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6.7: Homo erectus

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    Imagine an awards ceremony at the end of the universe, judging all the hominids that have ever existed, "...and for the most successful hominid... " and then our hopes are dashed as Homo erectustakes the stage, with a big prognathic smile from its parallel dental arcade, jabbing an Acheulian hand axe towards the sky in a triumphant gesture. Homo erectus is significant for many reasons, but one of the most important is because unlike so many contested hominid paleospecies, we have found so many Homo erectus that almost all paleoanthropologists agree that there was such a thing. Homo erectus was important for its longevity, more than any other hominid so far,it will take us another million years to beat their record.

    Homo erectus was also important as the first documented hominid to leave Africa, and they definitely got around, because their geographical ranges covers Africa, Europe and Asia (but not Australia or the Americas). Homo erectus begins the human trend of globalization and makes migration (gene flow) one of the important evolutionary forces for humans.


    Some African hominids at the same were more gracile, enough different from Eurasian to warrant another species name for some paleoanthropologists, Homo ergaster.


    A range of hominids from different periods have been found at Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya


    • Eugene Dubois found the first Homo erectus on the island of Java in Indonesia.
    • Classic Zhoukoudian fossils were found near Beijing, and they were originally sold in apothecary shops as "dragon bones"
    • Article on very early Homo erectus in China


    • Tautavel man from Arago Cave

    Dmanisi hominids

    The Dmanisi fossils are special for how old they are (1.77mya), how small they were, how small their brains are, and how simple their tools are, and that they're found in Europe. The old theory is that Homo erectus was the first hominid to leave Africa, enabled by their large overall size, large brains, and complex tools. But, the Georgian hominids were small, had small brains, and used simple tools, they were similar to australopithecines in many ways.

    • Article on Skull 5: variations within the Dmanisi suggest that all hominids can be lumped into Homo erectus
    • Article on Dmanisi toothpick use

    Acheulian Tool Industry

    We want to ask what kind of intelligence to work stone with this amount of symmetry and precision?


    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) - Lanceolate hand axe from the acheulean site of San Isidro, Madrid, Spain. Hugo Obermaier (1925): El Hombre fósil. Madrid (public domain)

    6.7: Homo erectus is shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Arnie Daniel Schoenberg via source content that was edited to conform to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.