in which it is
embedded. As you can see, this
requires skill and patience.
RECOVERING FOSSILS
A painstaking process. The precise location of finds is important for dating.
The skull of Neanderthal man. Some
of those who dismissed the antiquity
of the skull regarded it as 'brutish' or
that of a 'pathological idiot'.
FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME
ACTIVITY 1
Most religions
have stories
about the
creation of
human beings
which often do
not correspond
with scientific
discoveries. Find
out about some
of these and
compare them
with the history of
human evolution
as discussed in
this chapter.
© NCERT
not to be republished
10 THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
The Story of Human Evolution
(a) The Precursors of Modern Human Beings
Look at these four skulls.
A belongs to an ape.
B belongs to a species known as Australopithecus (see below).
C belongs to a species known as Homo erectus (literally ‘upright man’).
D belongs to a species known as Homo sapiens (literally ‘thinking/wise
man’} to which all present-day human beings belong.
List as many similarities and differences that you notice, looking
carefully at the brain case, jaws and teeth.
The differences that you notice in the skulls shown in the illustration
are some of the changes that came about as a result of human
evolution. The story of human evolution is enormously long, and
somewhat complicated. There are also many unanswered questions,
and new data often lead to a revision and modification of earlier
understandings. Let us look at some of the developments and their
implications more closely.
It is possible to trace these developments back to between 36 and
24 mya. We sometimes find it difficult to conceptualise such long
spans of time. If you consider a page of your book to represent
10,000 years, in itself a vast span of time, 10 pages would represent
100,000 years, and a 100 pages would equal 1 million years.
To think of 36 million years, you would have to imagine a book
3,600 pages long! That was when primates, a category of mammals,
emerged in Asia and Africa. Subsequently, by about 24 mya, there
emerged a subgroup amongst primates, called hominoids. This
included apes. And, much later, about 5.6 mya, we find evidence of
the first hominids.
While hominids have evolved from hominoids and share certain
common features, there are major differences as well. Hominoids have
a smaller brain than hominids. They are quadrupeds, walking on all
fours, but with flexible forelimbs. Hominids, by contrast, have an
upright posture and bipedal locomotion (walking on two feet). There
are also marked differences in the hand, which enables the making
and use of tools. We will examine the kinds of tools made and their
significance more closely later.
Two lines of evidence suggest an African origin for hominids. First,
it is the group of African apes that are most closely related to hominids.
Second, the earliest hominid fossils, which belong to the genus
Australopithecus, have been found in East Africa and date back to
about 5.6 mya. In contrast, fossils found outside Africa are no older
than 1.8 million years.
Primates
are a subgroup of a
larger group of
mammals. They
include monkeys,
apes and humans.
They have body
hair, a relatively
long gestation
period following
birth, mammary
glands, different
types of teeth, and
the ability to
maintain a constant
body temperature.
A
B
C
D
© NCERT
not to be republished
11
THE EVOLUTION OF THE HAND
A shows the precision grip of the chimpanzee.
B shows the power grip of the human hand.
C shows the precision grip of the hominid.
The development of the power grip probably
preceded the precision grip.
Compare the precision grip of the chimpanzee with that of the
human hand.
Make a list of the things you do using a precision grip.
What are the things you do using a power grip?
Hominids belong to a family known as Hominidae, which includes
all forms of human beings. The distinctive characteristics of hominids
include a large brain size, upright posture, bipedal locomotion and
specialisation of the hand.
Hominids are further subdivided into branches, known as genus, of
which Australopithecus and Homo are important. Each of these in
turn includes several species. The major differences between
Australopithecus and Homo relate to brain size, jaws and teeth.
The former has a smaller brain size, heavier jaws and larger teeth than
the latter.
Virtually all the names given by scientists to species are derived
from Latin and Greek words. For instance, the name Australopithecus
comes from a Latin word, ‘austral’, meaning ‘southern’ and a Greek
word, ‘pithekos’, meaning ‘ape.’ The name was given because this earliest
form of humans still retained many features of an ape, such as a
relatively small brain size in comparison to Homo, large back teeth and
limited dexterity of the hands. Upright walking was also restricted, as
they still spent a lot of time on trees. They retained characteristics
Hominoids are
different from
monkeys in a
number of ways.
They have a larger
body and do not
have a tail.
Besides, there is a
longer period of
infant development
and dependency
amongst
hominoids.
This is a view of the
Olduvai Gorge in the
Rift Valley, East Africa
(see Map 1b, p.14),
one of the areas from
which traces of early
human history have
been recovered. Notice
the different levels of
earth at the centre of
the photograph. Each
of these represents a
distinct geological
phase.
A
C
B
FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME
© NCERT
not to be republished
12 THEMES IN WORLD HISTORY
(such as long forelimbs, curved hand and foot bones and mobile ankle
joints) suited to life on trees. Over time, as tool making and long-
distance walking increased, many human characteristics also developed.
The Discovery of Australopithecus, Olduvai Gorge,
17 July 1959
The Olduvai Gorge (see p. 14) was first ‘discovered’ in the early twentieth century
by a German butterfly collector. However, Olduvai has come to be identified
with Mary and Louis Leakey, who worked here for over 40 years. It was Mary
Leakey who directed archaeological excavations at Olduvai and Laetoli and
she made some of the most exciting discoveries. This is what Louis Leakey
wrote about one of their most remarkable finds:
‘That morning I woke with a headache and
a slight fever. Reluctantly, I agreed to spend the
day in camp.With one of us out of commission,
it was even more vital for the other to continue
the work, for our precarious seven-week season
was running out. So Mary departed for the
diggings with Sally and Toots [two of their dogs]
in the Land-Rover [a jeep-like vehicle], and I
settled back to a restless day off.
Some time later – perhaps I dozed off – I heard
the Land-Rover coming up fast to camp. I had a
momentary vision of Mary stung by one of our
hundreds of resident scorpions or bitten by a
snake that had slipped past the dogs.
The Land-Rover rattled to a stop, and I heard
Mary’s voice calling over and over: “I’ve got him!
I've got him! I’ve got him!” Still groggy from the
headache, I couldn’t make her out. “Got what? Are you hurt?” I asked. “Him,
the man! Our man,” Mary said. “The one we’ve been looking for 23 years.
Come quick, I’ve found his teeth!” ’
– From ‘Finding the World's Earliest Man’, by L.S.B. Leakey, National Geographic, 118
(September 1960).
The remains of early humans have been classified into different
species. These are often distinguished from one another on the basis
of differences in bone structure. For instance, species of early humans
are differentiated in terms of their skull size and distinctive jaws (see
illustration on p.10). These characteristics may have evolved due to
what has been called the positive feedback mechanism.
© NCERT
not to be republished
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