HUMAN ORIGINS – What Does It Mean to Be Human? Post & Sloan, National Geographic:Washington DC, 2010, 175 pps.

What Does It Mean to Be Human?  Post & Sloan, National Geographic:Washington DC, 2010, 175 pps. Book Notes By Bill Norris, Ph.D.   4/3/11

This book presents the story of human origins over the past 6 million years, combining archaeological, artifact and genetic data to reveal the saga. It is a companion book with the exhibit of the same name at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. Here is a list of human developments:

6 M years ago – Walking upright on short legs

5 M

4 M

3.6       Early human foot print trails

3 M

2.6       Tool making & eating meats from large animals; sharing tools & foods

2 M

1.8       Travel to new regions on longer legs

1.6       Hand axes made of stone served hominins for 1 M years

1 M     Beginning of a millennia of dramatic climate fluctuations that challenge survival

800 K  Gathering at the hearths

500 K  Rapid increase of brain size; longer childhood and adolescence corresponded with increased socialization and environmental changes between wet & dry and hot & cold

250 K Communicating with symbols

195 K  Homo sapiens first evolve

100 K  Tools for capturing fast and dangerous prey

90 K  Special fishing tools

60 K  Homo sapiens begin worldwide dispersal out of Africa

50 K  Lighter built bodies

40 K  Creating paintings, figurines and cave art

35 K  Music is created with flutes made of mammoth and swan bones

17 K  The last of our hominin cousins dies out leaving only homo sapiens

16 K  Domestication of dogs from the wolf; used in hunting

10,500 Plant and animal domestication appears; goats first, then cattle

Cereal grains followed with wheat, barley, peas and lentils

8,000  Using symbols to represent words and concepts

7,000  Sumerians in Mesopotamia develop city-states and large-scale societies


H sapiens survived because of strategies of adaptation for climate, competition, foods, environments and conditions

One thousand years ago humans numbered about 10 million. Today we are 7 billion!

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